Panasonic VDR-M55 Help

Discussion in 'Panasonic Lumix' started by Sharky, Dec 16, 2005.

  1. Sharky

    Sharky Guest

    Hi. I just bought this DVD Video camera for my wife as a christmas present.
    I opened up the packaging and now I'm playing around with it so I can become
    familiar with it before she gets it Christmas morning. I plan on using it
    to record video mainly, it will take still photos also, and I want to be
    able to upload the video onto the computer, edit it and then burn the clips
    back onto full-size DVDs. The camera records on only two types of media,
    DVD-r and DVD-ram, unfortunately my BenQ DVD burner does not read DVD-ram
    discs, but will read the mini DVD-r discs. I will mainly be using DVD-ram
    discs so I can record, upload to PC and them format and reuse. But, because
    I cannot just take the mini DVD-ram out of the camcorder, put it in my
    DVD-rom drive and copy it, I have to use the provided cables instead to
    upload the video to the PC. It came with a mini-USB to USB cable, and an AV
    patch cord that has three RCA connections (L,R and Video) and an optional
    S-video connection.

    Now, I know quite a bit about computers, digital cameras and stuff like
    that, but this is the first time I've used a digital camcorder. From what
    I've been reading on the internet, if I use the USB cable to upload my
    video, some websites advise that I will lose video quality. They seem to
    suggest connecting the AV cable to a firewire port, which I do not have, nor
    do I have the cable for. So I started researching this today and as far as
    picking up and installing an add-on firewire card, that is not a problem.
    But I cannot find the proper cable to connect my camcorder to the firewire
    port.

    Now I know that most camcorders use a port called I.Link, but from the
    picture on this webpage
    http://akamaipix.crutchfield.com/lifestyle/2001/l4PinFirewireJack.jpeg, I
    can tell you that this is not what the connector looks like on my camcorder.
    The only label on my camera beside the connector says A/V, the other two are
    a red microphone jack and the mini-USB version 2 connector. I've done some
    Google searches and cannot find any connections that look similar to mine.
    It very well could be just a non-standard connector that Panasonic uses for
    their devices. If this is the case, I'd like to know other ways of
    uploading my video and still being able to preserve the digital quality.

    If someone who knows alot more about digital camcorders could reply and
    possibly give me some advice, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks for any help
    Sharky
     
    Sharky, Dec 16, 2005
    #1
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  2. Sharky

    Tony Morgan Guest

    I'm afraid that you have stepped outside the de-facto standard of miniDV
    when wanting to upload/edit on your PC. The Panasonic VDR-M55 records in
    a (strict) VOB version of the MPEG2 standard. This is of a lower quality
    than DV (which miniDV produces).

    DVD recording camcorders (like the VDR-M75 DVD) are aimed for those who
    don't want to "mess about with PCs" (words from a PC World sales
    person), and simply want to immediately view their video as taken.

    You're even worse off, I'm afraid, since the Panasonic VDR-M55 has now
    been discontinued by Panasonic, who have replaced it with the VDR-M75
    DVD model. Naturally there may be some M55s in the warehouses and in the
    shops while stocks of the old model are cleared.

    Anyway having probably pissed you off, on to possible solutions for you.

    1. If you have a spare drive bay in your PC you can buy and install
    an LG HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GSA4163B at £45. You should be able
    to get one by return of post from www.vfm-computers.co.uk, though
    it would be best to ring them first. This drive writes DVD+R/RW and
    DVD-RAM, and reads most variants. This option will permit you to do
    a direct copy from DVD-RAM/DVD-R to any other type (that is
    supported by your current DVD burner).

    2. Another option is to get a converter from your local Aldi (they
    still
    have these available in some branches). I can't exactly remember
    but I recollect they are about £30. These gizmos convert most
    common flavours of analogue TV to firewire so you can import
    to and edit in your PC. You will need software to edit/burn-toDVD.

    Sorry to be a little negative :-(

    If you want a more mainstream overview then you might like to have a
    look at: http://camcord.info/basics/
     
    Tony Morgan, Dec 16, 2005
    #2
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  3. Sharky

    Sharky Guest

    Thanks for the reply. First off, let me state that I'm from Canada and not
    the UK. Since this is the only newsgroup I can find relating to camcorders,
    I figured there must be some people in here that would know more than I do.
    Secondly, the Canadian version of Panasonic's website still lists the
    VDR-M55, so maybe it has only been discontinued in the UK and not North
    America. Although I must say that since I purchased it, I have been
    searching everywhere on the internet for a review of this model and have not
    found any yet. Only the older model, which is the VDR-M53, and has varying
    opinions.

    Regardless, the reason I purchased a DVD and not a DV camcorder is last
    winter when relatives were visiting from Ontario, they had brought along a
    DV camera with footage of their travels. When my uncle brought it out and
    proceeded to tell us about some of the more humorous parts of the trip, he
    wanted to show us what he had recorded on the camera. The whole time he was
    searching for that particular section of tape, he had it hooked up to my
    fathers HDTV, and we were basically seeing what he was looking at in the LCD
    screen. After about 15 minutes of searching through 2 tapes, he gave up and
    figured that he must have recorded over it mistakenly. The fact that it
    took him so long to find what he was looking for and then discover that he
    had recorded over it so easily, made me decide that I'd rather have a DVD
    unit. My number one priorty is to be able to fill a standard size DVD-r/+r
    after we have enough video for backup and sharing purposes.

    Anyway, if we find that we don't like the quality or that it's just not up
    to our standards, we can easily return it and buy another model. Also, we
    must think alike because I was actually thinking of purchasing another DVD
    burner for the computer, remembering that the LG drives will read and write
    to DVD-ram discs after you mentioned it. The fact that they can be bought
    for under $125 Canadian (and that I'm already a fan of LG products) makes
    this a much wiser decision.

    Just a few things worth mentioning, first being that I had no idea that
    miniDV quality was better than miniDVD recorders. If I had known this at
    first, I would have done more research. Is this for all brands, or only the
    Panasonic? Secondly, while I have been playing with the recorder, I have
    recorded a few small clips and have uploaded them (via the USB cable) to the
    computer. Honestly, the quality seemed quite good, but I never tried
    playing it back through the inputs of my TV. Maybe then I'll see what the
    quality is like, it may be more pixellated than I want it to be.

    Until I get to play with it more (which will be after Christmas) and see if
    I am actually satisfied with its features, I will have to keep my hopes up
    until then. After a few months I'm sure I'll be able to make a more honest
    desicion.

    Thanks for your help.
    Sharky
     
    Sharky, Dec 16, 2005
    #3
  4. Sharky

    Tony Morgan Guest

    Have a search at www.bwayphoto.com (a US retailer) where I got my info
    from for 'Panasonic VDR-M55'.

    Snipped...
    It's a characteristic of the format(s). The difference can be small
    (MPEG2 can use different sampling bit-rates). The main factor is that
    MPEG2 is what is called "lossy" - if you do some editing with it, then
    re-encode, the quality goes down. The more you do it the worse it gets.
    The quality may be quite acceptable for your purposes, but may only be
    spotted on a good-quality TV. The quality loss is not usually that
    associated with pixellaton, but with the introduction of artefacts and
    loss of edge-definition - and in extreme cases loss of colour saturation
    and contrast.
     
    Tony Morgan, Dec 16, 2005
    #4
  5. So replace it with one that does. They're only around £35. Slot out,
    slot in.
     
    Laurence Payne, Dec 17, 2005
    #5
  6. Sharky

    Sharky Guest

    Another thing I wanted to ask you about Tony was that you mentioned buying
    an encoder card, or as you mentioned, a converter. They are relatively
    cheap, only around $20 or so. I got looking through the manual last night
    for the camcorder and it looks like I can do a fair amount of editing right
    on the camcorder itself. But I still want to be able to back the video up
    on the computer so I can create DVD's for other people.

    I think what I'll probably end up doing is remove the second DVD-rom drive
    (not the BenQ) and replace it with a new LG DVD rewriteable drive. I don't
    want to replace the BenQ because it is one of the new drives with the
    lightscribe feature, which lets you burn images on lightscribe CD-r media.
    That way, I should not lose any quality when I copy it right off the DVD-ram
    or DVD-r. It should be copying it digitally and not analog, that way I
    shouldn't lose quality.

    Thanks alot for all your help, I appreciate it.
    Sharky
     
    Sharky, Dec 17, 2005
    #6
  7. Sharky

    Sharky Guest

    That's probably what I'm going to end up doing. Except I'll replace my
    second drive which is just a basic DVD-rom drive.

    Sharky
     
    Sharky, Dec 17, 2005
    #7

  8. How are you getting on with LightScribe? Considering that it's now
    hard to buy an inkjet printer WITHOUT a CD attachment, I'd discounted
    it as a gimmick which had missed it's time. Do you find it useful?
     
    Laurence Payne, Dec 18, 2005
    #8
  9. Sharky

    Sharky Guest

    Lightscribe was neat for the first 2 or 3 new CD's. I'll probably use it
    more to label my DVD-r's that I give to family and friends. The biggest
    disadvantage is finding Lightscribe media, especially DVD type. It does
    work quite well, but it only burns in greyscale, no color yet. That and if
    you don't mind waiting another 7-12 minutes for it to burn the image,
    depending on the image and quality. No doubt more durable than ink. But I
    don't think I paid any more for the drive because of the Lightscribe
    feature, I mainly wanted the drive for the DL and full DVD format
    compatibility features.

    Sharky
     
    Sharky, Dec 18, 2005
    #9
  10. Sharky

    Sharky Guest

    Well, Xmas has come and gone and I've managed to get some recording time
    with the new toy. I must say that I am quite impressed with the playback
    and recording quality, so far I've only been using the medium setting so I
    can get at least 30 minutes of recording. I've recorded about an hour of
    footage from Xmas morning and uploaded it to the pc with the included AV
    cable. I'm having trouble finding a decent program to import the video,
    Nero sometimes will work, sometimes it won't. I ended up using the included
    Panasonic software just to get the files on the computer and then opened the
    files with Nerovision. Once I had what I wanted, I started the process of
    encoding and let the DVD start to record. For the hour of footage I had, it
    took about 2 hours to encode and burn. Once it was finished, I must say I
    was really impressed with the quality of the playback through the PS2 (my
    DVD player in the living room). And that was only on medium settings.

    I want to know a couple of things though. Firstly, what are some good
    software packages for capturing and editing/burning video? Nero 6 seemed to
    work ok, but there wern't as many options as I would like (menus, buttons,
    etc). Secondly, since it took about 2 hours to decode the video, would it
    be of any advantage for me to buy a seperate MPEG decoder card or TV
    tuner/decoder? Will it speed up the encoding process? Right now, my
    system, which is fairly older, is an Athlon 1.2GHz, 512 MB ram with an ATI
    Radeon 9600 pro video card with 128MB VRAM. The video card may have some
    kind of encoder, but I'm not sure how good it is compared to a dedicated PCI
    decoder card. I've got all kinds of HDD space, 160GB drive with 4
    partitions and a seperate 40GB drive. In the near future, I will probably
    upgrade to a faster CPU and the newer ram, but for now even saving 20
    minutes would be nice. Plus, I wanted to add a TV tuner so I can record
    programs on the PC and burn them to DVD later on. The tuner card I am
    looking at is the Leadtek TV Tuner Expert Pro.

    Any replies with opinions and recommendations are greatly appreciated.
    Sharky
     
    Sharky, Dec 27, 2005
    #10
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