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Sony and Panasonic have finally figured out a way to get content from high-definition camcorders onto DVDs without going to Blu-ray. Create another new format.

Yes, if you aren't already confused by the frustrating format wars between Sony's Blu-ray and Toshiba's HD-DVD high definition disks, here comes AVCHD also created by Sony in collaboration with Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic). Since HD video contains about four times the amount of picture data as standard definition video, AVCHD uses the MPEG4 AVC/H.264 compression system to fit the information onto a standard DVD disk. Current high definition camcorders on the market, like Sony's HDR-HC3, record to Mini-DV tapes which have longer recording capacities but not the simplicity of DVD.

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According to Yoshikazu Ochiai, a spokesman for Sony in Tokyo, about 20 minutes of HD video can be recorded on a single-sided DVD using AVCHD in the normal quality setting. That compares to about 30 minutes of video that can be recorded using a standard definition camcorder and the same disc. Mini-DV tapes can record about 60 minutes of video.

Ochiai noted that this new format doesn't mean Blu-ray is going away. The reasons Sony is not bringing Blu-ray to high-definition camcorders at this point, he said, include the high cost, size constraints and the increased energy consumption. —Dan Havlik