Gadget musings

I notice that 1GB of CompactFlash has dropped to under $100. It’s only a matter of time before it makes sense to replace DV camcorders with flash memory units. With MPEG-4 compression, a unit like the Fisher Sanyo FVD-C1 can record about an hour of NTSC quality video in a GB. (In fact, there are already some pro camcorders which use RAID arrays of CompactFlash, believe it or not.)

Sure, DV is cheap, but DV also sucks a lot. I won’t repeat the familiar reasons why tape needs to die; I’ll just add that MiniDV tapes are small and so there’s a tiny helical scan head whizzing around at very high speed inside the camcorder, which means you get a lot of audio noise unless you use an external mic.

What I don’t understand is why more companies haven’t done the obvious, and stuck the Hitachi mini hard drive from an iPod into an MPEG-4 camcorder. I realize MPEG-4 has compression artifacts, but I’d be willing to live with that. Shoot a few hours of video, plug the unit into your computer, pull the video across Firewire or USB 2.0 HiSpeed. A 10GB drive would probably do the trick for most people, and would keep the cost down. I shoot video with about a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of raw to edited footage, but I know that’s utterly unlike many–so put some basic “chop clip here, delete this clip” editing on the device itself, give it an analog scroll wheel for sliding through each clip.

OK, Samsung had the ITCAM-7, which they tellingly called a “gadget” rather than a camcorder. Unfortunately, they only stuck a 1.5GB hard drive in the thing, and it didn’t sell too well. C’mon, guys, it’s 2004, chuck a few more GB in the thing and try again.