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Getting to High Def:
HDV Video to High-Def DVD on your PC (10/2006)
by Douglas Dixon
High-Def DVD Playback / High-Def DVD Authoring
Roxio / Sonic Solutions
High-def is here! At least mostly here. -- You can buy HDV camcorders
for around $1400 and shoot in real HD resolution (www.hdv-info.org),
and then you can burn and share the results on high-def DVD burners for around
$1000. Yes, it seems we've been talking about these forever, and the products
are just starting to get to market, and the prices are still high, and the
hardware and software are still new and a bit rough. But, on the other hand this
next generation is coming much faster and dropping in price more quickly than
the previous transitions from analog to DV video, and from videotape to DVD. --
Remember the good old days of early DVD, when only high-end pros could work with
$17,000 burners and $50 discs?
This time around for high def, we already have consumer / enthusiast HD
camcorders with compatible editing software, and the first blue-laser recordable
discs with basic consumer authoring tools, all becoming available within just a
year or so of when the first professionals started authoring commercial high-def
DVDs. Sonic Solutions just shipped the first packaged film authoring tools
earlier in 2006, and now we're talking about consumer tools from several
companies -- albeit significantly less sophisticated -- becoming available later
So let's look at what to expect through the rest of this year, as high-def
DVD comes to PCs along with consumer burning software. Just be warned that this
is all a little tricky and fuzzy -- the combination of the technical complexity
of these new formats, the costs of the associated royalty pools, and the
restrictions from the layers of copy protection mechanisms all have combined to
limit what you can do with high-def DVD, relative to the extensive freedom we
are used to when working with DVD.
We'll focus on the recently announced set of Sony HDV and Blu-ray products,
since they cover the range from set-top to desktop, and HD DVD recorders are not
yet shipping. Apple's pro and consumer suites also support HDV editing and early
HD DVD authoring, but we'll look here at the wide variety of new tools coming
available under Windows.
Before we get started, we need to address the added confusion of the all-out
format war between the two main high-def disc formats -- HD DVD,
championed by Toshiba and NEC, and officially adopted by the DVD Forum (www.hddvdprg.com),
and Blu-ray Disc (BD), championed by Sony and Panasonic, with strong
support from the consumer electronics and computer industries (www.blu-raydisc.com).
While HD DVD was designed as an incremental improvement beyond DVD, offering 15
GB of capacity per layer and 30 GB for dual-layer, Blu-ray is a more aggressive
step forward, with 25 GB per layer and 50 GB for a DL disc -- making it a much
more interesting choice for PC-based data backup and video sharing.
The initial first-generation set-top players for both formats came onto the
market in the first half of 2006, beginning with the Toshiba HD-A1 High
Definition DVD Player for HD DVD (www.tacp.toshiba.com/hddvd)
and the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc Player (www.samsung.com/Products/Blu_ray).
These shipped with a limited selection of movie titles (some exclusive to
individual formats). And these are playback-only: no set-top recorders are
available, even though one obvious motivation for these new formats was to
record HD television.
Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Player
Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD Player
In addition, the movie industry has loaded these formats down with extensive
layers of copy protection technology to protect their content in its full
high-def digital glory. As a result, the set-top high-def DVD players will only
display their picture in full HD on displays that support the HDMI
interface (all those HD video and multi-channel audio connections combined into
one convenient cable) -- and only on newer devices that implement full HDCP
copy protection. Otherwise, you'll need to buy a new display, or the titles may
permit display at lower resolution on older analog displays.
Similarly, you can't expect to play back these HD discs on any old PC, like
you are used to with DVDs. Full HD playback will require significant upgrades or
a new system, with good performance, updated drivers, plus a secure digital
connection with hardware HDCP support in both the video card and the display
across a DVI interface. Again, the title otherwise may permit reduced playback
at standard resolution.
And what about authoring to these HD formats? The good news is that the first
Blu-ray PC drives are shipping, with software for burning data files and at
least basic video discs. However, these new high-def DVD formats have very
sophisticated capabilities, much like Web interfaces -- with pop-up menus
floating on top of playing video, multiple layers of motion video and audio,
programmability for developing games and other applications, and even networked
interfaces for accessing and downloading additional content.
Both formats therefore define two distinct layers of programmability (and
therefore authoring complexity) -- basic video playback (standard or video mode)
and full-up (advanced or movie mode), plus a simpler video recording mode for
set-top recorders. To simplify, HD DVD provides Standard Content mode similar to
current DVD capabilities, plus Advanced Content (with Web-like markup and
scripting using iHD). Blu-ray provides basic video recording with BDAV
(Audio/Video) mode, DVD-like playback with HDAV authoring mode, and full
customization with BDMV (Movie mode, with BD-J Java programming).
The initial software tools will start with basic recording of clips to disc
like a set-top recorder (i.e., BDAV mode), and then expand to DVD-like menu
design and navigation (Standard / HDAV mode). Full-up programmability (Advanced
iHD/BD-J) is currently reserved to the high-end tools like Sonic Scenarist 4.
But first before we can think about burning HD video to disc, we need to
shoot and edit some high-def material. The consumer HD pieces started really
fitting together in July, when Sony announced its expanded line of HDV
camcorders and its Blu-ray Disc (BD) PC drive, which means you can go from the
HD camcorder to recording on BD media -- up to four hours of 1080 HD video on
dual-layer discs with 50 GB of storage (that's 10X the capacity of a standard
First, Sony expanded its line of HDV Handycam camcorders to include units
that record on tape, DVD, and hard disk. The original Sony HDR-HC3 1080i
Handycam Camcorder (around $1499) captures either DV or high-def HDV video
to standard MiniDV cassette tape. The new HDR-UX1 records to 8 cm
mini-DVD discs ($1399, due in September), and the new HDR-SR1 records to
a built-in 30 GB hard disk ($1499, due in October). Sony also introduced
double-layer +R 8 cm DVD media ($12) which provides around 45 minutes HD
To share your video, all three Handycams have HDMI output to play directly on
an HD display. Both of the new units use the new AVCHD format sponsored
by Sony and Panasonic (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 high-def video, www.avchd-info.org).
AVCHD support means you can remove the DVD from the camcorder and play your
high-def video directly on the Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Disc player (around
$1000). Or you can transfer to regular DVD with the Sony DVDirect DVD
Recorder (around $200).
Even better for video enthusiasts, today's video editing software can edit
videos in HDV format, so you can do HD editing on your own PC much like you are
used to with DV -- if your system is equipped with reasonable processing power
and disk space.
But what about sharing your edited HD productions? You can play them back
from a HD camcorder, or export them in MPEG-4 or Windows Media Video HD format
to play on PCs, but it would be even better to burn your videos to high-def
The first Blu-ray PC drive was the Pioneer BDR-101A Blu-ray Disc/DVD
writer ($999, www.pioneerelectronics.com).
This external drive burns single-layer (25 GB) Blu-ray write-once (BD-R) and
rewritable (BD-RE) discs, as well as recordable DVD formats (but not CD).
Spinning at 2X, it can burn a full disc in around 45 minutes. The 25 GB disc can
hold around 3 1/2 hours of 1920 x 1080 video using MPEG-4 AVC compression at 12
Mbps, along with multiple audio tracks.
Pioneer BDR-101A Blu-ray Disc/DVD writer
Sony then introduced the Sony BWU-100A Internal Blu-ray Disc
Rewritable Drive ($749), so you can burn HD video to 50 GB Blu-ray discs to
play back on a set-top player or on a PC. It supports burning to dual-layer Blu-ray,
DVD, and CD media.
Sony also ships Blu-ray drives with the Sony VAIO RC Blu-ray Disc Desktop
PC (around $2300) and VAIO AR Blu-ray Disc Notebook PC ($3500), which
include the dual-layer drive and HDMI output to HDTVs.
These Blu-ray drive products include software suites for Blu-ray disc
playback, data burning, and video recording, which are extensions of the
products that you are probably already familiar with.
The Sony Blu-ray VAIO notebook ships with a suite of tools from InterVideo,
including InterVideo WinDVD BD for playback and Ulead BD Disc Recorder.
These are part of the InterVideo / Ulead suite of disc burning and
digital media creation tools (www.intervideo.com,
- InterVideo WinDVD player software is being extended to support
playback of both the Blu-ray and HD DVD formats. The new versions should be
available as retail products in Fall 2006.
- InterVideo Burn Now provides data burning and backup for data and
music, burning and copying, to also support burning and backup to Blu-ray
And for HD video disc creation, InterVideo is enhancing its line of Ulead
editing and authoring tools.
- Ulead BD Disc Recorder can capture from DV / HDV camcorders, import
video clips, rip from DVD, and burn or append to Blu-ray disc in BDAV format. It
also supports Straight to Disc recording direct from tape to disc. The result is
much like a set-top recorder, with a simple menu of the clips on the disc But
it's a real, playable Blu-ray disc, so you can finally share your HD productions
- Ulead DVD MovieFactory provides disc authoring with menu creation
and navigation design. Again, expect support for BDAV recording relatively soon,
followed by more interesting menu authoring before the end of the year.
The Sony BWU-100A Blu-ray drive ships with an extensive suite from CyberLink
with a similar range of tools, also being updated to support the high-def video
and DVD formats (www.cyberlink.com):
- CyberLink PowerDVD player software provides playback of BDAV discs,
but not prerecorded commercial Hollywood BDMV discs in the initial release.
Retail update packs for both Blu-ray and HD DVD are due later this year. Note
that playback of high-def video with advanced compression requires significantly
more processing power than SD DVD playback -- CyberLink recommends a 3+ GHz
Pentium or 2 GHz Core Duo or equivalent.
CyberLink also is extending its tools for data burning and backup to CD, DVD,
- CyberLink InstantBurn is packet-writing software for drag and drop
burning in Windows Explorer.
- CyberLink Power2Go provides easy burning of data, videos, photos, and
- CyberLink PowerBackup is data archiving software.
And CyberLink is expanding its video and HDV editing and authoring tools:
- CyberLink PowerDirector editing software supports HD and widescreen
video, with automated editing and enhancement. The current bundled version burns
to DVD, but not yet Blu-ray.
- CyberLink PowerProducer is BD/DVD authoring software, enables the
capturing, authoring, editing, and burning video to CD, DVD, and basic Blu-ray.
CyberLink expects to have more advanced menu authoring for the high-def DVD
formats implemented by the end of 2006.
The Sony Blu-ray VAIO notebook also ships with basic Blu-ray data burning
tools from Roxio (a division of Sonic Solutions), called Roxio
Meanwhile, Sonic is preparing a new release of its Roxio Easy Media
Creator suite to support the HD disc formats, with tools for data backup and
copy; audio, photo, and video media creation and editing; and media conversion
and playback over a wide variety of formats and devices.
The first release of the suite will provide basic Blu-ray data burning and
- CinePlayer for playback of HD discs (consumer BDAV recording mode,
not commercial titles).
- VideoWave video editor for HDV editing.
- Quick BD Disc Creation for recording video clips to disc (BDAV
- MyDVD authoring for standard DVD, with menu design and navigation
control (not Blu-ray).
Roxio will add support for HD DVD support once PC drives are available, and
you can expect more advanced playback and authoring features to become available
as the know-how and technology trickles down from Sonics's professional tools
which currently are being used to create commercial titles.
As you can see, the roll-out of consumer access to HD is in some ways
impressively fast, especially compared to the years it took for DVD to extend
from high-end professionals to reach similar consumer functionality and price
points. However, while HDV camcorders for shooting HD video and the associated
video editing software are looking good, the deployment of the new HD disc
formats is going to be more confusing.
Between copy protection restrictions for playback, technology and licensing
restrictions for advanced features, and just plain format complexities -- plus
the ongoing format war -- we cannot expect to have the same seamless experiences
as with current DVD moving either prerecorded titles or recorded discs between
set-top devices and desktop computers.
On the other hand, it's a very liberating experience to fire up a DVD backup
application and see the capacity indicator read "50 GB free." So look
forward to high-def DVD, at least in its early phases, for data burning and
basic video recording and playback. Then hang in there a little longer before
expecting fancy menu editing. And start planning some equipment upgrades for a
full HD movie-viewing experience.
Blu-ray Disc (BD)
Toshiba - HD DVD
Samsung - Blu-ray
InterVideo / Ulead
Sonic / Roxio
Originally published in Camcorder & Computer
Video magazine, 22, 7, Oct. 2006.