JVCs JY-HD10: Editing HD On A Desktop, Part 1
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The introduction of the JVC HD10, the first high-definition camcorder selling for under $4,000, has the potential of finally jacking HD into common usage, consequently lighting the revolution in teleproduction that we have all been expecting for several years. Respecting the magnitude of this launch, and predicting the introduction of competition camcorders at NAB 2004, Videography editors have allowed me to review the HD10 in three parts: Part I, which ran in the October issue of Videography (click here to read the article); Part II, which focuses on the bundled NLE software; and Part III, which will take you through an actual production, from acquisition to final edit.
HD Software For The HD10
Although the camera comes bundled with nonlinear editing (NLE) software, potential buyers may be interested to know that several manufacturers are rushing to produce additional software with a wide variety of features. These include CineForm's Aspect HD, which works as a plug-in for Adobe Premiere 6.5 and Apple's Final Cut Pro 4. (Apple has not yet announced support for the JVC cameras under Final Cut Pro.)
Connecting The Camera
In order to begin editing, the JVC HD10 must be connected by FireWire to a Windows computer running appropriate editing software. When properly connected, the camera appears as a normal online device—like a hard drive or digital camera.
Unfortunately, this connection process proved extremely difficult to complete on a cloned machine (based on an ASUS P4C800 motherboard, with a Pentium 4 3.06 GHz CPU, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA Quadro4 980 XGL running Windows XP).
Installing the camera on an Alienware computer that had been designed specifically for our review turned out to be just as difficult. Both computers recognized that the camera was connected, and the camera could be controlled from Windows Movie Maker; however, we could not control the camera with any capture utility (either the bundled JVC/KDDI software or the CineForm Aspect HD software) and we couldn't view the incoming signal feed on either computer's monitor.
During the review, we were not aware that the camera had to be switched to the correct mode (either DV or HD) for the computer to recognize the camera. If you're in DV mode, Windows Movie Maker will open and recognize the camera but not capture HD. This issue is addressed on CineForm's Web site, and tech support is ready to discuss the problem if you call. Unfortunately, we learned about this situation after we had spent time on a cumbersome workaround. JVC should supply instructions for installing the camera on any suitable computer/software platform without a problem.
Bundled Editing Software
I thought one of the coolest things about the HD10 was that it comes bundled with nonlinear editing (NLE) software, so users could consider the cost of getting into HD as the cost of the camera and that was that. The NLE is a "light" version of MPEG Edit Studio Pro (version 1.2), a complete system created by KDDI R&D Labs of Japan.
This software is difficult to use as an editing device. The main problem is with the monitor window that represents the program playback of the timeline. Every time you slice or trim the ends of a clip, the monitor window disappears, as does the cursor for the timeline. If you re-click the "play" button for the timeline, the monitor reappears, but the playback starts again from the beginning of the timeline.
Additionally, it seems impossible to shuttle the cursor frame-by-frame on the timeline. We tried, unsuccessfully, using the left and right arrow keys, the method most commonly offered in NLE products. A button appears in the clip monitor window that allows frame shuttle on individual clips, but no similar button appears for the timeline. We spent some time looking for other methods to execute the necessary function but could find none. This seems to indicate that you cannot shuttle back and forth over an edit, even two frames, to check the continuity of the edit in this software. Once the monitor reappeared, Ben could replay approximately three seconds around an edit point to view it, but there appears to be no way to fine-tune the edit down to the frame level.
It should be noted that the KDDI software, developed in close conjunction with JVC, promises virtually transparent editing quality. KDDI's NLE works completely within the MPEG-2-Transport Stream format of the HD10. Aspect HD converts the footage to an AVI format for editing and then converts the AVI back to the HD10's native MPEG-2-TS format for printing to tape. CineForm claims that its system is superior to KDDI's and also claims visually lossless editing quality. We hope that the problems we experienced with the bundled version of KDDI's software are indicative of software glitches common to an early release and press demo situations. I'd like to see both JVC and KDDI quickly correct the problems and provide us with another review opportunity.
While we were not successful in editing with the bundled software, we were successful in bulk capturing all the tapes of the project we tested the camera and software with. This capture was completed on the KDDI software, and the MPEG-2-TS formatted scenes were preserved on a USB 2.0 hard drive. This drive was attached to the clone ASUS platform prior to the arrival of the Alienware computer, which was supplied by CineForm with their Aspect HD software installed.
Aspect HD Editing Software
As noted above, we could not capture footage from the HD10, but we were able to convert all the footage stored on the ASUS computer's hard drive by installing the hard drive on the Alienware computer and using CineForm's proprietary CFCapture software program. Our test of Aspect HD from CineForm was conducted on the Alienware Roswell 3100 computer equipped with an Intel Pentium 4 CPU running at 3.2 GHz, supported with 1GB of RAM, an NVIDIA Quadro FX-1000 video card, an 80GB Seagate Barracuda IDE system drive, and two 80GB Barracuda hard drives striped in a RAID 0 configuration for media storage.
Although we were not able to test the camera capture utilities of the CineForm software, we understand that CineForm's video engine converts the MPEG-2-TS HD source format into CineForm's proprietary editing format automatically when capturing from a camera. CineForm's conversion software uses very light compression in order to maintain the visual quality of source clips. The compression reduces the bandwidth per HD stream to roughly 6-10 MB/s (48-80 Mb/s), which allows two simultaneous real-time HD streams on a 7200 rpm drive. Using a RAID 0 configuration and a single Pentium 4-based PC, CineForm will enable up to four simultaneous HD streams with transitions, effects, and motion.
Employing CFCapture to convert the footage we acquired with KDDI proved quite easy. The conversion ran at about real time, but the system tended to crash on extremely long clips.
CineForm's technical support team remarked that their tests revealed that KDDI can sometimes completely lose short scenes upon capture. We did not experience such a problem, however. I believe the longest clip we converted successfully was about 19 minutes. Conversions of this length or shorter run fine. A 48-minute clip always crashed. Perhaps this error was caused by a memory problem specific to each computer. The CFCapture software, however, is not configured to inform the user of such problems.
Our test case was a 48-minute clip of a concert. Although the software appeared to convert the entire clip, it actually created a small AVI file that played deceptively well under Windows. We weren't able to import this AVI file into Premiere. The conversion program does not notify the user when the conversion is complete, and it does not provide any warning of failure when a file is too large for it to process. We eventually got around this problem by editing our 48-minute piece into six roughly equal parts and batch converting these overnight.
Clearly more work is needed on both the JVC/KDDI bundled software and, to a lesser extent (mainly with computer-to-camera connections), the CineForm software. The CineForm connectivity problems we experienced may well be our failure to set up the camera properly and should be easily rectified. Our fledgling test, with some effort, produced a viable HD edit on a camera costing under $4,000 with software costing $1,200.