HDV Editing….. A Different Take

by David Helmly


October 1, 2007


HDV Editing:      A different take…

Over the past few years, HDV has given us lightweight and affordable cameras. Just ask anyone who shoots video for a living why they like these new cameras. These range from small palm corders to lightweight shoulder cams.The next time you see a professional video shooter, look at the camera they are using. Chances are it’s a small high quality HDV camera from Canon, Sony, or JVC.


From the Beginning:

 I have had the opportunity to work with HDV from the beginning. With our 3rd party plug-in partners, we actually had support in earlier versions of Premiere (6.5) with excellent codecs like CineForm’s AspectHD (still my favorite software based HDV solution for Windows users) and later on, MainConcept’s MPEGPro and the NEW MPEGProHD.

Intermediate vs Native:

With the introduction of PremierePro 1.51 we included a version of Cineform’s HDV codec and had a lot of satisfied first time HDV users as well as a lot of customers asking for true Native HDV editing (also known as m2t). I think it’s safe to say, that not all of these customers were up to speed on HDV being an MPEG2 technology and using Long GOP for editing when it comes to Native Editing. Our Native HDV m2t editing is a good experience for typical video workflows. It involves a simple HDV Firewire capture and Premiere automatically generates a quick Index file that makes it possible for PremierePro to edit the MPEG2 information. But depending on your computers performance you can start seeing one of the drawbacks of Native m2t HDV editing when you have a timeline with several  layers of video and effects. While Preview Playback looks good and timeline editing works great, at some point you will start to see your systems true limits. A Fast Processor (s), Fast RAM and Fast Disk Access all contribute to your editing experience (zippyness). Yes, we take full advantage of multiprocessors and the new CORE Technology chips from Intel (& AMD). Native m2t HDV editing is a very processor intensive process. FOR MORE INFO on LongGOP (group of pictures) check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDV (click on #6 to get to the editing part)

Again, Native m2t editing is fine for most people and most routine videos, but having an Intermediate codec like Cineform has its advantages. Using an intermediate codec means that the Native HDV MPEG2 stream is converted (transcoded) on capture into a special format (codec) that is less work for the CPU to decode when editing on the timeline. This means companies like Cineform can add Real-time effects, color correction, and more because the processor is not tied up decoding the MPEG2 stream as with Native m2t  editing. All of this happens with a software plug-in. For the techies out there, Cineform uses a Wavelet codec. The downside for some is that you need to buy AspectHD from www.cineform.com but if your time is valuable, and you want a software based solution (ie, laptop) it’s worth a look. They do offer a free full working trial. Cineform also has a new plug-in for CS3 OSX mac users too!

The hardware boards:

Hardware products, like the Matrox RT X2 and the High-End Axio handle Adobe Native HDV truly amazing. They offer a great editing experience and give the benefit of accelerated MPEG2 DVD output/rendering. The Matrox boards can render a typical timeline for DVD (m2v) output in Real-time, if time is money and you spend a lot of time waiting on Export to DVD – look at this option. I’ve done several 2 hr HDV videos using Matrox Axio and got quickly use to the Real-time performance for most Adobe effects and a slew of special Matrox effects and DVEs. Their new set of “Shine” effects and Presets are getting a lot of use in my videos. I should also be honest and tell you that all of the HDV work I’ve done with the Axio could have been done on the much cheaper Matrox RT X2. It is basically an Axio LE Jr. without the Pro video and audio connectors. It is currently the most cost effective hardware accelerated board for HDV users – I’ll be doing a full CS3 review on the Matrox boards in an up coming blog. The Matrox Axio and RT X2 3.0 drivers for PremierePro CS3 have a ton of performance enhancements.

My Best HDV Experience:

What’s the BEST experience I’ve had with HDV?

Honestly, – Not using Firewire for Ingest, but rather using SDI. What is SDI? Think of it as “FAT Firewire” or better yet, a fire hose vs a drinking straw. It’s a “Big Pipe”.

The HDV camera I find myself using the most is the Canon XH G1. Not only is it a 3 chip HDV camera, it has on-board SDI. The quality is simply amazing. It offers a beautiful range of shooting modes and frame rates. With SDI you can forget about the Long GOP MPEG2 step. You can ingest (capture) from the SDI port on the camera into any SDI capture board. These boards range in price from $295.00 and up depending on the features needed. They are available from BlackMagic Design, AJA, and Matrox and a few others. Cineform also offers ProspectHD and Prospect2K which use certain models of the AJA and BlackMagic SDI & HDMI boards. They give excellent RT performance enhancements and it uses Cineform’s well-known Wavelet codec. If you need help in deciding which board is right for your needs, you can always get help from an Adobe Platinum Var or cruise forums like the www.CreativeCow.com.

Creative Timelines (lots of Photoshop, AfterEffects, and Filters)

When it comes to doing complex “Adobe Style” creative timelines, SDI capture is a great start. You can pick your SDI capture format ranging from Uncompressed 10 bit HD to I-Frame compressed editing modes. Each board and manufacture has different capture/ingest modes and PremierePro Presets to help you get started. The key thing to keep in mind is that you can still shoot with HDV and get all the benefits without the LongGOP step.

Just think; Long GOP is Long GONE! Simple and FAST with SDI. (Ok, that’s not my tagline – it’s actually Convergent-Designs)

But, I already have an HDV camera !

For those of you that already have an HDV camera like the highly successful Sony FX1 or Z1U, Convergent Design saves the day with their new HD-Connect SI converter. This small converter allows you to connect your existing HDV camera via Firewire to an SDI card. Basically giving you a pristine image in any codec your Non-Linear Editor (NLE) board supports for capture. An added bonus is a RS 422 deck control port is built in!  In the case of PremierePro, I first tested it with the Matrox Axio to capture in their high quality I-Frame mode which saves on disk space (the Axio also does Uncompressed 10bit with RT effects). The workflow is truly a pleasure to edit long projects with all of the real-time you would expect from Matrox.


  I also tested PremiereProCS3 the AJA LHe card in an Uncompressed 10bit workflow and was totally sold on the quality and the smoothness of editing 10 bit on the timeline. They should also get credit for their Capture and Playback setup screen which exposes nearly all of the high-end features in the PremierePro recording and playback architecture.   AJA has been long known for their attention to detail and control over the capture and output process (up/down convert) and with PremierePro CS3 they spent extra time exposing it.


BlackMagic Design should also get a mention here as well. They are also well known for their SDI boards and have a fast growing range of products. They have just introduced a new compressed codec for PremiereProCS3 Windows called “Online JPEG” and at 12MB per second and full 1920×1080 resolution it is sure to get some attension.They are best known at Adobe for their part in several motion pictures, one of which is SuperMan Returns. Every frame of SuperMan returns was ingested with PremierePro and BlackMagic Design Hardware. If your curious, check out this case study: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/showcase/index.cfm?event=casestudydetail&casestudyid=114473&loc=en_us


I’ll be doing write-ups later on AJA and BlackMagic Designs and PremiereProCS3 Mac OSX support soon and will use the Convergent Design SI converter in a Mac SDI based workflow. One thing to think about when deciding which SDI board to choose is your disk requirements in regards to uncompressed or compressed workflows (I-Frame). Compressed workflows offer nice quality at lower data rates. Yes, there is a trade off on Quality vs disk space. Uncompressed 10 bit SDI HD projects need large fast raids.

If you’re curious, I use mostly www.G-Technology.com raids. They offer the HD, HDV, or DV user a wide range of raids for laptop and desktop use. They are also a good resource for helping you to match a raid with your PremierePro capture board or laptop based system. If you see me at an Adobe event, I’ll more than likely have my portable G-raid mini as I edit a lot on the airplane. This little wonder, is a hardware based raid that has built-in FW 800. I was sold after using it for 10 minutes!

Lastly, I should mention that I was extremely impressed with Convergent-Design converter when I had to update the firmware to a newer version. They have a very simple JAVA based firmware updater program that makes updating firmware a piece of cake.

Do your Homework:

As with all 3rd party add-on hardware for Adobe Video products, make sure you review the hardware requirements on the various websites. Adobe OpenHD has a number of them listed for you. http://www.adobe.com/adobeopenhd/. Adobe also has a group of resellers or VARs called Adobe Platinum Vars. All of them are very familiar with hardware requirements needed for the various boards. If you want to build your own system, the board makers also have system requirements that list the various pieces needed to make a compatible system. If you’re a Mac user, you already know that you only have 1 desktop system with board slots to choose from  – How easy is that!

Too much info:

I know I covered a ton of different products in this blog.It’s really, more of an intro into up coming articles and I wanted to introduce a lot of key players as well as an alternative way to work with HDV cameras. It goes to show the extensive support that PremierePro and the rest of the CS3 video family have with our 3rd party partners. For more specific information on the products mentioned, visit their website. Here you will find SD/HD, capture Codecs, and other various features. All of these partners have released or soon will release new CS3 updates. Make sure you check out their current information.

Cineform AspectHD and Prospect HD/2K:      www.cineform.com

MainConcept: http://www.mainconcept.com/site/

Matrox Axio and RT X2:http://matrox.com/video/home.cfm

Canon HDV Cameras: http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=ProductCatIndex1Act&fcategoryid=102

BlackMagic Design:      http://www.blackmagic-design.com/products/

AJA: http://aja.com/

Convertgent Design: http://www.convergent-design.com/

G-Technology: http://g-technology.com/

Next Article? PremierePro CS3 version 3.1 and Panasonic P2!


  • By Leo Espinosa - 2:50 PM on October 2, 2007  

    Hi Dave,Great article with lots of info! I have one question…I own a Matrox RTX2 capture/edit board which also captures to its own I-frame codec via firewire. Would there be any quality advantage to capture via the AJA+Convergent Designs method you described ?Very interested to know…Thanks——————-Response from DKHLeo,You raise a very point. By using one of the SDI boards, you can increase quality on a number of levels. If you ingest normal HDV and do mainly cuts your quality would be basically the same. You are taking the digital data from the HDV camera and just putting it on the timeline and adjusting in/out points when you do basic cut. When you start using special effects titles and transitions, you are creating new frames using the MainConcept engine in PremierePro.(as good as it is, we are always working with MC to improve it – you will see more changes with Prem3.1) When you start using SDI from AJA or Blackmagic, you are using one of their Codecs or Quicktime v210 codec (even on the PC). These are very highend codecs and have a very good reputation among the highend editors. You simply have more options using SDI. If your HDV camera source is good quality (has a large lens,3 chip, and so on) then ingesting it as uncompressed will give you the best result. BEWARE that the hard drive requirements for HD uncompressed editing are very high and involve an expensive 6-10 drive Raids. The cost of these raids are really starting to come down. G-Tech makes a new low cost eSata based unit called the ES. With 2 of these you’ll end up with an 8 drive HD raid eSata HD raid. Editing in I-Frame mode such as BlackMagics new Online JPEG 1920×1080 AVI mode will reduce your requirements to about 12MB per second vs 120MB to 300MB depending on 8bit or 10 bit.Hope this helps…..

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