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HD Wins Variable Acceptance Across Europe

by David Fox

A complete round up and review of all the new cameras (HD, DV, DVCAM, DVCPRO, MPEG IMX, hard disk and even undercover spectacle-cams) from all the major manufacturers at IBC 2001.

 

PANASONIC PANASONIC AJ-HDC27

Panasonic's variable frame rate HD camcorder, the AJ-HDC27, which was launched at NAB 2001 and figured prominently in the Creative And Technology awards at IBC 2001, is a world first. It can shoot at frame rates from four to 60 frames per second (centred around 24fps), which Panasonic claims looks just like film when it is under or over cranked. It also has much wider latitude than other HD camcorders (by about two stops), which also gives a much more film-like look, and it can create motion-blur and warp-speed effects in real time by shooting at very low frame rates without the shutter. The camera's shutter speeds also automatically track frame rate changes, to ensure consistency throughout the shoot.

Panasonic has been talking to several NLE manufacturers about incorporating variable frame rate conversion within their NLEs, which is something several of its customers have asked for.

The high-sensitivity CCDs allow it shoot at the equivalent of 1,000 ASA film. It has an advanced colour correction system using a 12-pole colour matrix, so that specific colours can be altered without affecting the overall colour imagery. It can record for 46 minutes in 720p/60 format on large-size DVCPRO cassettes. It also has a reverse scan feature, to allow film makers use their favourite prime lenses.

"We have built an evolutionary path from DV to HD," says David Huckfield, general manager, strategic marketing, Panasonic.

This includes the "world's smallest HD VTR", he says, which can cope with both 1080 and 720 interlaced and progressive. "Both progressive and interlaced have their merits, depending on their applications, and we like to give customers the choice," he says. "One format for all applications really is an unattainable dream."

For post-production, Huckfield claims that the larger HD-D5 format has become "the de-facto standard for high-end mastering in Hollywood." It has also started winning sales in Europe, including Cinesite, The Farm Group and On Sight in London. Panasonic is also moving in to HD Cinema with a new DLP projector.

Sony says there is strong demand in Europe for its Panavision/CineAlta HDCAM camera, as used for the recent $25 million French special effects and live action movie Vidocq. The largest HDCAM shoot so far has been 15 cameras used to record a Robbie Williams concert in Cologne.

PANASONIC DVCPRO-50

Panasonic came out fighting at IBC with a demonstration of how much more robust it maintains DVCPRO-50 can be compared to "a popular rival digital half-inch format". It mounted the two camcorders on the front of Europe's biggest wooden roller coaster and shot the same scene with both cameras. The half-inch shot broke up a lot during the ride, but the DVCPRO-50 material appeared to be hardly shaken.

Ted Taylor, Panasonic Broadcast Europe's managing director, also claimed that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the 6mm format is considerably less than the half-inch system. He maintains that the TCO of a DVCPRO-50 VTR, for example, is less than 40% that of its half-inch equivalent.

There are now some 150,000 units of DVCPRO in use world-wide, of which about 32,000 are in Europe.

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PHILIPS AND THOMSON

Following its takeover of Philips broadcast division, Thomson multimedia is expanding into HD and digital cinematography. It also hopes to develop more budget models. The two companies camera divisions have been fully amalgamated and all its cameras now come from the same factory.

PHILIPS LDK 6000Its new LDK 6000HD has a 9.2 megapixel HD-DPM+ CCD, switchable between 1080i, 1080p and 720p. The compact, lightweight HD base station allows HD and SD video to be output simultaneously using a newly developed tri-ax-HD, which utilises standard tri-ax links and allows users to reuse their existing tri-ax installations rather than having to fit new fibre optic cables. It transmits over 1,000 metres.

One of the first buyers has been Belgian facility company, Alfacam, which installed eight LDK 6000s in its new HD/SD OB vehicle (it soon expects to have 12 6000s in total). The van uses networked Seraph HD35 and the DD35 production switchers (requiring just one person to output both versions) and a Venus router for simultaneous delivery in both formats.

The LDK 7000HD for digital cinematography offers 16:9 and Cinemascope, and can do 1080 24p, 25p or 30p as well as 720p at 60 frames per second. At 720p, it can also run at frame rates suitable for slow-motion. Its digital set-ups include several simulating different filmic looks.

The HD-DPM+ CCD intelligently combines its large number of pixels to achieve the best pictures for each HD standard. For 720p, it combines six vertical pixels (of the 4320 vertical total) to create one larger pixel and combines four pixels per larger pixel for 1080p. In the 1080i mode, it divides the 4320 in to groups of eight, to give 540 vertical pixels. Then it shifts them between the interlaced fields to reduce aliasing by having a four pixel overlap between fields. Both cameras have 12-bit a/d conversion and 22-bit internal processing.

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IKEGAMI

IKEGAMI HDL V90Ikegami has entered the HD camcorder market with its new HDL-V90 1080i DVCPRO-HD model. It has three 2.2 million pixel FIT CCDs, 12-bit analogue to digital convertors, and a new digital signal processing chip using up to 30-bit internal processing. Its resolution is 1000 TV lines and light sensitivity is f8 at 2000 lux. Size, weight and power consumption are similar to its existing DVCPRO-50 camcorders.

Its new compact 1080i HDL-40 camera is much the same as the HDL-V90 (without the recorder) and is designed for use with robotics, or similar applications requiring a small camera with high resolution. It has integrated HD SDI output.

Ikegami also has a tiny single chip HD camera, the HDL-10, with a two megapixel sensor. The ultra-compact unit uses a separate base station.

IKEGAMI IMX ON DISK

IKEGAMI EDITCAM2Ikegami's two EditCam 2 models now encompass up to eight different compression formats, including IMX, DV (4:1:1, 4:2:0 and 4:2:2), and two versions of Avid compression. The disks can record up to 90 minutes of 25Mbps DV. Other benefits of using disks include: RetroLoop, time lapse recording, single frame recording, and in-camera editing. It has also released a dockable hard disk recorder, the DNR-20, which will dock to anything with a standard Betacam interface, giving them the same features as the EditCam 2.

The HL-45A and widescreen AW models have been around for a while, but have recently been upgraded to 12-bit processing (from 10-bit). Unfortunately, these are subject to the EU's anti-dumping levy, so are mainly of interest to non-EU buyers. It has a wideband component tri-ax system and can take a wide range of viewfinders.

Its 10-bit HC-400W now has a prompter video option, and two return video feeds, on a standard 26-pin multicore cable. The camera is selling well for use in small studios, such as BBC regional news studios and the Bloomberg financial network.

Ikegami also has a multicore adapter for its HL-DV7W (DVCAM camcorder) for studio use and all of its DVCPRO 25 and 50Mbps camcorders can now have SDI output.

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HITACHI

HITACHI SK H5Despite the fact that virtually every new camera is CCD-based, tube cameras aren't completely dead. Hitachi launched a new tube camera at IBC, which was developed by NHK. The SK-H5 is designed for very low-light applications. "It's much higher sensitivity than conventional broadcast cameras," says Richard Harvey, Hitachi's chief broadcast engineer. It can deliver highly detailed pictures with no additional lighting, making it ideal for late night wildlife observation, or anti-terrorism surveillance.

Hitachi has also introduced a large lens studio adapter for its SK-777 widescreen switchable FIT camera, as well as new pan/tilt units with remote control for all functions on a compact controller.

It has developed many variants on its KP-D8 single chip, self-contained camera, which is being used for sports applications. It is creating customised models, such as a remote head for motorbikes and rally cars. The camera has already been fitted into cricket stumps, on to jockey's helmets, and in to ski racing gates for the BBC.

The tiny camera measures just 22mm x 22mm x 86mm and weighs 80 grams. Its horizontal resolution of 460 TV lines is produced by the one-third inch IT CCD. It uses PC software for control of such functions as electronic shuttering, automatic white balance, gain, and chroma level and can have composite or Y/C outputs.

Hitachi also showed its new DVD camcorder, a prosumer product recording at 12Mbps.

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SONY MPEG IMX

Sony's new MSW-900P MPEG IMX (MPEG-2 4:2:2P@ML 50Mbps) camcorder is widescreen switchable, has 12-bit digital signal processing and features the latest developments in CCD and LSI technologies. It is positioned between Betacam SX and Digital Betacam.

Maximum recording time is 71 minutes, but it also has an eight-second loop record function, so that users, especially in news, are less likely to miss important pictures while they wait for the tape to start running. It has metadata handling capability and is integrated with Sony's new Tele-File (asset management) system. It also includes a Memory Stick port, which allows users to record camera set-ups and do software upgrades quickly and easily.

Options include SDI output and composite input recording. There is also an optional slot-in wireless microphone receiver and internal light system. "This all-in-one design reduces the total package weight for shooting crews in the field," explains product manager, Yoshiro Shigematsu. The camcorder weighs 6kg. First deliveries have gone to ORF, Austria which worked with Sony on its development, and Germany's NDR.

"MPEG IMX represents the future for us, so through this intensive co-operation between ORF and Sony, we have developed a camcorder that suits our requirements and which we believe will be state-of-the-art for a long time," says Peter Moosmann, ORF's technical director.

STUDIO COST SAVING

Sony's new BVP-E10 portable camera for studio and outside broadcast use is based on its popular BVP-950 camera, but costs 15 to 20% less. It uses the same CCUs and control system as the BVP-950, allowing quick setup and simple operation. It uses new Advanced Digital Signal Processing LSIs, "which provide many sophisticated control functions, yet consume lower power, thus reducing operating temperature and improving stability," says Ian Sheldon, product manager image capture & displays, Sony BPE. Both 4:3 and switchable 16:9/4:3 versions are available, using the latest Power HAD EX low noise and low smear CCD sensor. The CCD uses a "radically different design" that gives it high resolution, increased sensitivity and a wide dynamic range.

Although the control system allows manual adjustment of a wide variety of signal parameters, it has a high level of automation, such as Auto Trace White Balance, to simplify operation. It has a Memory Stick slot for storing preferred viewfinder settings and video parameters.

HIGH END DVCAM

Sony has launched two new "high end" DVCAM camcorders, the widescreen switchable DSR-570WSP and 4:3 DSR-370P, which are suitable for studio use. Both can be controlled from a distance of up to 300m using the CCU-M5AP camera control unit. They also benefit from upgraded operating software. Features include: two-third inch Power HAD CCDs; dual size tape mechanism; 14:9 - 15:9 aspect ratio markers; a new SetupNavi function; and low power consumption.

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CAMERA SPECTACLES

For covert operations, OpTex has upgraded its hidden camera spectacles. The Glasses CAM Type2, are lighter, more comfortable to wear, and deliver better pictures than before. Instead of the previously heavy, dark-framed specs, the glasses are now partly wire-framed and look more natural (and fashionable), making them even less likely to be spotted. The tiny 3.6mm lens uses an IT CCD with a resolution of more than 350 TV lines and better colour performance. The glasses are available with video and audio feed to a miniature VTR or with a tiny transmitter.

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XL1 GETS MAKEOVER

Canon has updated its popular XL1 three-chip, interchangeable lens miniDV camcorder. The new XL1S includes: a safe area generator displaying 16:9 guidelines in the viewfinder; A/V insert; audio dubbing; analogue input; improved CCD performance, by 14dB, giving a clearer picture at low light levels; Clearscan electronic shutter for suppressing flicker on PC screens; colour bar generation; custom presets; and interval recording. There are also optional two- or four-channel XLR audio inputs.

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JVC

JVC showed a new high-resolution "future-proof" three CCD stop-frame animation and rostrum camera at IBC which is 16:9 switchable and can be controlled via a PC using a Photoshop-compatible plug-in. The £6,500 1360x1024 pixel camera has 24-bit colour depth, standard VGA output to a monitor and SCSI for digital capture, and can use any half-inch C-mount lens. It is working with animation software manufacturers to make it compatible with their systems.

Its two top of the range Professional DV and D9 camcorders are now available in Cineline versions, using a different chip set, with altered gamma and calorimetry, to give a film look. The two two-third inch CCD cameras, the GY-DV700W and the DY-90W can also be fitted with OpTex-developed matte boxes, lenses and viewfinder extensions for full film-like operation.

It has a new PD-150 competitor, the GY-DV300 networked camcorder, coming in January with a 14x optical zoom, "good low-light ability," 12-bit internal processing, two XLR audio connectors, DV i/o and an MPEG-4 output for easier use with Web production - which is the networkable bit.

Its D9 VCRs can now have a new FireWire/1394 board, for DV to D9 and D9 to DV transfers without any signal loss.

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TOSHIBA

Toshiba has introduced its first 3-CCD Remote Head Camera system. It comes with digital or analogue output and a choice of half-inch (TU62) or one-third inch (TU63) IT HAD image sensors. The cameras have 10-Bit Digital Signal Processing, 63 dB signal-to-noise ratio, and take C-mount lenses. The TU62 offers 800 TV lines resolution (560 for RGB), while the TU63 has 750 (560 RGB).

JAN 2002

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    David Fox