Although JVC is making a big fuss about its new Everio hard drive-based camcorders (see page 24, August issue), hard drive recording is nothing new. Take JVC's own DR-DV5000 for example. This module docks directly with the JVC GY-DV5000U professional MiniDV camcorder, and allows you to record over six hours of DV25-based video directly to the 80GB hard disk inside. This can then be hooked up to your editing system directly, allowing you to get cracking on the edit without having to capture to disk first. Having used a similar system, I can honestly say that it's tough going back to tape.
Power in your pocket
Unfortunately, such convenience comes at a price, and I've seen hard disk systems costing around $4K. But there's a much more affordable option in the form of the new Focus Enhancements FireStore FS-4 - at time of writing, an introductory offer from Micronica in Melbourne had this listed for $1825 including the field pack (www.micronica.com.au). This buys you a fairly rugged 40GB hard disk recorder (see FIGURE 1) with a backlit LCD, a belt pack that doubles as a camera mount, and a pair of 850mAh batteries that should be good for around 180 minutes of use. On a side note, you can run the unit off the mains, or buy additional battery packs for it.
A brief session of configuration is required before you get started. The FS-4 needs to know what the time and date are, along with the video format that matches your editing software. Hardware codecs from Canopus and Matrox are supported, but you'll need the Pro version for formats like Avid DV-OMF, or Pinnacle AVI (Panasonic 24p is only supported by the NTSC model).
Once this is done, you just plug it into your camcorder's FireWire (IEEE-1394 or i.Link) port and shoot away. HDV isn't supported yet, but Focus Enhancements claims that a firmware upgrade to allow this will be available soon.
In addition to your hard drive clips, which can be copied straight across to your PC via FireWire, your camcorder can record simultaneously to MiniDV tape, giving you an essential archive of your raw footage. The only drawback with this is that the clips don't have the timecode data of your tapes.
Admittedly, the price puts it out of reach for most video hobbyists, but anyone who deals with DV25-based video on a professional or semi-professional level will benefit enormously from an FS-4. As well as cutting out the capture process, you can quickly preview your footage and copy only what you need, rather than shuttling through the tape to set up a batch capture, or clogging up your system drives with dead video.
Look like a pro
If you do more with your video than just home movies, you'll know that one of the many challenges that videographers face is how to make digital video (which is cheap) look like cinefilm (which is expensive).
Some solutions involve repeating fields, de-interlacing, adding blur, tweaking colour settings, adjusting gamma curves and so on. But there's a piece of software that does all this (and a lot more) for you.
It's called Magic Bullet, and it's available in two forms: Magic Bullet for Editors, and Magic Bullet Suite. The latter is just for Adobe After Effects, while Magic Bullet for Editors is actually a series of plug-ins for major editing packages like Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, Avid Xpress and Apple Final Cut Pro.
Quite simply, Magic Bullet is brilliant; a must-have for the professional or semi-professional videographer. Whether you're shooting corporate videos or weddings, or even full-scale features or adverts, Magic Bullet can strip most of the digital video telltales out of your project - like over-sharpened "haloes", fringing and pixelation - replacing them with film-like characteristics and effects that really add polish and tone to your work (see FIGURE 2).
Once you stop playing around with the "Old film" effects (scratches, dust, gate jitter, and the like), more practical - and profitable - film-like touches like bloom, glow and gamma are achieved with ease.
For example, the "Diffusion 5.0" filter is perfect for key wedding shots, giving everything an airy, misty feel - not to mention drawing a lot of attention to the bride and her wedding dress, which always goes down well with the client.
If you're looking for a more contemporary look, presets that make your footage look like it's been pulled from Saving Private Ryan, Three Kings, The Matrix or Traffic are included, but you can also create and re-use your own - see FIGURE 3 Before and After.
Once again, the price) of this tool ($US279 direct from www.redgiantsoftware) and its dependency on powerful editing software means that it's not really in the consumer space. But if you're using Vegas or Premiere Pro, go get the demo from our cover CD and have a play. You'll see exactly what I mean.