This is an interesting little product that showed up at IBC: the Blackmagic Intensity.
It’s an HDMI ingest board. They’re targeting at folks with newer HDV cameras with HDMI outs – the HDR-HC3 for example. The theory is that you get uncompressed video out the HDMI port, which is somehow higher quality.
This is… interesting.
I can only imagine this making a visual difference if you’re recording directly into the computer, not recording to tape and then ingesting later. So, I suppose if you want to haul your MacPro around with you, chained to your handycam, you’ll potentially get higher image quality. Assuming that the HDMI outs on these cameras come before all the subsampling and whatnot.
Otherwise, all this gives you is a way to get very high bandwidth data out of a very low bandwidth source. This would be the same as capturing the video in HDV and then doing a file->export to Uncompressed. Again, it’s nice that this saves the step, but it can’t magically improve the quality of the image that was compressed to tape. Just like capturing uncompressed 4:2:2 SDI off a DVCam tape. You may want to work in the larger color space for your post work, but the capture process itself won’t improve your image quality.
Furthermore (yes, I know this is turning into a rant), I must take issue with the Intensity Quality page. It’s primarily completely bogus. For example, they claim how much better it is to get the native 1920×1080 image instead of the 1440×1080 of HDV, and they assert that the reason HDV uses that resolution is because of the size of the tape and the speed of firewire. Hu? HDCam is 1440×1080 as well, and I’m pretty sure they’re not limited by their cassette size. Furthermore, I highly doubt that the CMOS sensor on the HC3 is natively 1920×1080 like they claim. I can’t find definitive CMOS specs one way or another, but seeing as nobody else is using native 1920 sensors, I doubt they are as well.
Their 4:2:2 versus 4:1:1 gradients are also a bit laughable. Somehow sampling the colors less often makes them look dull? The banding I might agree to, but come on.
Ok, enough ranting. I really like Blackmagic in general. I think they have great products. Which is why this is especially annoying. Sell it as a board to monitor your timeline on an HDMI monitor. It’s cheap ($249) so for that reason along I think it’d be worth it to most people. But don’t trump it up as if you’re going to make that $1200 HDV camcorder look like a CineAlta.