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Follow-up HF 100 Camcorder experiences.

First off, my camera appears to be broken.
My camera will begin zooming in slowly without me touching the camera. This happened this weekend while videotaping a wedding on a tripod. Nobody was near the tripod so I know this is a real problem. I think it has a mechanical or electrical issue which issues a very short "zoom" message to the camera's tiny electronic brain. The problem is exacerbated by a "feature" that seems to instantiate a continuous slow zoom when you tap the zoom-in / zoom-out button. I will be contacting Canon. (By sheer luck, I had a second camera recording the ceremonly on another tripod.)

Two inconveniences...
I have also found two unique problems that build upon one another.

1. The camera spends 10 seconds "reading the file structure" when you turn it on. (I suspect it is validating the absurd AVCHD disc structure rather than simply taking movies.) As such, I have tried a workaround where I do not turn off the camera at all. Seeing as the camera has no viewfinder, I assumed that it would close the lens and would not be able to record video when the screen was closed.

[Note: this seems to be faster on a new 8gb class 6 SDHC card, but this is still slower that I would expect.]

2. Unfortunately, the camera allows you to record video even while the screen is closed. This caused me to recrod a 10 minute video of the inside of my pocket when the battery and memory card would have been much better used taking additional videos of Andre's Bachelor party.

Recommendation: The camera really needs to support instant-on, perhaps buffering to memory while validating the disk. In it's absence, they need to ensure that the camera stops recording video when the screen is closed.

3. An additional complaint of ergonomic design: The "record" button sticks out too far from the back fo the device, and it is too sensitive/easy to press. As a result, i have accidentally begun to record video on several occasions, and worse still, I have accidentally stopped the video unexpectedly. (Sorry Chuck, some of the speeches given at your wedding were cut off part way!) This is a problem that I never had with the HV10 Camcorder that this replaced.

A closing gripe for good measure.
Some memory cards are too slow to support the highest quality mode. I get that, and I think it is appropriate to blink a message warning me that this card cannot support the requested mode. That said, why can't it bump down the the next highest quality and record precious moments instead of requiring me to bump it down to a supported mode through the menus.
( Permalink... | 8/03/2008 08:08:00 PM PST | 1 comments )

Canon Vixia HF100 - Two steps forward, one step back.

Out with the old - Canon HV10 HDV Tape-based camcorder...
I have long struggled with the Canon HV10 Camcorder that I purchased about 9 months ago. It takes great video, but dealing with importing video from tape was getting tiresome. I longed for something as convenient as a Point-and-shoot camera, which could record my high definition movies to a memory card. I have since imported all of my old DV and HDV Tapes, allowing me to sell the Tape-based recorder and replace it with something more convenient.

Tape-based Canon HV10 (left) vs. SDHC-based Canon HF100 (right).

In with the new - Canon Vixia HF100 SDHC Camcorder...
I was excited by the positive reviews of this camcorder. It was touted as the first AVCHD camcorder to surpass the qality of HDV. (AVCHD is based on h264 instead of HDV which is based on mpeg2. h264 should allow lower file size with equal quality.)

MiniDV Cassette (left) vs. SDHC Card (right).

How does the new HF100 compare???
Clear Strengths vs. the HV10:
  • The video quality of the HF100 is very high. I find the HF100 image to be clearly sharper, although compression artifacts do surface particularly in low-light situations. This is likely the result of the additional resolution and h.264 which is a more advanced compression algorithm. The AVCHD format appears to be growing in popularity so playback support should eventually surpass HDV support. (I should note that the softer image of the HV10 can be smoother and more pleasing at times, albeit less detailed.)

  • Importing from the SDHC-based HF100 does not require me to rewind a tape. I can copy movies to the computer faster than realtime with a USB cable or SDHC reader.

  • The HF100 offers a 30fps 1080p option in addition to the 60fps 1080i option. The HF100 can record at a full 1920x1080, which exceeds the only option on the HV10 which is 60fps at 1440x1080, interlaced.

Missed Opportunities:
  • I expected a Solid-state camcorder to function just like low-end digital cameras which can take photos or record short, low resolution videos. I expected to have a single folder on the memory card with sequentially numbered files, some Photos, some high-definition video files. I coudn't have been further from the truth.

    The AVCHD format includes a inefficient, annoying folder structure to mimic Blu-ray. (More info at To obey the AVCHD format, I end up with a memory card filled with meaningless folders. The video files are numbered sequentially from 0001 and start over every time you empty the memory card. The photos are stored somewhere entirely different so I worry that I will delete them by accident after downloading just the videos. (I should note that the camera comes with a terrible "PIXELA" application that will import the videos with more intelligent names. This does not substitute for an intelligent organizational system on the disk.)

  • The h.264 video format is so compressed that it cannot play smoothly on several of my reasonably fast computers. Windows Vista (or XP) does not undertand the format so you need to install a 3rd party codec. The popular K-lite codec pack will only play the format after an additional step. (disable "MPEG TS splitter (Haali)" using the "Codec Tweak Tool" per these directions at

  • The 30fps, 1080p mode is actually saved as an interlaced file. (More info at As such, playback apps need to know that it is actually 30p to play it most accurately. Likewise, compression of a progressively-stored image should be more efficient than this allows.

( Permalink... | 7/29/2008 12:36:00 AM PST | 0 comments )

Scripting Audio Cd Ripping

I'm preparing to re-install Windows Vista on my Media Center PC, so it is time to document some of my latest projects. (I will wipe the machine, giving me 2 30gb boot partitions and the remaining ~400gb for data. This should set me up for future OS upgrades.)

I have found a clever, albeit overly simple method for scripting my DVD Changer. The batch files I created will change the CD and wait a few minutes, giving your ripper enough time to rip the CD.

  1. Download Alex Wetmore's MediaChanger app. Unisntall it to a folder on your PC.

  2. Download these batch files I created: batch files for

    • the script takes start and end disc number as parameters. ex: "switch 1 100"

  3. Configure Windows Media Player to rip CD's automatically when they are inserted. I chose lossless WMV. (See Settings.)

  4. Once ripped, I imported the songs into iTunes. This will re-encode the songs since iTunes doesn't understand WMV. (I chose 128kbps minimum VBR MP3's on Highest Quality.)

If I were to rip additional CD's, I could easily notify iTunes that new songs were added and it will convert the new songs.
( Permalink... | 3/05/2008 10:41:00 PM PST | 1 comments )

Finally, my very own robot!

I just got the sony 200-disc DVD changer for 99$ shipped. (It used to be 1000$, so this is quite a deal.) It is a 200 disc DVD changer with a firewire port that includes native support for Windows Media Center. The intended use is to fill it with DVD's and allow you to access any DVD from within a beautiful Movies Library.

I tried that functionality out and it works fine.

But first, I want to script the robot to rip all my audio CD's.

I tried to use Alex Wetmore's directions to script using the popular EAC Ripper with the Popular LAME encoder. It seemed to be workign fine, but I didn't want to go through WAV+CUE and have to find a way to convert those files into MP3's.

I'm now going on a hunch, that iTunes can be configured to rip an audio Cd whenever it is inserted into the PC. I will leverage the simple MediaChanger utility to simply insert each disc for 10 minutes, ample time for iTuens to rip the contents.
( Permalink... | 11/13/2007 11:44:00 PM PST | 0 comments )

Baby Steps... HDV > HDDVD on DVD might happen.

My goal remains simple, burn HDV videos off my HD Camcorder onto a HD-DVD compliant disc. I don't own a HD-DVD Burner, so my target is a 4.7 GB DVD-R.

This is thankfully possible. The HD-DVD Spec incudes support for 3x DVD, where HD content is stored on a DVD Disk, but the maximum amount of data that can be read per second is triple that of DVD's.

Link: 3x DVD info on Wikipedia.

My latest finding is a good description of an issue I've seen several places... The difference of PS and TS MPEG data.

In summary, Transport Stream is more robust, and can contain >1 stream of video and >1 stream of audio at the same time. It is meant for transmission in lossy environments. It is used for broadcast HD and as it turns out, HDV Digital Video. HDV does not use the multi-stream capabilities though.

Program Stream is intended for safer environments and does not have the ability to have extra streams. This is the format used on a HD-DVD Disc. I need to convert my .m2t (Transport Stream) captured video files into .mpg (Program Stream) video files for them to work in a HD DVD authoring app.

Link: MPEG-2 Transport vs. Program Stream

Next steps, try and create a disc using these instructions.
( Permalink... | 11/04/2007 08:41:00 AM PST | 0 comments )

Canon HV10 HD Camcorder: video quality good, PC experience terrible

Frustrated with the video quality coming out of my old Canon Optura camcorder and from our point-and shoot digital camera, I wanted to move to a HD Video option.

I did some research which told me that the Hard-drive or memory card based AVCHD camcorders would be ideal fr me since they don't require slow video import processes. Unfortunately, they are all 800+ dollars and out of my pricerange.

I saw a posting on Fatwallet that the Canon HV10 was on sale for 499$ (refurbished), and I decided to go for it. This is effectively just a 300$ upgrade since it can replace my canon Optura which still commands almost 200$ on ebay. If I got a HD or Card-based camera I would have to keep the optura indefinitely.

So, the video quality is really good. Note that HD is so detailed that camera shake has a more damaging effect on the video quality, so good results really do require a careful steady hand.

Unfortunately, the PC experience is a miserable mess even on Vista. Windows Movie Maker can import the video, but it comes in as one big block and it is saved with the odd ".dvr-ms" extension. (More commonly used for Recorded TV in Media Center) I expected it to come through as yet another codec wrapped in the .avi extension.

I eventually found the HDVsplit app that woilll correctly split the video into clips during inport. It instead uses the apparently industry standard ".m2t" extension that the rest of windows ignores. As such, the files are happily stored on the PC, but Photo Gallery, Media Center and Media Player ignore then.

EDIT: I have found that simply changing the extension from .m2t to .mpg will cause the videos to appear in Media Center and Photo Gallery. I don't like this hack and I don't know how to add searched extensions to WMP/Photo Gallery.
( Permalink... | 10/29/2007 11:37:00 PM PST | 0 comments )

the stupid windows utilities that I always need and can never find

Love it or hate it, windows users have the benefit of the largest library of professionally created, small company and enthusiast software and utilities out there. This is my attempt to share a few stupid apps that help me in daily use of the PC. I have broken them down by the problems that they address.

Stitching Panoramas

I haven't settled on a favorite stitching app although they all fail to preserve the image metadata.

  1. Stitch with Windows Live Photo Gallery. Almost identical to Windows Vista Photo Gallery, the Live team did add the important stickign capabilities into this version.
  2. Restore the metadata with Exifer. While showing it's age, Exifer remains the only app I've found that makes it easy to copy metadata from one file to another. I right click on my new panorama, and choose to import metadata form the fiirst photo I took in the panorama. This brings over all the detaisl about exposure, lens used, date taken; just what Windows Live should have done in the first place. (note: You need to right-click on the exifer app and choose "run as administrator" to get this to work on Vista.)

Ripping my DVD's so I have instant access with my Vista Media Center PC's "DVD Library" capabilities.

Media Center has a "DVD Library" feature designed to work with 1000$ 200 Disc DVD Changers. The truth is that the feature works even better if you rip your DVD's to your hard disk drive.

  1. Enable DVD Library in Media Center. This is actually just a registry setting, but I always have to relocate the setting on the web.
  2. Defeat the latest DVD copy protection with anydvd. You used to be able to get by with just DVDDecrypter, but the fair-use nazi's have upped their game.
  3. Extract the DVDID This allows Media Center to show enhanced metadata for your movie. (more info on TheGreenButton.) (Unfortunately, the installer requires .net 1.1 even when you have a newer version. Download .net 1.1)

Fixing Music Metadata to work in Windows Media Center's anal retentive music library

Let's make this simple, Media Center is needlessly anal about Music Metadata, and it does a really crappy job helping you get into the optimal case. In short, it requires both the "Artist" id3 field and the "Album Artist" field to be set correctly and usually to the same value before it will allow you to browse to you favorite album by artist. It should really just assume that the Album Artist is the same as the Artist, unless there are multiple artists on the same album. It also does a poor job downloading Album Art. Thankfully, iTunes plus one very poorly written, buggy, crashy app is here to help

  1. iTunes iTunes is inperfect, but it does a good job organizing your music files into tidy folders following the artist/album structure that makes so much sense. When adding new songs to the library, i back-up my iTunes library, add the new files, organizie them and wait for the filesystem to catch up, then add them to my master library which Media Player/Center picks up automatically.
  2. AV Art Fixer This terrible application crashes a lot, but it makes it easy to confirm that the Album Artist and Artist fields are in sync. It also does a good job helping you locate album art on Google.
( Permalink... | 10/24/2007 12:24:00 AM PST | 0 comments )

What, no more articles?... Just kidding, try the archive. Guaranteed to waste more of your precious time.

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