Future Media and Mediums

When push comes to shove serious filmmakers don’t seem to like either tape or plastic disk as primary video media.

In a recent chain store information publication they saw the possibility of small, removable hard drives as the future of media and mediums and that has some possibilities. Serious professionals are already doing this for both audio and video.

I also recently talked with “auteur” filmmakers who advocate the memory chip as a potential medium for the media! This, also has some possibilities and may well be something manufacturers of technology should seriously look at and consider, but it would seem a lot of changes need to occur to make this happen.

First, I doubt size would stay the same. You won’t see SD and XD cards of current size being used for full motion 720i video on a large scale. Right now the biggest cards are about 2 GB which is enough to get you about 4 minutes of video movie at full resolution at the current compression levels.

If cards start seeing use they will need to be a tad larger, because you will need at least 15 or 20 GB of storage capacity to hold enough “home movies” to make it worth while. Commercial filmmakers are use to the concept of 10 and 20 minutes, which translates into 5 and 10 GB cards for compressed media storage. This concept comes from the 400’ 16mm loads and 1,000/2,000 foot 35mm loads used in professional cinematography. A classic “reel” of film being defined as 400’ of 16mm or 1,000’ of 35mm.

For the home user small memory cards returns you to the heyday of 8mm and Super 8mm movies, where you had a spool of 25 or 50’ of film and got about 4 minutes of movies before you had to change rolls.

The era of VHS and now Hi-8 have lengthened home movie making to 2 full hours, so getting Ma and Pa Kettle to get back to 4 minute lengths with a 2 GB SD card will not be an easy trick to pull off!

It is a fact that when consumers look at mediums side by side they are totally turned off by VHS-C and the fact you only get 30 minutes of recording time at SP speeds! Despite the fact you can put these cartridges into many VCRs using an adapter, Ma and Pa Kettle lean towards Hi-8 with a full 2 hours of recording, Digital 8 and Mini-DV-C with a full hour of recording.

This fact never turned off the commercial filmmakers who work with Betacam SP and had to live with 20 minutes of recording time to get Y/C separation and near broadcast quality resolution. Field production crews and even editing houses flocked to Betacam SP and worshiped it like a god! But Ma and Pa Kettle don’t like getting stuck with even 30 minutes in the poor quality VHS-C, so we have to take this fact into consideration that the Kettles out rank the filmmakers by a wide majority. Manufacturers cater to the mass market, not the small, eclectic base of hardcore users.

While DVD disks are attractive to home users, the 8cm disk (and I imagine full size DVD camcorders are on the horizon) only holds 1 GB of data and to get even 30 minutes of lower DVD quality (480 lines of resolution) they employ MPEG compression, which is lower in quality than an AVI file used by tape based mediums such as Mini-DV-C and Digital 8. The moment the “Kettle’s” are told about the 30 minute recording limit at standard quality they start to get turned off to DVD camcorders.

Thus, the major chain store's peek into the future of small hard drives is not irrational and very practical. We already have them for laptop computers. They are about the size of a Sony T-1 digital camera: 3” x 2” x ¾” and they hold 40 to 80 GB of data, which is enough to do an hour or more of AVI quality video that can even reach HDTV resolution.

We must take HDTV into consideration as this is now very popular, so much so that the official demise of broadcast analog television is set to occur after 2010 when digital and HDTV will take over in full force and by the year 2020 almost no one will watch the current broadcast frequencies.

Since Digital and HDTV sets display 600+ lines of resolution, which is higher than even Mini-DV tape quality and far superior to DVD, we have to consider the possibility that home consumer video electronics is going to need no less than the 700+ lines of resolution currently available to professional tape based video camcorders and we will need this by the year 2008 for Ma and Pa Kettle.

This still doesn’t through passive and active media cards out the window. It simply means we’ll need to shrink the chips even further and expand the size of cards designed for video work. Not by much. I would image a card using materials found in the SD, XD and Memory Sticks can be fashioned to hold 20 GB of data without having to go more than 3 times the current size in all dimensions. This means maybe 2” square by ½” thick?

Using MPEG 4 compression for home camcorders (such as the Aiptek 5900, pictured here, which we reviewed elsewhere in this issue) would give 2 to 5 hours of full motion video at DVD quality and at least 1 hour at higher quality for HDTV home uses in our postulated 10, 15 or 20 GB card. This same card would give the auteur at least 30 minutes of AVI quality for both HDTV and standard digital video, which is more than enough. It would even provide about 5 minutes of no compression full stream video for the professional user.

Finally such 10, 15 and 20 GB cards would also be an effective alternative to computer back-up problems. Right now people have returned to tape so they can back up their 100 GB hard drives, because at 4 GB of storage it takes 90 DVD disks to hold a full hard drive of data! That’s impractical! Now it would only take 5 20 GB chips to hold the entire 100 GB hard drive!

The bottom line, however, is going to be cost! This is one reason why both mechanical hard drives and media cards are not being used to store full motion video. A 1 or 2 hour tape and that 30 minutes 8cm DVD disk each costs $6. The current price of a 1 GB SD card is about $80. The current price of a 40 GB mini hard drive for a laptop computer is about $120+ and a full size, heavy, cumbersome 40 GB Seagate is about $60. The cost per GB of tape is about $1-$2 while the cost of a hard drive is about $1.20 to $2 for the same storage. The cost for a media card is about $80 per GB. These costs have to come down to the point where a 1 GB card costs $5 and 20 GB card costs $15, then we are talking viable for use in recording full motion video.

So, we need to miniaturize more, increase the physical size a little and drop the price a lot before we will see camcorders that use little “SD” type cards as their medium for the recording of media!

Hard drives would need to come down in price, get lighter in weight, become easier to install and not be prone to death from static charge when your feet rub on a home carpet. No one will want to put a 8 ounce or 1 pound metal object into their nice, light camcorder. If they want to lift weights they’ll pay for membership at Gold’s Gym!

Until such a time when these factors become reality instead of fantasy, we’ll just have to learn to love our tape that bends, breaks, curls with age, flakes off with use, becomes brittle after years, shrinks and makes for lousy long-term archival storage or those little plastic disks that are prone to scratches, can’t be read by all players, get erased if you leave them in the sunlight, warp and bend when heated by an automobile glove compartment or trunk in the summertime and don’t hold much data.

Our 2005 Video Special continues with these offerings::

Video Special 2005 | Intro To Digital TV | DVD or DV Camcorders?
High Definition DVDs | Future DV Mediums | Aiptek 5900 MP4 Camera
New HDV Technology from CineForm and RedRock Micro | Three Low Cost DVD Camcorders
64 Bit Computer Technology | New Fall 2005 US Prime Time TV Shows

Our video special continues with these offerings from 2004:

Camcorders 2004 | Capture Cards 2004 | HD-DVD
Digital Theatrical Movies | JVC HD Camcorder | Sigma SD9 and Foveon Technology
Color Imaging Technology | V-Chip | 2004 Network Prime Time TV Shows

From our archives with these offerings from 2003:

Camcorders | Hi-Def TV | Promote Ur Videos | Future of DVD | Computer DVD Burners
New US TV Shows for 2003-2004 Prime Time

From our archives we have these articles from the 2002 Issues:

Doing Video On Your Computer | The Pinnacle Capture Card | ATA Hard Drives
Hard Drive Terms | Western Digital Drives | Producing A Scripted iMac Video
Audio For Video | Lighting For Video | Digital VHS | Removable Hard Drives

From September 2001 Issues:

Buying a Camcorder | Producing A Cable Access Show | Producing Broadcast TV
A Technical Look and History of Film, Video and TV | Stream Video and Webcasting

HDTV | Capture Cards


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