Recently I experimented with different HD video editing options, to determine if I should shoot an upcoming project in HD or standard def. I concluded that i will stick with standard def for now.
I installed the Intensity Pro card. This allows for HDMI capture and monitoring of HDV. I do not have an HDMI (or any HD) monitor, so I could not test that part, and from what I observed, without HDMI monitoring, using the Intensity for HD editing is not so useful.
Capturing HDMI HDV to external SATA drive (350 gig 7200rpm seagate)
You can of course capture native HDV via firewire, and playback on the LCD computer monitor actually looks great. Once you start editing, including titles and effects, the real-time playback really suffers and stutters. This is because HDV is long GOP mpeg, meaning a lot of processing has to happen to play back smooth video - not a problem with one track of video, dissovles and audio, but the more layers the worse it gets.
The Intensity has a compressed intermediary codec, the Blackmagic Design Motion JPEG codec. This captures to the external SATA drive with no dropped frames and plays back smoothly. However, monitoring the video on the computer monitor results in a jagged picture, not very clear monitoring, hence the need for a HDMI monitor.
Using RAID 0
I also tried a SATA RAID 0 array consisting of 2 500gig drives formatted as one 1TB drive. However the SATA cable is going into the onboard SATA port, as opposed to a SATA RAID controller card. This is a fairly cheap RAID enclosure which we acquired through a vendor with no particular need at the time, so for proper HD editing a proper RAID like the ones advertised on this page would probably be better in the long run.
Again, capture and playback of the m-jpeg codec works smoothly.
Blackmagic also has 8 bit (4:2:2) and 10 bit (4:4:4) uncompressed HD settings. On the RAID, I could capture the 8 bit variety with no lost frames, however it only plays back a second or two without freezing. On the external SATA solo drive I could only capture a second or two before frames were dropped, but this is to be expected.
Indeed, to do uncompressed HD one would need a RAID controller card, and RAID level 1 formatted drives, with 2,4 or more drives in the RAID.
Still, the fact that this $400 card can capture compressed HDV and convert it on the fly to uncompressed 1920x1080 HD is pretty impressive.
Granted, if you are dealing with uncompressed HD, and have invested in large RAID storage systems, you possible are not shooting HDV, but rather XDCAM or DVCPRO HD, or film or Viper etc. Although using any intermediary codec rather than HDV seems like the right move.
Conclusions, Part 1
So do I even need the RAID if the m-jpeg codec plays ok off the external SATA drive? Perhaps not - Blackmagic Design says so (they promote firewire 800 drive usage for non-uncompressed HD editing).
So by this point, I convinced myself that cool as it would be to work in HD for this upcoming project, there are too many variables to work efficiently, especially without a deliberate monetary investment to that end.
The next part of my experiment had to do with getting the edited video back out of the machine, in the various formats we would need:
Standard Def DVD - you can export to MPEG-2 from the HD project, and get an anamorphic video, which will be correctly formatted by a home DVD player. I have done this with a 16:9 SD project recently.
H.264 720p - This is the standard for web-based HD video, played using Flash 9+ and Quicktime. This export works as expected.
H.264 for those keeping score at home is the same codec used in Blu-Ray, HD-DVD and satellite HD broadcasting, not to mention AVCHD cameras.
Standard Def DV - you can export to either a Blackmagic flavor of DV, or standard Microsoft DV-AVI - either version works.
HDV tape - this one puzzled me up until now, as there is no documentation from Blackmagic or on most user forums about how you get your HD project back to an HDV tape master. It is actually simple, you make a new HDV native project in Premiere and import the Blackmagic m-jpeg project into the HDV project, open the sequence, and export to tape. Premiere renders out to HDV, activates the deck and lays the program off to tape. There is not a export to HDV function within a Blackmagic HD project. Come to think of it, I don't think there is an export to HDV file function within an HDV native project.
I also tried exporting from the m-jpeg project to a Blackmagic HD 4:2:2 formatted file. The file does not of course play smoothly within premiere, but within windows media player it is a bit better.
Incidentally, as mentioned above, playing back m-jpeg video within Premiere looks jaggy on the computer monitor, but via windows media player it looks slightly better.
No Audio - a minor inconvenience ;)
In all of the above proceedings, I could not capture AUDIO via HDMI - which is another reason to stay away from this method of production for the time being, until this can be resolved. Others have had a similar problem. I could try capturing audio via analog and see if that works - another day.
Speaking of Analog...
Another interesting feature of the intensity is the analog inputs and outputs. In addition to the HDMI for capture and monitoring, you can capture SD component and composite or S-Video.
During HDMI capture from my HDV video deck, I could simultaneously monitor a letterboxed SD signal via the component inputs of the video monitor.
Also, when laying back my HDV project to HDV tape, I got SD monitoring on the video monitor.
However, you are supposed to be able to play back the m-jpeg codec within premiere, and simultaneously get component SD video from the timeline. I could not get this to work. If this gets working, it could stand-in for true HD monitoring, and make the Intensity useful in the meantime (assuming the audio bug is resolved of course.)
You can also capture standard definition video via component and work with the m-jpeg and uncompressed standard def blackmagic settings. I did not test the storage bandwidth for SD capture, it would of course be lower than the HD capture. A reason to work uncompressed SD is to avoid DV recompression, especially when doing effects, chroma keying or color correction. Even if you start with DV or DVCAM, presumably capturing as uncompressed for editing has benefits, hence the previously touted Media 100 noncompressed system among other circa 2003 editing systems. Again, you would have to render back to DV to lay off to DV or DVCAM tape. You could also work with Betacam material this way, which is still quite commonly used in the world.
An alternative workflow, and supposedly more efficient, is to use the Cineform Aspect intermediary codec. This can still capture using HDMI, but it converts on the fly to the Cineform codec, which is compressed but very efficient for editing. They too have a 8 bit 4:2:2 and a 10 bit 4:4:4 version, with a $500 price difference. The 10 bit will do 1920x1080, whereas the 8 bit is limited to HDV, DVCPRO and XDCAM format of 1440 x 1080.
Cineform will let you render your final edit to an HDV m2t video file, for easy export back to HDV tape. Kudos to Cineform for keeping this part of the workflow in mind.
Cineform's other benefits include built in support for P2, XDCAM EX and RED ONE formats.
Going Native (oh, like no one has used that headline before...)
Up until now I have of course edited DV and HDV natively, with no serious problems. Premiere CS 3 has built-in settings for P2 DVCPRO HD, and there are plug-ins to handle XDCAM HD and EX and presumably other formats, such as the elusive Fisher Price video camera. But these formats are not on my radar yet.
Thanks for reading, the learning never stops!