This format, pioneered by Sony at the end of the 1990s, was intended to accomodate the move from analog Hi-8 to digital Hi-8 while preserving the cassette form factor. Digital 8 utilizes the same size cassette, but employs a better quality (metal evaporated) coating. The name itself derives from the size of the tape inside the cassette, which is, you guessed it, 8mm wide. Sony’s long term goal with this format is to effectively retire both analog 8mm and Super 8mm film by providing a next generation upgrade path for the consumer home video recording market. Of course, no technology is immune to obsolescence, as today, it is the Digital 8 format that has been superseded by other DV formats, even though Digital 8 technology itself is not inferior to DV, given that they both employ the same DV codec.
There are three different types of DV formats in use. The MiniDV, which is offered by all major manufacturers; DVCAM which is primarily offered by Sony; and DVCPRO whichi is primarily offered by Panasonic. MiniDV is the main consumer staple; DVCAM and DVCPRO are primarily employed by the professional market. All DV formats use the same DV25 compression method. This translates to a 5:1 compression at the data speed of 25 Mbps, resulting in 4:40 video footage stored per 1GB of use.
A Japanese digital video consortium successfully pushed through an interim format positioned between full HD and the DV formats. The HDV format boasts a higher resolution recording either in 720p or in 1080i while still using DV25 (MiniDV tapes), though with material better suited for recording a higher density of data. Though initially priced on the high end of the prosumer market, HDV ultimately started pricing out in the consumer market price range, contributing to its wide adoption.
HDV 720p employs a resolution of 1280×720 square pixels, while HDV 1080i uses a resolution of 1440×1080 pixels, displayed with an aspect ratio of 16:9. Some HDV cameras on the market today feature recording modes in 24p to simulate the look of film. Finally, the advent of solid-state and hard drive recording may represent the latest trend in digital video storage, which may mean that in the future, the products will aschew tape products in favor of direct storage technology.
This article, in conjunction with the previous three in this series, should have given you the primer to enable you to hit the digital video camera market with the confidence that you have at least a decent understanding of the technology, so DV, HDV 720p and 1040i shouldn’t sound like the latest cars from BMW.
It subsequent articles, we will begin the process of searching for that digital video camera that will satisfy your needs while keeping your wallet happy. Until then, here are some summary observations:
Technological improvements and the accompanying drop in price have empowered ordinary Joe and Jane Citizen to make video footage to help them tell their story. Short film making has become so mainstream now that even CNN features these home made videos in their iReporter segment.
The digital video market is full of products, terminology and technology that it could prove to be overwhelming to those who jump straight in without at least trying to understand what they need, and how those needs line up with consumer, prosumer and professional level products.
You don’t need MGM level budget to acquire equipment to produce a compelling short film. Ultimately, your material needs to be compelling, and the technology improvements have allowed prosumer equipment to produce footage rivaling those of more expensive, professional equipment.