The Lumix DMC-TZ7 and AVCHD Connection: Direct AVCHD Playback on Viera TVs

avchd_logoPanasonic wants convergence among its electronic gear and the company is using AVCHD as one of many technologies to glue them together. What is AVCHD? It stands for Advanced Video Codec High Definition and is a recording format that is used in digital tapeless camcorders and digital cameras (Wikipedia). Video compression is based on the H.264/MPEG4 AVC standard and the audio comopression is via Dolby’s AC3. So what’s the big deal with a compact digital camera like the Lumix DMC-TZ7 using AVCHD when recording video? Not many compact digital cameras use AVCHD and instead use a much simpler MPEG file format.

DPReview interviewed Ichiro Kitao, General Manager of the DSC Product Planning Group at Panasonic and asked a lot of questions. The entire interview can be viewed over at DPReview. The most interesting one to me came at the very end. DPReview: “What’s the thinking behind using AVCHD on a consumer compact like the TZ7 and not a simpler MPEG file format?”

Kitao-san: “AVCHD is a very convenient format for use with televisions and blu-ray recorders. Our Viera models have the capability to play AVCHD directly, and we will expand those lines. We believe videos should be played back on a TV; it’s much nicer than looking at it on a PC screen. With the software we’ve developed it’s easy to share AVCHD videos by burning them to a DVD – and everyone has a DVD player. And of course you can convert to an MPEG file for sharing via PC. The cameras have a Motion JPEG option for customers who only want to use their movies on a PC. Windows 7 will be fully compatible with our AVCHD files, allowing them to be played without converting them first.”

Panasonic clearly wants there to be convergence in its digital gear. The company’s Viera TVs are capable of playing AVCHD files directly. With a DMC-TZ7 you can capture video with a 1280 x 720 pixel format at 60fps in AVCHD Lite that uses 17Mbps of bandwidth. The TZ7 has a mini-HDMI connection and with the right cable you connect it directly to a Viera TV and you’re watching 720p HD video at 60fps. Nice and simple.

There is one market development Kitao-san might be missing: LCD monitors will increasingly look more like LCD TVs with features like 120Hz. In an interview with Scott Birnbaum, VP of LCD Business at Samsung, the company is clearly moving toward incorporating advanced technologies that are being used in LCD TV panels into LCD monitor panels. Direct AVCHD playback on an advanced LCD monitor sounds good. Check out the blog posts about 120Hz LCD monitors.

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