Gadgets
First Look: Hard Drive Video Recorders
The days of tapes are numbered. Discover why a hard-drive-based video recorder may soon replace your camcorder.
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Cameras with internal hard drives will be one of the next big things to hit the video market. You’ll be able to store, transport and play hours and hours of recorded video on all types of displays.
March 01, 2006 by Gordon van Zuiden

Think about it: You can enjoy your favorite music and movies anywhere in your home, without having to get up and physically transport the CD, DVD or other media to a new location. Hey, who doesn’t want that? The centralized digital media servers that make this possible are certainly appealing, especially as more and more affordable, PC-based servers become available. But how easily is it to edit, transport, control and view high-quality video content with these systems?

It can be especially challenging to move tape-based personal videos to media server hard drives. Typically, these video recorders have to be connected to a media server like a Media Center PC over a FireWire port. Software on the Media Center must then capture the audio and video feed from the camera and encode it into a digital format that can be stored on the hard drive and played back. Needless to say, this type of video encoding and editing is cumbersome and time-consuming, especially if you are trying to do this on a Media Center computer located in a family room next to a large-screen television, as opposed to performing the tasks on a home office computer with easier keyboard and mouse operation.

So what’s the solution? Hard drive-based video cameras. Just as we’ve seen the transformation of VCRs to digital video recorders (like TiVo), we are beginning to see the emergence of camcorders with hard drive technologies instead of tape. One of the first entries into this new field is a product line from JVC called the Everio G Series. (See www.jvc.com for more information.)

I purchased the Everio GZ-MG30 a few months ago, and it has been a great addition to our home. The digital videos captured and stored on its 30-GB hard drive, which can hold up to seven hours of high-quality video, are immediately transcoded into an MPEG2 format that can be transported over a USB 2.0 cable to any computer in the house. These videos can be copied into any folder on the home network for review and editing. I have begun taking some of these videos and posting them to the Google Video web site so other family members and relatives can view them. The process of recording, storing and reviewing digital videos now closely mirrors the capabilities of digital cameras with flash-card storage.

I’ve taken this digital video recording technology a step further by transcoding the MPEG2 videos captured by the camera into MPEG4 videos that can be stored on the new Apple video iPod. Now all of our videos can be stored and viewed on a video iPod wherever we go.

In addition to this camera, there are now a growing number of products that allow us to record, transport and view video content in the home. The success of digital audio for the home is quickly being followed by the next wave of digital video products. It’s going to be another exciting year for digital home enthusiasts! EH

Gordon van Zuiden is the founder and president of cyberManor: www.cybermanor.com.

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