A Very Good (HD) Year?

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This morning, Steve Jobs proclaimed 2005 “The Year of High Definition Video,” using the announcements of Final Cut Express HD and iMovie HD as the kick-off point. Now, you can use any of Apple’s three video-editing applications—Final Cut Pro HD being the other one—to edit HD video on the Mac.

Sort of.

These days, the term HD is bandied about more often then jokes about wardrobe malfunctions. But there are many different kinds of HD video—what Apple is referring to is a format known as HDV. If it sounds suspiciously like DV with an H in front of it, there’s a good reason for that. HDV is a highly-compressed MPEG-2 video format that lets you record HD onto regular DV tapes, at nearly the same data rate. HD camcorders—such as those by JVC or the Sony model shown-off on the keynote stage Tuesday by Sony President Kunitake Ando—sport FireWire connections to make capturing video simple. It really is HD for the masses—the masses with disposable income. At $3,500 to $4,000, HDV camcorders aren’t cheap (since you can pick up a DV camcorder for around $500), but to be fair, the value for the quality is undeniable. The data rate for HDV is similar to what you’d find on an HDTV broadcast.

The most interesting thing about Apple’s high-definition announcements, however, is the fact that Final Cut Express HD and iMovie HD are the first Apple apps to include native HDV import and editing capabilities. Although Apple has said that it plans to add HDV support to the flagship Final Cut Pro HD, it has yet to do so. For once, the low-end apps can do something the pro-level program can’t—yet. (Final Cut Pro HD can, however, edit Panasonic’s DVCPRO format natively, as well as uncompressed HD using additional hardware.)

Of course, you can’t just pop a disc into your SuperDrive and burn a high definition DVD. And even if you could, there’s not much out there to play it. Currently, all you can do is export your finished movies back to tape and connect your HDV camcorder to a high-definition television in order to see the full quality. But as the new Blu-ray and HD DVD formats start to take off (and camcorder prices drop), it will become more realistic to use HD.

So maybe a better way to describe 2005 would be the First Year of High Definition Video.

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