Question 4: What's the storage mechanism?
- Categorized in: Choosing a camcorder
Next, consider how the camcorder stores the video, both the primary media and any ancillary options. For example, most HDV camcorders store video on tape, and also include FireWire output for simultaneous or alternative capture to a hard disk recorder, like the HVR-DR60 60 GB hard drive that Sony offers as an option to the HVRZ5U. However, most AVCHD camcorders only have single SD card slot, with no FireWire option for ancillary storage, a bummer if you’ve already purchased an HDD option and want to supplement your supply of SD cards. Here are some considerations for the most common media options.
Tape is tried and true for HDV, and represents a cheap archive system for the source footage. On the other hand, capture from tape occurs in real time, which is slow, and tape mechanisms are fragile devices, and usually the first subsystem to fail on a camcorder. Recording to tape means occasional dropouts, or short sections of lost data, and finding scenes on tape for playback is cumbersome.
Hard drive and solid state storage like SD and P2 cards offers multiple advantages over tape, including more reliable operation, faster capture and easier scene identification in an interactive shoot. Few shooters who have ever worked with either hard disk or solid state memory ever want to return to tape – it’s that much of an improvement. Still, with all these forms of media, you’ll need an alternative mechanism for archiving your raw footage.
Otherwise, SD storage is one of the best features of AVCHD, and prices are dropping rapidly, with 16 GB cards capable of holding well over an hour of video now costing under $200. On the other hand, when you consider the storage requirements of DVCPRO HD (about 1 GB per minute) and the costs of P2 cards ($2495 for 64 GB), you have an untenable cost structure for many shooters.
I personally think that this is likely the last generation of HDV camcorders, since it’s kind a of bastard format designed more for DV tape compatibility than any other reason. Several higher end Sony camcorders recording 50 mbps Long GOP MPEG-2 to Blu-ray disc on some of their higher end camcorders, and this seems like a wonderful option to me, since discs are cheaper than SD media and can provide both acquisition and long term storage. For the time being, however, HDV stored on DV tape remains a very solid option for many producers, especially those continuing to shoot in DV.
These are the biggies; now let’s look at some other features to think about while evaluating your options.