ADVC-HD50 video converter

Danny Gorog
26 May, 2008
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While FireWire, otherwise known as IEEE 1394, has dominated the digital landscape for over ten years now, its days seem numbered in consumer AV equipment such as handycams. Manufacturers like Sony, for example, seem to be opting for HDMI connectors and standard USB rather than FireWire — especially if you select a newer AVCHD camcorder. Most current Macs (except for the MacBook Air), however, still ship with FireWire ports, and it’s still a convenient way to get video into your Mac.

Enter the Thomson Grass Valley ADVC-HD50 converter. This new ADVC-HD50 lets you convert uncompressed HD video and audio from most HDMI devices to FireWire (HDV format). The HD50 will convert 1280×720 HDMI to 1280×720 HDV, and 1920×1080 to 1440×1080 HDV. The HD50 relies on bus power via the FireWire port, doesn’t require drivers and is both NTSC and PAL compatible.

But the HD50 isn’t only useful for converting AVCHD video to HDV. You can also use it to convert non-HDCP protected material (HDCP stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection and is a kind of DRM designed to protect digital audio and video content as it travels across the HDMI cable). An example of this would be to import a video game signal like you’d get from a PS3.

I tested it with two devices; a Sony HD video camera and a Sony PS3.

While my Sony HDR-HC7 isn’t actually an AVCHD camera I was still able to import video via the HDMI port (rather than using its four-pin FireWire port). The quality of the video was as good as if I’d imported the movie with FireWire. The downside, however, in using a converter like the HD50 is that you won’t be able to use iMovie’s interface to control the playback of the camera as the HDMI output on the camera is just that — an output only.

Ingesting video from the PS3 was just as easy. The familiar PS3 interface showed up in my iMovie window, and I was able to capture the footage as if it were a movie. I tested importing both the menu and motion from a game; both looked equally good.

At $1299 the ADVC-HD50 isn’t cheap, and is clearly targeted at the video professional rather than the consumer. This has been made even more obvious by Apple’s official support of the AVCHD standard in iMovie ’08 and Final Cut Express.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice. The ADVC-HD50 makes importing HDMI video straightforward. But with Apple now supporting the AVCHD standard the HD50 is squarely targeted at the video professional who needs to import other video formats, like video games that support HDMI but not FireWire.


Type Video Converter
Rating 3.5
Pros Bus powered, supports any non HDCP HDMI signal, Portable
SRP $1299
Manufacturer Thomson
Distributor Playback Systems - (03) 9885 5888

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