High Definition - A New Wrinkle!

by Bob Seidel

Back when I was a young man with a new family, my photography hobby was mostly 35mm slides with some photo prints. We never got into Super8 movies because I thought the quality was not very good, and of course there was no sound. Video did come along in 1984 with the purchase of a VHS deck and camera. This was not a single unit camcorder - it was a recorder that you slung over your shoulder, with a camera on a cord and a battery belt around your waist!

In 1990 it was time to upgrade. At that point in time, there were only two choices: Hi8 (which was actually the old Sony Betamax warmed over) and VHS-C. The latter used a smaller version of the VHS cartridge (to make the camera smaller and lighter) but you played it by inserting it into a VHS-sized adapter. I selected Sony Hi8

In 2002 I felt the need to upgrade again. I agonized between Sony's digital upgrade to Hi8 called D8, or miniDV tape. For compatibility reasons I chose D8 since it could play my old Hi8 tapes, and I have been using it ever since. Unfortunately, D8 never became the standard, and miniDV did.

So here I am with shoeboxes full of old, incompatible tapes - you do keep your old tapes in shoeboxes, don't you? I needed to fix this problem, and also wanted to start the switch to High Definition (HD) here. So I broke down and bought a new camcorder - the Canon Vixia HV30. I am not going to do a full review of the camcorder now - I'll bore you all later on that.

These days there are so many choices - you can record on blank mini DVDs, internal hard drives, digital storage cards, or miniDV tape (called HDV if high definition). I chose to stick with tape, which yields the best image quality. But the key attribute of the HV30 is that it is true HD, as the sensor in the camera has 1080 vertical pixels, and it also has a very bright and clear high definition LCD screen.

So I read the manual, popped in a tape, and headed out into our backyard jungle to show my wife the new toy. I took about five minutes of video, trying to mix shots of her and the scenery.

One of the issues with an HD camera is how to play the HD! To produce and play HD DVDs will require a major investment in a BluRay writer for the PC and a BluRay player deck for the TV. I don't have those yet. My software however is HD ready. Luckily, the HV30 has an HDMI output; I pulled the HDMI connector out of the back of my cable box, plugged it into the HV30 and I was all set to view glorious HD on the TV. And it was glorious - what a picture - clear and crisp with great detail!

So I called my wife in to take a look (and of course in effect justify the money I just spent). I sat her down in the chair in front of the TV, turned it on, and started the tape.

She watched for a while. Then her first words were: "You're not going to take pictures of people with that, are you?" I paused while I tried to decipher what had happened. I asked "Why not?" She said "Because you can see everything". Obviously I was not exhibiting the correct sensitivity here. I indicated that HD was the next wave and that was what it was all about - seeing a high lever of detail.

Her response was that people in fact DON'T want to see all the fine details. Her belief was that older, low resolution cameras were actually better because they hid some of the details that people don't want to see, especially as we get older!

So I see that some work or education is needed here. In the mean time I started thinking about the techniques that they used in early film and TV to blur shots, such as Vaseline on the lens or shooting through light waxed paper. So much for HD!

(Bob Seidel is a local computer consultant in the Southport - Oak Island area. You can visit his Website at www.bobseidel.com or e-mail questions or column ideas to him at bsc@bobseidel.com. For specific inquiries, please call Bob Seidel Consulting, LLC at 278-1007.)