I have owned a Digital8 camcorder for a couple of years. While visiting a few discussion forums on the subject, it has quickly become apparent to me that there are two misconceptions among certain newcomers. The first is that since it uses conventional (analog) 8mm and Hi8 tapes, the Digital8 format is somehow not a real digital format. The second is that all Digital8 camcorders are backward compatible with 8mm and Hi8.
I read with great interest two articles in your June 2003 issue entitled "How DV works" and the review of the Sony DCR-TRV350 Digital8 Camcorder. While these two articles were very informative, I’m afraid they contained a couple of sentences that will only feed the misconceptions.
The Sony review states that "The Digital8 format is a hybrid format found in the gap between the analog and the digital world." When you are aware of the origins of the Digital8 format, you understand what the author is getting at; however, I challenge the technical accuracy of the statement. The Digital8 format is a pure digital format and in no way a hybrid between digital and analog. I would like to see where the technical description of the format takes into account analog signals… I’m sure it doesn’t.
The "How DV works" article states that "The Digital8 format is backward-compatible with the analog 8mm format." Here the author confuses the format with the camcorders that use it. Again, the Digital8 format is a pure digital format and in no way backward compatible with anything else. What the author means is that, since the tapes are the same, Sony has succeeded in building camcorders that can play both formats. It is the camcorder that has to be backward compatible.
When a Digital8 camcorder records to an 8mm or Hi8 cassette in D8 format, the resulting data stream that is recorded is unintelligible to any non-D8 camcorder, therefore, the two formats are not mutually compatible. However, the majority of D8 camcorders can play back analog 8mm and Hi8 tapes, and even transcode the analog footage and output it through the FireWire jack, allowing high-quality and easy transfer of footage to a computer, hence, most D8 camcorders are definitely "backward compatible."
Dogged by DVD
So, the fat lady still waits to sing. I applaud your efforts in updating us over these months, but, and perhaps necessarily, your articles stop short of providing all the info I need to make decisions. I want to see a matrix chart showing which manufacturers of which model players, after serial number so-and-so, will play -R, and which will play +R, and which might play both. Also need more detail on the "authoring" burner with CMF format. I’m beyond home movies with my toe newly into being a video producer. I need to know about duplication formats, etc., and how many gold fillings it’ll cost to get into the pro-level DVD stuff. Also, if I want to send a reproducible master to a commercial duplicating house, what format, or who are some commercial houses I can contact. Or is there only one house that burns all the DVDs I’ll find at Blockbuster? There’s no question that any commercially produced DVD will play on any living room DVD player that’s out there today-why can’t we have that?
We certainly share many of your frustrations, Ben. Slowly but surely, the software is evolving and improving to the point where it soon probably won’t matter as much which format was used to burn the disc. On the other side of the coin, we are disappointed that more manufacturers of DVD players aren’t more forthcoming with firmware updates for their units that might allow end-users to play back certain problematic burned discs.
As far as duplication houses, be sure to take a look at our fine classified advertisers. Many of them will only guarantee their work when provided with CMF-formatted authoring discs or material provided on DLT, but for small runs, you might have a stroke of luck submitting a general -R or +R disc.
Fortunately, the current -R vs. +R format war is winding down.