Going HD

I’ve been thinking about upgrading a lot of my AV equipment for a while now. I had my eye on a Sony 40W4000U LCD TV that just keeps getting cheaper (at least there is one small benefit to the credit crunch) then they had to go one better with the 40W4500U. An even better LCD TV for a little bit more cash. It’s now number one on the wanted list, but that’s where the easy decisions end.

What is the future HD format of choice? Unless Blue Ray has a miraculous Christmas it’s not taking off like the backers were hoping. That’s just the playback format, the recordable version looks to be doing even worse. Apple are sitting on the sidelines for the moment, and no Macs ship with Blue Ray writers. I can add one to my hackintosh for around £150, and expect to pay £4 for a 25Gb write once disc.

My interest here is in a format that can store my video. I’m saving my pennies for a Canon HF100 in the new year, as the performance of my current Sanyo Xacti HD2 in low light is poor. I figure there’s no point buying a new video camera in 2009 that isn’t HD, and the Canon just edges ahead of some very strong competition from Panasonic, Sony and Samsung. Amazon selling the HF100 for £450 at the moment may have something to do with it as well.

The problem is what to do with the video once it’s edited on the Mac and ready to store. I’m the unofficial videographer for both my family and my wife’s, so I usually shoot video at several events during the year, plus our holidays. That’s a lot of footage to store. Up to now I edit and burn to DVD then keep a disc image on my server so it gets backed up once a week automatically. I’ve suffered too many DVDr’s gone bad to rely on one as a master backup.

Moving to HD makes things a bit trickier. Blue Ray discs are still not cheap at £4 a time and I need convincing it’s a more robust format than DVD before I use it as a master copy. It’s the only HD disc format that stands any chance of widespread adoption, so the only other alternative is to store video files on the server and stream them to a TV. I already have an Xbox media centre or three that do this with standard definition video, but they fall over if I try 720p video (although I have read reports it will play if in the right format). They wouldn’t handle 1080p so a HD media streamer is required.

I’m of on a new research project to figure out what HD streamer to buy and what format is best to encode the video. There’s also the matter of what software to use, and how much space the completed files will ocupy. It’s a good job terabyte hard drives are now under £70, I might just need a few.

If anyone has experience of consumer grade HD video (more specifically AVCHD) and streaming HD I would appreciate a comment with some recommendations.

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