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DV Expo Report, Part 2

The past is prologue By Charlie White
Heading into Day 2 of DV Expo West, “the little show that could,” there’s plenty to write home about. With HDV the acronym of the week here at the L.A. Convention Center, mere DV camcorders are showing their stuff as well. Meanwhile, new ways to use and record digital video of all stripes are being refined before our eyes, with a cheaper DV Rack and an improved way to share projects over a network capturing the attention of your intrepid reporter and humble narrator. Here’s the first-hand scoop.

Sony HDR-FX1 HDV camcorder
Sony's HDR-FX1 HDV camcorder was the star of the show at DV Expo West 2004.
As you may have already guessed, Sony was the star of the show here at DV Expo, with its shiny new HDR-FX1, the first 3-CCD 1080i HD camcorder to ship. Even though I’ve already praised this new camcorder on these same pages, allow me once again to extol its virtues. It’s a thrill to see fine-looking HD footage coming out of a camcorder this cheap – about $3500 street. Like the awe inspired by its ancestor, the pioneering Sony VX-1000 DV camcorder from 1996, the same feeling surrounds this newest of the revolutionaries –  high expectations and hope were heaped upon this little bundle of plastic and silicon, and I predict we’ll see another sea change because of its debut. Along with that new addition to the Sony camcorder lineup, Vegas 5 was at the Expo in force, editing the Sony HDV footage using the CineForm ConnectHD codec that was also released a few days ago. Vegas and HDV are a great combination, and even though the CineForm codec does transform the HDV codec into another form altogether, I really don’t think anyone can see a quality difference. But still, after seeing HDV edited using hardware, a la Canopus Edius, I just wish Sony would stop protecting its Xpri line and add hardware support to Vegas. Until then, I think Sony Vegas will be a crippled application compared to those using hardware for real-time HDV output.  

Ambling down the aisle, the next place that caught this reporter’s eye was the Serious Magic booth, where I noticed a new version of DV Rack on display. The company’s taken the three best modules from DV Rack, and offered them for a mere $99 in a product named DV Rack Express. By far the most useful module, the digital recorder that turns any laptop computer into a DV hard disk, lets you abandon those pesky tapes once and for all with all their attendant dropouts and capturing. Of course, you’ll have to tote around a laptop with you whenever you shoot, but hey, maybe it’s worth it. Also still surviving in the Express version are the monitor, albeit it with my favorite feature excised – the split screen where you could quickly and easily check continuity between two shots. There’s also the DV grabber, a handy little applet that lets you grab a still any time you want. Some of the more exotic and esoteric features were left out – if you want to see the difference between the two, here’s a graphic comparison. A good deal offered by the Serious Magicians is a $100-off gift to you if you do decide to upgrade to the full version of DV Rack. Either one is a fine purchase, as fun to play with as they are practical.  

Canon's XL2 DV camcorder
Not every camcorder purveyor has jumped head-first into the HDV swimmin’ hole, with Canon being one to ask, “How’s the water?” before it dives in. Sitting this one out, but not being idle, the highly capable lens and camera manufacturer still wowed attendees with the new XL2 camcorder, a highly refined version of the XL1 that company officials told Digital Media Net would be the last standard definition camcorder of its type. I take this to be a broad hint that Canon’s first HDV camcorder will have a form factor and technology similar to this XL2. But even though in this rarified atmosphere of HDV mania it’s hard to get enthusiastic about anything that can only shoot standard-definition DV, the XL2 is a remarkable instrument of videosity. For example, did you know that there are over 500 lenses that will fit on the XL2 using Canon’s or third partys’ adaptors? The camcorder is 16x9 native, and shoots in 24p, a feature that many wish Sony had included in its new HDV camcorders. With info about Canon’s upcoming HDV offering scarce, the only scuttlebutt this reporter heard was that Canon was going to use Sony’s technology inside its new HDV camcorder. Say it ain’t so! Perplexed, I asked Canon brass if they would tell DMN anything about the company’s forthcoming entry into the HDV derby, but was met with a resounding “no comment.” Oh, well. I guess we’ll have to wait for NAB (again) to hear the real story.  

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Related Keywords:DV Expo West, HDV,DV camcorders, digital video, DV Rack, share projects, EditShare, Avid Media Composer Adrenaline HD, Avid Xpress Pro HD, Sony HDR-FX-1

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