Panasonic+AppleTV+Mac: HD content access AND creation
Prompted by Freesat launch, comprehensively upgraded our kit. Now got.
* Panasonic 42 with integrated Freesat/Freeview/Anal-log tuners. 1080p
* Panasonic Blu-Ray player. 1080p
* Panasonic AVCHD MPEG4 Video camera, records on to SDHC card. 1080p
* Apple TV 720p (but tell it via the settings menu that the telly is 1080p and the Apple+Panasonic combo does a very good job at upscaling 720p to 1080p content.
SOURCE ONE Freesat
every blade of grass indeed. And, memorably, that look on Schweinsteiger's face when the final whistle blew: perhaps the look of a man who's not only just lost a final, but has finally also realised that his name translates as Pig Climber. Grass great, but the actual ball used in Euro 2008 turned into blurry flying ectoplasm on high goal kicks when the tracking camera panned across the stands. Probably a camera-side rather than broadcaster's compression problem. Does not behave this way on other fast pans.
SOURCE TWO Apple TV
This device is a good extension of the overall package, giving access to three main sources of HD content.
(i): rented movies from iTunes store. Previous commenters are right: visual quality excellent (especially on recent titles, not retro-mixed old stuff); choice as yet limited.
(ii) HD content generated/edited via Final Cut Pro or iMovie. Footage shot with Pro-grade HD cameras and then use Apple's Compressor pre-set for AppleTV to downscale to 720p. Simply drag the resulting file to your iTunes movie library and it will sync to your AppleTV box. Results stunning.
Note 1: Compressor has a nice feature to speed up workflow. Take your source material and apply any number of pre-sets to produce output files in any variety of formats. eg make versions for iPod/iPhone at in the same transcoding batch.
Note 2: install Compressor and QMaster on all Macs on a network and the lead machine will automatically use any idle processor core on any other Mac on the network to speed up the transcoding grunt work. Very smooth and near-zero configuration.
(iii): often forgotten, many people have years of HD back catalogue. It's just that they're stills, taken with any decent Digital Camera. Needless to say, you can set any/all of your photos to sync to AppleTV via iTunes. You can also use any/all of your pics to make a slideshow (complete with HD transitions) which will play when you're using your AppleTV as a giant iPod.
Note: this slideshow option is smart enough to resume at the place it left off (rather than going back to the beginning) even if you navigate back up the music menus to choose other songs/playlists.
Note: you can also choose any/all of your pics to work as screensaver when using the Apple TV source.
SOURCE THREE: Blu-Ray player.
Results range from the simply very, very good to the staggeringly awesome. Money talks: production values are the key.
SOURCE FOUR: PANASONIC AVCHD Camera
This has been the revelation for me. 1920x1080p HD for 600 quid. Shoot a bit of footage on this palm-sized cam, record on to SDHC cards (2 hours 45 mins goes on to a 16GB card). Cam+Card also records stills Then take the card out and plug it into the card reader slot in either the TV or the Blu-Ray player. Results: on some subjects (eg botanics, landscapes, talking heads) indistinguishable from broadcast HD. Some very slight artefacts on very high speed motion (eg 100mph motorbike pass-by filmed from the curb). Avoid fast panning - the camera will sense this and warn you anyway.
AVCHD is a highly compressed H264 format. But play it back in its native space on the same manufacturers equipment and it just doesn't show. Blew me away. The quality is significantly better than last years HDV gear (eg Sony Z1) at the £3K mark
Another major plus: the Viera Link control allows all the Panasonic equipment to be controlled with a single remote. This includes the SDHC card, or the camera itself plugged in via an HDMI cable in playback mode.
Panasonic: Genuine HD recorder box closely integrated with the TV/Tuner.
(i) ability to edit **native** AVCHD in Final Cut Pro and iMovie. You can ingest AVCHD using Apple Intermediate Codec and then edit/output it, but the process is laborious.
(ii) AppleTV upgrade to 1080p, to avoid having to make a 720p format file for this device.
Apple & Panasonic:
Collaboration to produce tight integration of workflow from AVCHD capture, FCP edit and Blu-Ray burner output.