Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Canon announces new XL2 Camcorder

Canon has announced the new XL2 camcorder, Here are the specs. I was mildly surprised that Canon did not go with the HDV format but it actually makes sense. The XL Series claim to fame is the ability to use removable XL Lens for the cam. This flexibility is great but the previous XL1 and XL1s were starting to get a little "long in the tooth". The quality of the DV captured on a XL1s was beneath that of the AG-DVX100A

which offered 410k pixel resolution compared to the XL1s' 270k it's easy to see why the Canon lost. But looking at the same link prior you will see the XL2 offers a nice healthy 680k pixel resolution which it carves up to support 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios yet still keep a nice pixel count. A tradeoff but one that doesn't harm the quality harshly or hamper flexibility. Such a cam is far beyond my price range but it is nice to see some good prosumer stuff that is cheaper than a new car.

Back to HDV. HDV is a format developed by JVC (Japan Victor Company). It uses MPEG Transport Stream to record video at two bitrates. 19.4Mbps and a max( I believe) of 25Mbps. Incidentally the 19.4 stream is equal to what many broadcasters are using for ATSC High Definition broadcasts. Great! So why didn't Canon use it then? Well, that's anyone’s guess but it's likely that Canon didn't want to strand those using XL1s with a bunch of lenses and accessories that wouldn't work with a totally new design. Also DV is far easier to edit than the MPEG2 TS that HDV cams record in. The reason why is because the DV codec uses Intraframe compression. Each individual frame has compression applied within it. MPEG2 uses Interframe compression, which means the compression is applied over a sequence of frames and varies depending on content(i.e. movement etc). Intraframe compression allows the editing software to access individual frames for precise editing and application of effects. Intraframe codecs are generally used in editing. Interframe compression is primarily a delivery codec. It is more efficient in compression because it applies across a series of frames apply the most efficient compression to minimize size. The problem comes when you want to edit these types of codecs and your editing software has to approximate the frame you are looking for to start the edit.

I'm sure I have the basics down here but I'm open to any new knowledge on this subject. I'm excited for what HDV will do for high quality video capture. I'm just a little miffed that I can't have my cake and eat it too when it comes to efficient editing of this high rez HDV footage.

Canon has stated the XL2 will be their last high end Standard Def cam. So I expect that they will have an HDV model no later than NAB 2005( April 2005). Until then I'll be keen on seeing the battle between the Panny and the Canon in reviews. Thanks for reading.

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