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Affordable HD on the Desktop at NAB 2004
    with Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5   (8/2004)

    by Douglas Dixon

Getting HD On the Desktop
HD Formats
HDV Cameras

HD in Adobe Premiere Pro
- CineForm Aspect HD
- BOXX HD [pro] RT
- MainConcept MPEG Pro

Microsoft Windows Media Video HD
- Sonic Solutions DVD Producer- WMV HD Edition

Premiere HD Accelerators
- Matrox HD
- Canopus HD
- 1 Beyond HD Workstations

HD Video Capture
- Bluefish444 HD Fury / HD Lust
- Blackmagic DeckLink HD 

HD Goes Mainstream
- DVCPRO HD - Apple Final Cut Pro HD
- Ulead - MediaStudio Pro 7 
- HDV, - Avid HD - Xpress Pro 
- DNxHD, - Pinnacle - Liquid HD


High Definition (HD) has been proclaimed the next great new thing -- for at least the past few years. The consumer electronics business has been impatiently waiting for HD to really take off, hoping for a repeat of the tremendous success of DVD. Meanwhile, the high definition business has continued to grow, albeit at a steady pace, encouraged by the expanded availability of content through broadcast networks and cable systems, and the falling prices and competing technologies in high-def displays.

But for many content creators, corporate and independents, these early days of HD were looking much like the beginnings of DVD, when the high cost of production equipment and authoring tools restricted access to the new technology only to major studios. But 2004 brings great news to videographers interested in HD production, in the form of HD formats, equipment, and software that are bringing affordable HD to the desktop.


HD production on the desktop was a major theme at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) annual conference held in April in Las Vegas ( With new cameras and video formats such as HDV, peripherals to import and export high-definition formats, and editing software now capable of real-time editing of HD material, high-def production is now in the reach of the rest of us who work on desktop systems.

In this article, I'll outline this wide range of possibilities for HD desktop editing from NAB, now available and coming soon. We'll focus on a variety of approaches for working in HD in Adobe's new version of Premiere Pro 1.5, since it has so much third-party support with software and hardware enhancements. And we'll also explore other choices for HD from NAB, just to make sure that you have enough different options to consider.

Getting HD On the Desktop

Working with HD on the desktop requires cost-effective solutions for the full video production pipeline: shooting (tape format), ingest (capture process), storage (disk file format), editing (video software), and delivery (delivery file format or export). The storage and processing demands of higher-resolution material requires new approaches throughout the production process, and also introduces multiple competing formats to add more complexity to our work.

For the past few years, our industry has actually enjoyed a period of relative sanity with the popularity of the DV format, as desktop videographers could go end-to-end with DV: shooting on DV camcorders, import and export over FireWire, and editing with a wide variety of tools on multiple platforms, with all elements working with the same common DV data format.


Of course, production facilities also needed to work with a variety of other professional video formats, analog and digital, such as Digital Betacam, DVCPRO, and DVCAM. And it was already clear from the profusion of broadcast formats defined for HD that there would not be any single ubiquitous format like DV for the new high-def world. Instead, we will need to deal with multiple resolutions, at a variety of historical frame rates frame rates, and with both interlaced and progressive formats.

Even more, the fundamental issue with HD is that it is, well, high resolution. Even lower-res HD (1280 x 720), is more than 2 1/2 times larger than a standard definition (SD) frame (720 x 480). And higher-def HD (1920 x 1080), is six times larger than SD. That's just a lot more data, in terms of both storage requirements and data transfer speeds, stressing the ability for today's systems to transfer the data (i.e., over FireWire), store and access it on hard disk, or provide the processing power to provide real-time previews of editing effects applied to multiple streams.

HD Formats

The fundamental conclusion for working with HD video is that you really have to compress the video to make it feasible to transfer, store, and edit. Raw, uncompressed 1920 x 1080 video (albeit with 4:2:2 reduced color) requires over 700 Mbps throughput, and over 300 GB of storage per hour of material. Compare that to 25 Mbps for DV video, or around 10 GB per hour (HD has 6 times larger resolution, with more color, and DV has around 5:1 compression).

The key questions, then, are how much to compress, and in what format, for compatibility with other equipment and software. This involves trading off size, quality, and ease of processing.

You can see a possible path in comparing DV and DVD compression: DV compresses each frame independently at 25 Mbps, compared to using more aggressive frame-to-frame MPEG-2 compression for DVD to reduce the rate another 4X to around 6 to 8 Mbps. So if HD is 6X larger resolution than SD, that suggests MPEG-like compression can cut HD down to a manageable rate in the range of DV, or certainly within the capacity of the FireWire interface, while maintaining good quality.

The remaining question then is ease of editing. Formats like DV that compress each frame independently are much easier to process than formats like MPEG that compress groups of frames together by storing differences between frames. Historically, editing MPEG has been problematical, both due to the work requested to access and then update individual frames packed within the larger group, and because repeated decompression and re-compression of these groups can damage the image quality.

However, the technology for native MPEG editing has improved, so that it is now built in to some video editing tools. And, unlike when editing SD video that has been aggressively squeezed for delivery on DVD, HD video with MPEG-like compression starts with very good quality for further editing.

Desktop editing also requires that new HD formats be integrated into the desktop software environment, to interface with cameras for capture, and for saving and editing the associated file formats. This can be done by creating application-specific solutions that update the software to work with the format, or by integrating with the platform's existing pipeline to support the new compression format (via compression codecs) and possibly new file types.

Ideally, of course, you would like to be able to use the same format, like DV, all through the pipeline, and also have it supported by any other video software on your system. But with all the HD camera formats, it may well make sense to transcode on capture to a common editing format, which also can preserve better quality or be more compatible with the desktop video software environment.

Even among the announcements at NAB, you will see very different approaches to addressing these issues, depending on your priorities and existing equipment.

HDV Cameras

JVC's answer to the desktop HD dilemma is the new HDV format, announced in 2003 (,; see C&CV, May 2004). HDV is high-definition video stored on standard DV cassette tape, and therefore is intended to be the basis of relatively inexpensive cameras.

HDV is designed to fit the existing DV video processing pipeline by compressing the video to DV rates so that it can be transferred over FireWire. It uses a variant of the same MPEG compression format used for DVD. The initial JVC JY-HD10U camera only shoots in 720p, compressed to approximately 19 Mbps, but the HDV format does support 1080i at approximately 25 Mbps data rate (like DV).

    JVC Y-HD10U

At NAB, JVC demonstrated additional HDV gear, including HD camcorders, studio decks, and encoders. Sony also demonstrated a prototype HDV camera that supports 1080i, and you can expect other announcements soon (

HD in Adobe Premiere Pro

Adobe also broadened its support for HD at NAB with the announcement of Premiere Pro 1.5 (, part of an upgrade to the entire Adobe Video Collection, also including After Effects 6.5, Audition 1.5, and Encore DVD 1.5. 


Premiere Pro provides a scalable architecture that supports real-time editing from DV to HD.


As you will see, NAB also saw the announcement of a wide variety of third-party enhancements for the Premiere platform, supporting editing different HD formats directly in Premiere, and hardware accelerators for import, export, and processing HD video.

- CineForm Aspect HD

Building on the HDV announcements in 2003, CineForm has created several products for editing HD in Adobe Premiere, originally in Premiere 6.5, and now in Premiere Pro 1.5 ( Aspect HD provides real-time multi-stream processing of high-definition video within Premiere Pro. The new version 2.2 includes support for all HDV resolutions and frame rates, from SD to 1080p30 HD. CineForm also is now bundling the Adobe editing software suite with Aspect HD for $1199 (list).


CineForm has taken the approach of supporting HD editing by transcoding the HDV video to its own format for editing. The CineForm format is actually less compressed than HDV, at around 100 Mbps, but then can be stored in standard AVI files and is easily accessible and editable by other Windows video software.

CineForm states that up to four HD streams can processed simultaneously in real time, plus transitions, effects, and motion, on a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 PC and a simple RAID 0 configuration.

- BOXX HD [pro] RT

The generation from CineForm is Prospect HD, which provides the same kind of software-based video engine for real-time multi-stream editing, but stepped up to full 10-bit HD video. Prospect HD is initially available exclusively on the new BOXX Technologies HD [pro] RT system, a dual-processor turnkey PC workstation, with pricing starting at $22,995 (


Prospect HD supports 8-bit and 10-bit precision, for virtually all HD resolutions and frame rates up to 1080p 30. The HD [pro] RT accepts video input from a variety HD sources including HD-SDI and HDV, which are converted to CineForm format in real time for storage and processing using Premiere Pro.

BOXX states the system will process up to three 1080p 30 streams simultaneously in real time, including color correction, effects, transitions, titles and graphic overlays with motion.

The advantage of the CineForm approach is that you can work directly in your standard tools with an HD format that is both high quality and efficient to process, instead of needing to work offline with lower-res proxy video. You do need to transcode on input (and output), but this also makes it easier to support a variety of external formats.

- MainConcept MPEG Pro

An alternate approach for HD editing in Premiere is to just edit directly in MPEG format, since it is so commonly used, from DVD to HDV. This is the idea behind the MainConcept MPEG Pro plug-in ( The MainConcept MPEG encoders are already used in Premiere and other major video applications, but the MPEG Pro plug-ins add the ability to natively edit MPEG files directly in the timeline. You just select the appropriate editing preset. Working directly in MPEG can significantly enhance your workflow by capturing, editing, and exporting all in the same format (saving storage and even immediately DVD-ready), without any additional conversions or rendering.


The MPEG Pro Standard Version supports SD editing up to DVD quality ($249), and the HD Version supports editing at HD resolutions, including direct capture from HDV camcorders ($349).

MainConcept describes MPEG Pro as supporting real-time performance at DVD resolution, but is careful to state that the HD version supports HD editing, but not acceleration.

Microsoft Windows Media Video HD

Once you have finished editing your HD productions in Premiere or other tools, the best available delivery format for computer playback is Microsoft's Windows Media High Definition Video, WMV HD ( 


With Windows Media 9 Series on Windows XP, Microsoft has been working to encourage the adoption of WMV well beyond the desktop, for everything from handheld devices to set-top players to digital cinema. WMV HD provides a high-quality HD format that provides good compression and can be played back on today's higher-end computers, so you can play HD video on the monitor or feed it out to a projector. You just export directly from the timeline in WMV HD format, and you're ready to go.


Microsoft is working with the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) to standardize the Windows Media Video 9 codec, and WMV HD also is being evaluated as a format for the next generation high-def DVD, HD DVD. To explore movies in HD, check out recent DVD releases including Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Terminator 2 Extreme Edition, Coral Reef Adventure, Step Into Liquid. These two-DVD sets include the movie in standard DVD format on the first disc, and then a second disc with all the usual extras and bonus material, including the entire movie in HD, with surround sound, compressed to fit in the spare space on the extra disc.

- Sonic Solutions DVD Producer- WMV HD Edition

And now you can create your own Windows Media HD DVDs, with the announcement from Sonic Solutions of DVD Producer- WMV HD Edition ( Now in beta, and targeted for release in September 2004, this special version of Sonic's DVD Producer authoring software will enable the creation of interactive presentations using WMV HD material.


Since WMV HD presentations are played on PCs, and not on set-top players, they can provide a DVD-like interactive experience, but enhanced to better leverage the full capabilities of the PC platform.

Premiere HD Accelerators

- Matrox HD

One of the strengths of the Premiere product line has been its strong integration with third-party video hardware, especially for video input/output and acceleration. At NAB 2004, Matrox previewed Matrox HD, a new family of HD editing products scheduled to be introduced later in 2004 (

The Matrox HD products are based on a new 10-bit architecture that supports real-time performance with Premiere Pro, including color correction, titling, speed changes, transitions, and DVEs (digital video effects). The products will provide real-time acceleration beyond 720p HD, with real-time performance extending to higher-resolution 1080i and 1080p.


- Canopus HD

Canopus also demonstrated its own proprietary HD codec used for editing HD material in Premiere Pro ( Canopus describes the Canopus HD format as creating clips that are one-seventh the size of uncompressed HD, yet with image quality equivalent to that of Panasonic DVCPRO HD and Sony HDCAM video.

Canopus also described a new Canopus HD I/O card to high-quality realtime encoding and decoding of HD video streams within Premiere Pro. It captures HD input from HD-D5, HDCAM or DVCPRO HD cameras and supports editing of Canopus HD clips on the Premiere Pro timeline.

In addition, Canopus an upgrade to its EDIUS HD realtime HD editing system, integrated with the HD codec and HD-SDI/SDI input and output card, to be available in June 2004.


- 1 Beyond HD Workstations

If you are looking for a packaged high-end video editing system, check out 1 Beyond ( At NAB, 1 Beyond announced the availability of a new line of HD systems, including the HD Pro workstation digital nonlinear editing system starting under $30,000 and the HD Pro Mobile luggable HD editing/compositing workstation you can use for offline editing or HD projection. The HD Pro workstation features Adobe Premiere Pro with 10-bit uncompressed HD editing and compositing as well as real time HDV, SD and DV native formats.


HD Video Capture

Of course, the common denominator input format for HD video is SDI (Serial Digital Interface), so another approach to the ingest issue is to capture uncompressed HD directly over SDI, and then transcode and edit as needed. This approach is particularly useful when working on short clips such as effects, when you can work in full-quality format without blowing out your available storage.

However, conventional SD and HD-SDI use 4:2:2 video, with half-resolution color data. For full color detail, you can use Dual Link HD-SDI, which uses two HD-SDI cables for 4:4:4 video with full-resolution color.

- Bluefish444 HD Fury / HD Lust 

Bluefish444, a division of Digital Voodoo in Australia (, demonstrated its HD Fury 10-bit uncompressed SD/HD-SDI video card (US$11,995), with support for Premiere Pro 1.5 and After Effects 6.5. The HD Lust card (US$15,995) adds Dual Link input and output, and keying. These cards include simultaneous SD down conversion and 8 channels of digital audio.

      HD Lust 

- Blackmagic DeckLink HD 

Blackmagic Design of Australia ( announced extensions to its DeckLink line of Macintosh and Windows XP compatible PCI broadcast video capture cards. The DeckLink HD (US$1995) supports 10-bit HD SDI and NTSC/PAL, and the DeckLink HD Pro (US$2495) extends to Dual Link 4:4:4 12-bit SDI capture, and includes built in multi-standard analog video monitoring.


HD Goes Mainstream

- DVCPRO HD - Apple Final Cut Pro HD

Apple kicked off the NAB week by unveiling Final Cut Pro HD, providing software-based real-time editing and preview of HD material ( For its HD format, Apple has chosen a single answer for capture, storage, and editing by using Panasonic's professional DVCPRO HD video format ( Apple states that Final Cut Pro HD provides playback of up to four streams of DVCPRO HD video, or up to 10 streams in preview quality when using the new Xserve RAID storage.


As part of a long-term relationship with Panasonic, Final Cut Pro HD supports DVCPRO HD capture, edit, and output over the same single FireWire cable that is currently used for standard-def DV format. Final Cut Pro than can edit the DVCPRO material in its native format, so there is no format conversion or re-compression required, nor offline editing in a lower-res format.

This obviously is a great solution if you are using a professional DVCPRO camera such as the Panasonic VariCam. Apple also has announced its commitment to support the HDV format in future Final Cut Pro releases.

- Ulead - MediaStudio Pro 7 - HDV

On the Windows platform, Ulead announced the Ulead HD Plug-in for its MediaStudio Pro 7 professional video editing and DVD authoring software ($299, The HD plug-in adds support for the HDV format, to natively capture, edit, and output HDV content within MediaStudio Pro 7.


The HD Plug-in automatically detects the JVC JY-HD10U camera, loads the proper device settings, and converts the MPEG Transport Stream video from the camcorder to Program Stream format for editing.

- Avid HD - Xpress Pro - DNxHD

Avid also announced plans to provide HD support across its entire DNA product line of hardware-accelerated nonlinear editing and compositing systems ( The Avid Xpress Pro editing software for both Windows and Mac platforms will support a wide range of HD formats in a future version planned for late 2004. Avid has chosen to take both approaches to HD formats, including the ability to natively edit uncompressed HD and the compressed HDV MPEG and DVCPRO HD formats, and also supporting Avid's own intermediate format, called Avid DNxHD.


DNxHD is a 10-bit HD encoding format that permits editing HD material with the same storage bandwidth and capacity requirements as SD files, including 720p and 1080i, at data rates ranging from 220 Mbps for 10-bit to 145 Mbps for 8-bit data.

- Pinnacle - Liquid HD

Pinnacle Systems also announced a Liquid HD upgrade to its Pinnacle Liquid product line (  Pinnacle plans to provide real-time HDV editing in a choice of formats, including low-bandwidth HDV, high-quality compressed HD, or full-quality uncompressed HD.


Pinnacle demonstrated Liquid HD natively editing MPEG compressed video, taking advantage of the reduced data throughput while still retaining high quality.



HDV format

JVC JY-HD10U HDV camera

Sony HDV


Adobe Premiere Pro

CineForm Aspect HD / Prospect HD

MainConcept MPEG Pro

Microsoft Windows Media High Definition Video (WMV HD)

BOXX Technologies HD [pro] RT


Sonic Solutions DVD Producer- WMV HD Edition

Matrox HD

Canopus HD

1 Beyond


BlackMagic Design


Apple Final Cut Pro HD

Panasonic DVCPRO

Ulead HD Plug-in for MediaStudio Pro

Avid HD - Xpress Pro - DNxHD

Pinnacle Liquid HD