Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meet Apertus, The Open Source HD Cinema Camera

This came out yesterday, and got slashdotted this morning: 

Here's what I don't understand: Why are people wasting time and resources reinventing the wheel? Has any of these people looked around and noticed how now every major camera maker in the world has embraced HD video, to the point that it is possible to buy dedicated HD camcorders for around $200? Or how about HD video cameras with vibration control for under $400? Wouldn't this effort be better spent in decent video editing applications that are FOSS?

<HD editing rant>
One constant with all of the HD cameras I have tried over the past two years (Kodak Zi6, Sony DSC W and TX series) is that HD editing sucks when you are constrained to whatever software ships with the camera or can be downloaded for free. And yea, I am including iMovie because it is STUPID how (I can attest to this until at least my switch to Windows 7 last year) that iMovie hides (used to?) the export choices that produce 720p or better. Windows Live Movie Maker is nowhere as refined as iMovie, but if your video is 720p and you click on the Youtube upload, it sends the 720p by default. Oh, and Sony, if our cameras come with AVCHD please give us the proper means to edit AVCHD without killing the machine, thanks. 
</HD editing rant>

I really don't get it. And they can't bitch about these cameras not being professional enough, because at the same time as these affordable HD cameras showed up, all major DSLR platforms started offering really hardcore HD video features, to the point that for the last season of House, MD some scenes were shot with a DSLR. I have also seen shorts shot on DSLRs and they are simply beautiful, you just can't tell how they were shot.

What this is about is software: If the project gets away with it, there is going to be a control suite that is not going to be encumbered by patent issues. If you use a commercial DSLR to shoot video you may need to go through a proprietary control layer that will tie you up to the vendor's solution (read: spend a lot of money), while this project is trying to make sure that everything that goes into it is open.

The sad thing is that the bill of materials for this camera is already crossing the $3000, which is almost enough money to buy an entry level DSLR with a kit lens and a laptop to edit your movies. It won't be perfect, but it will do the job.