High Definition Camcorder Sony HDR-HC1
I'd been itching to try a new High Definition camcorder... and thanks to a friend,
Norman F Carver Jr. who is among many things
an accomplished photographer, architect, writer, and digital artist, I got a chance this week to test his Sony HDR-HC1.
Click to View
The camcorder is a hybrid in that you can shoot either HDV 1080i or DV format, toggling between them as you want. Switching
from one to the other is as easy as touching the LCD screen control.
It was a good time to do it. I wasn't sure how I'd get the HDV files from the camcorder to the computer in my XP system,
but I had just installed the latest beta version (SP2) of the Vista operating system... which features include using high
definition files with nothing more than the new Photo Gallery, Movie Maker and DVD Maker software apps bundled with the
first subject was a pewter chalice in the corner of my office, where I put some loose change. With the camcorder on a tripod
and zoomed into it, I wanted to see how well it would capture details of the chalice and the money in it.
After that, I aimed out a window and videoed some wet rustling leaves in a tree, another zoomed in close-up subject.
I shot the two scenes first in HDV and then in DV, toggling between the two formats and not leaving any spaces on the
The camcorder does a great job, and it was a fun learning experience... I'll use this newsletter to share it with you
as best I can.
To illustrate the difference between watching DV versus HDV, let's assume you had a screen with enough resolution to
see the full video... which I don't... so I'll show you a cropped segment.
Here's part of a frame from the clip shot in regular DV format. It's enlarged to align with the actual size of the HDV
1080i snapshot that follows. The enlargement is to show the differences you can expect to see when viewing the same content
shot in either format on a large screen monitor or TV with enough resolution to show the 1080i video in all its glory.
Part of a DV snapshot enlarged to 1080 size...
Click to view
.... and here's the same (but a larger cropped area) to show what you get with the HDV format option.
Part of a HDV snapshot at actual 1080 size...
Click to view
This newsletter won't get into the differences in quality, features of the camcorder, or editing of high definition content.
There's lots of online info that can better show you those.
I'll explore the steps used to get the video clips from the camcorder tape to the computer, and beyond that into Movie
Maker... in XP or Vista.
... before getting into it further, a couple notes...
There's an interesting new blog related to the HD subject, with this first post of
9/13/06 kicking it off:
Welcome to "The HD DVD Insiders", Microsoft's new HD DVD blog. This is our forum for our passionate
employees to talk about the format, our VC-1 codec, and what we're doing to provide consumers with the world's best
Vista Corner... downloaded and installed
the RC2 release... my main issues with Vista right now are:
- my DVD burning capability stopped with recent releases, after it had been working fine earlier. It's an HP system
with an HP burner in it, so I contacted HP via their online chat support service. The tech rep was very helpful, but
the bottom line was they don't support issues with systems being used for beta testing new operating systems...
- My system captures HD 1080i files but doesn't play them. I can't see the video.
The 180 GB external hard drive that was stopped working last week finished the job this week, and is
now unusable... hope I don't miss what was on it. I pulled it from the case, tried using it as a second drive inside a computer,
and a day of error checking by Windows XP found nothing but bad sectors.
.... back to the main topic...
The Sony HDR-HC1
The cover of the manual sums it up well... with both DV and HDV logos. As we've seen coming into this issue, you can
toggle between standard DV and HDV 1080i when shooting, and playback will toggle automatically.
It feels familiar and comfortable in that it
- uses the same power adapter and batteries as other Sony camcorders
- uses the same cassette tapes as Mini-DV camcorders... as with Hi8 and digital8 models you can move the same tape
between camcorders for recording... but unlike those, you don't even have to move the tape, just shoot DV or HDV in
the same camcorder
- plays my library of mini-DV tapes
- comes with a USB connection cable but no firewire/iLink cable... Norm didn't get a firewire cable
- uses the same 4 pin firewire cables used with mini-DV camcorders... so my cables worked fine
- snapshots from the camcorder record to a memory stick... the newer smaller pro version... the manual says one is
included, but it wasn't in the camcorder or the case... maybe it's still in the box. I use the regular memory stick
so I couldn't take any test snapshots.
On the unusual side, it doesn't come with any software to capture the video... no disc at all... no trial version software.
The manual says to use a firewire (iLink) cable to copy movies to a computer, and says to use editing software capable
of copying HDV signals for HDV clips, and editing software capable of copying DV signals for DV clips... it refers you to
the operating instructions of the software you choose.... with no suggestions.
It also says that some editing software on the computer may not work correctly, and that the computer may hang up or
not recognize the signal if you don't do things right or the software doesn't work.
The manual has a few pages about using "Click to DVD" software on a Sony VAIO series computer. All the computers at the
library for my training sessions are those. With one, you should be able to go directly from the camcorder to a DVD... any
HDV footage is automatically downsized to regular DV during the process. That's not what I want to do... my goal is to get
the full HDV clips into Movie Maker.
That leaves us wide open and on our own for what software to use on XP or Vista... and how to do it. The playback works
fine on the camcorder's LCD screen, so obviously any issues or difficulties I encounter trying to get it to the computer
will be fully my responsibility to figure out. The fun begins!!!! This is the meat of this newsletter.
To help figure out how to approach the importing/capturing, here's some selected info from the manual, mostly the specification
- HDV - MPEG-1 Layer-2, 16 bits, 48 kHz stereo
- DV - PCM, 12 bits, 32 kHz stereo... or 16 bits, 48 kHz stereo
Video recording - NTSC 1080/60i specification
- HDV signals are compressed MPEG2 format
Tape speed - about 18.81 mm/sec... the same speed for either HDV or DV
Recording time - 60 minutes for HDV or DV
- gross - about 2,969,000 pixels
- effective 4:3 - 1,486,000
- effective 16:9 - 1,983,000
- effective still 4:3 - 2,764,000
- effective still 16:9 - 2,073,600
Optical zoom - 10x
The camcorder can playback either DV or HDV... mixed on the same tape.
It can also play back pictures recorded in HDV 720/30p format, but not transfer them by firewire (not tested as the camcorder
doesn't have an option to record HDV 720p)... there's not much to test if it can't transfer it by firewire.
Importing Clips - Vista
Let's start with Vista, using the latest beta release (RC2) which supports the importing of HDV from a camcorder.
Vista's Photo Gallery is the default app for the import process. You can start with Movie Maker also, but it'll use the
Here's what the first window looks like when importing the clips recorded as DV. Note the option to
import to multiple WMV files, a new feature in Vista. For my tests, I'm capturing to DV-AVI, and the multiple file option
And the same window for the HDV footage. The only option is importing to a
Note the size estimate for the HDV files, a bit less than comparable DV-AVI files for DV.
The size differences are due to compression. It's like having BMP versus compressed JPG pictures.
The next window when importing DV gives you three choices.
The 2nd choice of going directly to a DVD is new with Vista. Sounds like the Sony manual referring to "Click to DVD".
I opted for the 3rd one just to get the DV-AVI files from my two scenes.
When importing the HDV
scenes in Vista, the first two choices are the same... but the option I wanted was the third one, which isn't there... no
option to import selected parts.
The lead in statement implies it's an option, but it isn't.
My first shots on the camcorder were on an already used tape that had only about 10 minutes of tape left. It was from
my mini-DV camcorder.
When I saw the option not being there, rather than sit through 50 minutes of Vista looking through the tape to get to
my new shots, I shot the scenes again, this time using the first part of a new tape.
Stopping the Import
When the import process was past the footage I wanted, it kept going at real time speed. Vista was going to go through
the whole tape looking for more HDV clips.... that would take another 50+ minutes.
I stopped it... there were two choices... to Cancel or to Stop.
Both choices gave a caution or warning which gave me something to think about. The message when cancelling was more ominous
than when stopping, so I stopped it. I had another clue that the cancelling wouldn't be a good choice, as I was watching
the creation of the video file... which was tagged as being a temporary one. Cancelling a process usually results in temporary
files being deleted.
It's not an elegant way to present the option to capture only some of the footage, but it worked for this newsletter
test. It wouldn't be good for real work when its importing just the tail end of a tape, or something from the middle.
Video File Creation
As the HDV import happens, you can see the file being created... the dvr-ms_tmp extension
led me to believe two things...
- Vista was serious about deleting it. If I cancelled the import instead of stopping. It would have wiped out the
- The file format when using Photo Gallery in Vista is dvr-ms, a Microsoft MPEG-2 derivative... the same extension
for recorded TV shows when using Media Center software on XP.
While waiting, I copied the 300 MB temp file to my XP computer, renamed it to a dvr-ms extension, and tried playing it.
WMP gave an error message. I knew the file wasn't complete enough to play... it hadn't been closed yet.
I waited a bit more as the blank part of the tape was being searched. The file didn't get any bigger. After I stopped
the process, the file had the dvr-ms extension and other temporary files were deleted.
The import process for the DV footage on the same tape was kind of normal, so I won't go through it.
I had to jog the camcorder setting from Auto to DV to kick start it. Until then Vista treated the device as an HDV camcorder.
DV importing ends with typical DV-AVI files.
Note again that Movie Maker in Vista doesn't need to be involved in the importing. You can start with it, but the default
when plugging a camcorder in is to do it in Photo Gallery.
See the different shapes of the HDV and DV clip thumbnails in Photo Gallery. HDV is always widescreen while DV can be
shot as standard or widescreen.
note about Vista... checking the properties of the imported HDV clip shows it as 720x480. Copying the clip from Vista to
XP and checking its properties shows it as 1440x1080!!!! And it plays fine on the XP system.
Let's go over to my laptop and do the same importing there, but using Windows XP.
Capturing Clips - XP
Note the terminology shift... we 'import' in Vista and 'capture' in XP. Forgive me if I get the two mixed up at times
until I get in the groove of Vista.
Movie Maker worked as usual with the camcorder set to playback DV... but it and other video software didn't connect with
the camcorder when it was set to play HDV 1080i.
After some internet research, I downloaded and installed a fully functional 30 day trial version of Sony's
Vegas Movie Studio+DVD Platinum
The installation was quick and easy.
Capturing HDV with Vegas
The first step was to select the device type/device to capture from, in this case the camcorder set to
HDV mode for playback.
Vegas knows the camcorder can be used for DV or HDV, so you need to pick the format.
After that, right click on the blue window that shows the word 'Stopped' and choose Capture > Start.
The captured files came in as .m2t files, an MPEG-2 derivative... not .dvr-ms as they did in Vista.
What To Do With .m2t Files?
The .m2t files wouldn't work in any of my usual video software or conversion utilities.
They worked in Vegas but my goal was to get them into Movie Maker 2 for use as source files.
I made a movie project in Vegas and saved the movie to a different format. I rendered it a number of times using different
formats and codec options... searching for the right one to work in Movie Maker. This screen shot shows it rendering to
an .mpg file...
... after a number of test renderings, I settled on an AVI file using 'Video for Windows - not stretch video to fill'
You may appreciate the difficulties of taking full frame snapshots from a movie file... hard enough for regular sized
ones, even more so when the frame size is larger than your computer monitor.
Movie Maker 2 did that final step, getting the snapshots to show you the differences in visual quality. With the 1440x1080
AVI files from Vegas, the MM2 snapshots from them in the collection were full size.
The HDV files were in MM2... on the timeline... where I edited them, and saved a movie using one of my custom profiles,
one that emulates the properties of 1080i videos. We got there!!
Conclusions and Closing
The HDV files went from the camcorder to Movie Maker in Vista as .dvr-ms files, and from the camcorder to XP as .m2t
files... either way, they remain some form of an MPEG-2 file.
Movie Maker in Vista should be able to use them directly in a project. Movie Maker in XP needs
them converted to something else.... like the AVI files I made in Vegas.
It was a fun exercise to make this newsletter. For me, the camcorder goes back to Norm tonight and I return to my usual
low rez DV work. I don't want to get too attached to it. By next week these HDV clips will just be a fond memory.
The sample scenes I shot were quiet... I didn't test the audio. Maybe another newsletter someday.
As Vista and High Definition camcorders move into the hands of the users, things will get more complex, and more interesting...
I hope this newsletter helps you as you think about going forward.
I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at:
Windows Movie Makers.net
Have a great week...
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 -
Photo Story 2 - www.photostory.papajohn.org
Products and Services
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Some are free and others reasonably priced.
Radio and Podcasting
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help, download of the day and news on the latest products to make everything easier. It's where professional and consumer
desktop video users go to stay on the cutting edge.
Call the phone mail machine to get your technical question answered on the air... call (206)-203-3516
The radio broadcast is from Boston, and the website has downloadable podcast files. The June 19th 2005 podcast was the
first 'bi-weekly' show with a segment about Movie Maker 2. The frequency of radio Q&A sessions about Movie Maker has fallen
Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with its online companion on
www.papajohn.org ), published by Microsoft Press...
Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero - with support on the publisher's forum -
Friends of Ed
MaximumPC's winter 2005 quarterly special... had a 7 page tutorial 'Make a Killer Home Movie with Maker
2'. The special edition of the video made for it is now
on my website as a
The November 2005 edition of Maximum PC had a well done reworked 6 page reprint of the same article, starting on page
42 after the Happy 20th Birthday article for Windows.
A 7 page tutorial about Photo Story 3 is in the 2006 Summer Special edition, still on bookstands.
VirtualDub - published by Packt Publishing in April 2005, is the first book about VirtualDub software. I wrote
the introductory chapter about downloading and setting up the software: VirtualDub, VDubMod and AVISynth.
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - www.papajohn.org
- the site's goals are: doing amazing things, providing a detailed tutorial for PhotoStory 3, and helping you solve Movie
Maker 2 problems.
It's being expanded to include the new version of Movie Maker in Vista, with Photo Gallery and DVD Maker.
PhotoStory 2 - www.papajohn.org/photostory2/PS2.html
- a detailed tutorial about using the earlier version.
Online Support - Forums and Newsgroups
I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the key ones being:
Forums are open to all for viewing, but require registration of those who want to post. Moderators actively
participate to ensure the forum discussions move forward and stay on track.
Movie Maker and Photo Story forums at Windows
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Newsgroups are wide open for all to view and post... moderation is collective by the participants.
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Topics for upcoming newsletters (always subject to change):
#121 - Oct 21 - the iriver clix
#122 - Oct 28 - open
#123 - Nov 4 - open
Newsletters issued more than 6 weeks ago are posted by Rob Morris to an
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Drop an email to suggest a newsletter topic...
Add-On Transitions and Effects
Maker 2 (TM2) is a utility for the ultimate in making your own personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker
2. It's a joint product from Patrick Leabo, the programmer, and myself.
beta tested some of the Pixelan packages
and think very highly of their people and products.
ProDAD's Adorage packages for Movie Maker 2 are additional sources of very professionally developed
transitions and effects. And here are the links
for Movie Maker - Volume 1
PapaJohn's Transitions - Volume 2
PapaJohn's Video Effects - Volume 3
I use a lot of professional background music for movies and stories that was created by
Randon Myles, and act as his agent in selling the tunes
There are 62 tunes available from 4 of his many albums... at 99 cents per tune (MP3 or WMA format). Here's a Sample
- 45 seconds from 'Groove 2'. The 4 albums are: In the Fields of the on-Feretin , Music for Film Volume
III, the Emerald Way, and the Fourth Door.
I don't have a full set of online samples yet, but if you hear something you like in one of my videos, there's a good
chance it was done by Randon. Send an email if you are interested.
more info to manage, consider additional tools that help.
My personal database has been an ongoing project over many years, and is now available to others. A tutorial about using
it is on the Managing > Personal Database page of my site, and more info is in the database package itself.
It's free for the asking to regular newsletter subscribers... send an email request and I'll return it with the zipped
file, which is less than 1 MB.
To others it's $10. To order, use the button on the top of the Managing > Personal Database page.
On my list of things to do is a video tutorial showing users tips about using it.
An online gallery that fully aligns with the main priority of the website is the
'PapaJohn Expert Zone' at neptune.
Check it at N eptune and
the Distributing > Neptune page of the website, where there's a developing tutorial about how to use the service.
In conjunction with the Portage, Michigan
library , I offer two free training sessions about Movie Maker and Photo Story, an intro session and a workshop.
Scheduled sessions are at 7-8:30 PM on :
Monday, October 23rd
Thursday, November 30th
Thursday, December 14th
The classroom has a large screen overhead projection system... and individual laptops for each attendee. You learn by doing,
with some coaching.
Other fee-based services
you can't save a movie because your project has become too complex, e-mail a copy and I'll divide it into
manageable sub-projects, and provide detailed instructions about how to render the parts and assemble them into your final
movie. $49.95 (no cost if it's not the right solution or doesn't work) - for details, see the sidebar on the Problem Solving
> Can't Save a Movie page of www.papajohn.org
Movie Maker 2/Photo Story training and support services start at $75 per hour - send an email -
PapaJohn@CharterMi.net and I'll help you determine
your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.
Wedding combo website/video packages - check the Living Projects section of the Movie Maker 2/Photo
Story website for samples of what you can expect for the online portion of a package.
© 2006 - PapaJohn; Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or
About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from Microsoft.com
John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn
online. An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and
a regular supporter of the community of Movie Maker users, John
received a 2003 MVP award from Microsoft for that support. In March
2003, he started a comprehensive website about Movie Maker 2 at
He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and
provides support services - all for the community of Movie Maker
2 users. An engineer by formal education, John is a computer database
and multimedia expert by business and personal experience. He co-authored
the first book about Movie Maker 2 and is actively working on a
second one. You can find his advice in the
Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the
Windows Movie Makers Forums.
newsletter is republished with permission of John "PapaJohn" Buechler.
Please note that this is an archive of newsletters and some information
may become outdated. PapaJohn, and the webmaster of this site, provides
this information "AS IS" with no warranties.
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