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HD video cameras with Hard Drives - What to do with that holiday camera from over 10 years on?

Over a decade ago.... we're talking the first decade of this century, the video tape format was dying a quick death. Formats such as Video8 and its successors such as Hi8, Digital8, and also miniDV were all losing support from leading manufacturers such as Sony, JVC and Canon.

Digital technology grew at breakneck speed. Camera electronics and hardware was becoming more and more minitiaturised. Lenses were getting smaller as too were batteries. The only hardware component that reached its limitations was the video tape. It became impractical for these to get smaller, reliable and efficient at the same time. Even the camera DVD recorders became impractical very quickly. They not only suffered from instability issues but also from the dreaded "finalising' curse (those that owned one know what I mean....).

Enter - the portable video camera with Hard Drive.

Here was a complete portable package which could fit snuggly in the palm of your hand.

High Definition capability with instant playback of precious memories from a camera that could be easily be played back on your television set. What more could you ask for, right?

What's that I hear you saying? It's not easy to play back with the multitude of cables to attach to the television - PLUS all the menu settings on both camera and software incompatibility issues for the television to tackle??!!

The Theory

Hard Drive cameras - in particular those that played back in HD (1080p or 720i), adopted the AVCHD file format introduced by Sony and Panasonic in 2006. AVCHD stands for Advanced Video Codec High Definition. This video codec allows the operator to record and playback in Hi Def (High Definition).

Wonderful is'nt it?

Well not exactly...

More than likely the video files created with the AVCHD standard had an extension of .MTS (MPEG Transport Stream)

Very likely you can playback these files on your PC using a program like VLC media player. But - and this is a very big ' but ', if you were to copy these files onto a USB and hope to play them on your latest smart TV, chances are you will get the dreaded 'incompatible file detected' message pop up on your screen.

Put simply the camera will play the files on your television, but you will need to take the camera everywhere to play the files. And what if the camera decides to stop working? How do you play the files then??

The Solution

This is the point where you should, if you haven't already done so, is to consider the camera as a Hard Drive device. And like any memory device that has irreplaceable material - it needs to be backed up.

In this situation there are 2 things to consider:

  1. The size of the MTS file.

  2. Converting the MTS file to a format that is fully compatible with playback devices.

MTS files are oftein memory hungry. They are huge files. If you have a camera with footage of that European holiday from 2009 in Hi Def, very likely it would have filled that 64GB Hard Drive and you possibly ran out of room before the holiday was over!

Backing up these files is one solution. Simply copying and pasting to a PC, Mac Hard Drive is a good start, but remember the files are memory hungry.

The files need to be converted to something not large but also compatible with popular devices with little to no loss of detail from the original file.

Enter the MPEG4 file format.

MPEG4 (Motion Picture Engineering Group) is a file compression format that contains video and audio. Depending on the bit rate of the converted file, the files copied to this format will not be as big as the MTS file and there is no visual degradation of resolution. As an example video and audio files can be halved and still be difficult to see any difference in quality of image.

More importantly, the MPEG4 files can be played back from a USB to any smart device, therefore no reliance on having the original camera the footage was shot on.

A lot of family footage has been forgotten because of this issue of incompatibility. We all live busy lives and the thought of getting out those cables and tackling those pesky menus on both camera and display device makes it less appealing to watch.

I hope this article has helped you in some way.

If you need fuirther technical assistance or want your video files converted to an ideal MPEG4 format, please don't hesitate to call me on 0404 447 535.


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