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Alternate HDV Workflows Using HDMI

Video Production Article from The Creative COW Magazine

Creative COW Magazine presents - Alternate HDV Workflows Using HDMI

Michael PalmerMichael Palmer
Lakewood California, USA

©2007 Michael Palmer and All rights reserved.

Article Focus:

In this day and age where time is money, I've found a fast, affordable, all-digital alternative to native HDV workflows, featuring the somewhat clandestine and covert HDMI connection.

While HDMI is a relatively new prosumer connection, it supports uncompressed HD signals together with multiple channels of audio. The only challenge has been getting a signal into your NLE using this HDMI connection.

Here's how to do it: the Convergent Design HD-Connect MI. I originally found information about Convergent Design in the Cow forums over a year ago, and liked what I saw. I've always believed that digital hardware conversion offer advantages of quality and speed over software conversion, and the HD-Connect MI looked like the right fit for me.

(Although I use Apple Final Cut Studio, the HD-Connect- MI has also been tested with Avid editing applications, Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, and Media 100 among others. It also works with the HDMI port on JVC products, not just the Sony gear I use.)

As a producer, I needed to shoot DV and deliver in DigiBeta for a national cable NASCAR program I created over 5 years ago. When the show started production, the highest-quality and most cost-effective way to convert on capture was with the Sony 1500a deck. I added an optional Sony SDI hardware decoder card to convert the DV to 8 bit uncompressed SD.

Now that our production has gone HD, I use the Sony HVR-V1U HDV camera to shoot. When I'm ready to edit, I send the HDMI signal from my Sony M25U deck into the HD-Connect MI. While the MI offers many conversion options, I use it to send HD-SDI into my Kona LHe capture card and on to Final Cut Studio 2.

The MI isn't just for capture. Both timecode and deck control come through RS-422, keeping all the timecode of my HD-SDI sources intact as it moves through FCS. The MI's cross-conversion does everything you'd want, so getting 1080 HD out of 720, or realt time downconverts are painless.

I found the MI's SD downconversion worked really well a few weeks ago on a local cable commercial I produced. We wanted to have HD for future use but needed to deliver in SD. The MI made this extremely easy from the start by simply capturing in uncompressed 8 bit SD: 1 step, all digital.

Another hardware conversion I regularly use is conversion to Apple ProRes inside my Intel Mac/FCS 2 system. I can capture my HDV footage to ProRes on the fly, to take advantage of the higher-colorspace rendering in ProRes, as well as the improved performance of I-frame video on my computer.

At the time I'm writing this, the MI's $595 MSRP makes it the cheapest ProRes capture hardware.

I believe I've also found the best way to use the Sony V1U camera with the HD-Connect MI for live capture to ProRes that bypasses HDV compression altogether. It's a bit of a Ball and Chain method, as you need to drag around a Mac Pro behind the camera, but here's how it works.

Let's say you have the Sony V1U connected via HDMI to the Convergent Design HD-Connect MI. Then you run a 100' HD-SDI cable into the Kona LHe card in a Mac Pro. The HDMI video and audio out of the live shot has never been processed at all, so the image is crystal clear.

You can use either FCP 6 or the AJA VTR Exchange software to capture to ProRes. You'll need proper storage, someone to operate the Mac Pro, and a constant AC power supply, but this is a small price to pay for live capture of the highest-quality images to ProRes.

The same workflow will work for capture directly to uncompressed HD. You won't need as new a computer or as powerful a processor - there's very little processing going on for uncompressed - but you'll need bigger and faster drives. Either way, live or recorded, you win with these products.

Michael's system specs:
  • Apple Mac Pro 3Ghz,
  • 5 Gigs Ram,
  • 6-internal drives, 1-system drive and 5-500 gig Western Digital drives (2.5TB) set as RAID0 with specifically designed internal mounting hardware from
  • AJA Kona LHe,
  • Convergent Design HD-Connect MI,
  • Apple 23 Cinema Display
  • Apple Final Cut Studio 2
  • Sony M25U deck and HVR-V1U and Z1U cameras

Michael Palmer Michael Palmer
Los Angeles, California

Michael Palmer has been a film production professional since 1981, working mainly as a Gaffer lighting for features, episodic TV and commercials shot on film. A member of the IA, Local 728 LA & 52 NYC, he started producing 5 years ago when he created a national cable NASCAR show for Fox Sports SPEED Channel.

Mike SchellMike Schell
Denver Colorado, USA

©2009 Mike Schell and All rights reserved.

Convergent Design's Mike Schell on HDMI

HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is projected to become the interconnect for TVs, set-top boxes, DVD players, consumer camcorders, and digital cameras, with an estimated 60 million HDMI-enabled devices shipping this year.

HDMI transmits uncompressed SD or HD video (up to 1080p) and up to 8 channels of high quality (192KHz) 24-bit audio over a single digital connection.

Think of it as DVI + audio + optional HDCP (High Definition Content Protection), with some significant improvements to potential video resolution and quality. For example, HDMI offers embedded audio (up to 8 channels of PCM or Dolby 5.1/7.1 compressed audio), and 10-Bit YCbCr 4:2:2 or 4:4:4, as compared to only 8-bit RGB 4:4:4 on DVI).

HDMI is also an evolving standard. The most recent spec now has about 3X the required bandwidth for 1080p60 video and audio, plenty of room to grow for future formats.

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