Today's technology includes mobility and multiple formats
The signal-path of high-definition television begins with the camera head, and studio camera customers are weighing in with plaudits for the HD cameras they've been buying.
Atlantic Video built an HD-hybrid facility in New York City at the Manhattan Center last year, choosing Ikegami as its HD camera supplier. The studio is home to three ESPN shows: "Cold Pizza," "The Sports Reporters 2" and "Cheap Seats."
"If you're a producer, you want a great-looking show that stands out," said Todd Mason, president of Atlantic Video, "Ikegami's technology definitely picks up the best of everything that you're putting in front of it."
Atlantic bought four HDK-720 HD studio cameras for the facility, along with four HDK-720P portable cameras and two of Ikegami's HDL-40 CMOS box-type cameras.
"The ability to work on both fiber and triax was a big selling point," said Mason said. "Other manufactures talk about having this ability but Ikegami has it."
He pointed out that Atlantic has a lot of triax installed in two of the ballrooms at the Manhattan Center.
"Being able to handle that without having to replace it all was a big benefit," he said.
Mason said clients appreciate the picture quality and that viewers notice it in "Cold Pizza.
"The set is enormous and beautiful and the lighting is great. The Ikegami cameras pick up all of the detail and it looks phenomenal," he said.
The Ikegami cameras are connected to the camera control unit CCU-790A, which comes with a multi-format converter that allows the flexibility of working in various HD formats, including 1080i, 720p and 24p. The CCUs also output standard definition.
"We have integrated a lot of new technology into our facility, and Ikegami has been very helpful," Mason said.
Sony's high-definition studio cameras are in use by CBS Television City, National Mobile Television, NEP, the National Basketball Association, CNN and others. For All Mobile Video, the decision to buy its latest Sony HD studio cameras was based on upgrading from its prior Sony cameras.
"We had had the (Sony) 700/750 series, and we wanted to have the capability of offering our clients the film look vis-á-vis the use of 24p technology built into the 900/950," said Eric Duke, AMV's president. "We could do 1080, and we could do 24p, and 25p, and that really gives us some advantages. We got to use it right away for a number of clients, like the MTV Music Video Awards."
Duke said the "look" they're able to get from the cameras was an important factor. He also mentioned the camera's reliability.
"All the things we bought Sony for, we have been happy with," he said. "And it's been a year that we've had them."
Duke returned to the number one reason AMV is using the new Sony cameras: "There's a lot of versatility in the field, and that's primarily what we liked about them."
FLEXIBILITY FOR FOX
Fox Technology Group's vice president of engineering, Jim DeFilippis, said his company's decision to buy Thomson HD studio cameras goes back to a relationship Fox has had with the LDK cameras before the Philip's Broadcast Division was acquired by Thomson.
"We worked with them, co-developing the first progressive-scan production camera, the LDK 2000," said DeFilippis. "We had a notion initially of doing 1280x720 progressive at 24 frames, because we had the idea of doing electronic capture to replace film."
Through their close relation with the camera builder, Fox learned about plans for the current Thomson Grass Valley Group LDK 6000 WorldCam, able to acquire video in 1080i and 720P natively at a variety of frame rates.
"Foxis a very diverse company," said DeFilippis. "We deal with the film division, we deal with episodics, sports, news, nature documentaries, all sorts of different requirements. Flexibility is the key, and digital gives us that flexibility, and the DPM (Dynamic Pixel Management) technology makes the camera give you that flexibility without any compromise."
In fact, while Fox originally envisioned the WorldCam in use with 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratios, they found that DPM technology allowed them to shoot in wider aspect ratios with no sacrifice in quality.
"The ability to do 2.35:1 widescreen was a bit of a surprise," said DeFilippis. "The DPM technology makes the camera give you that flexibility without any compromise. No anamorphic lenses, no cropping, no reduced resolution."
When it comes to why customers are buying Panasonic HD studio cameras, Steve Mahrer, director of product engineering for the Panasonic Broadcast Group, said the variety of customers makes it a difficult question to answer.
"Customers buy them for different applications," he said.
Mahrer said a good part of their success is the ability to match the native format to the customer. Panasonic offers both the AK-HD 930, a 1080i camera, and the AK-HD 931, a 720P camera.
"They're basically the same camera, the same camera processing, the same camera DSP, they both use fiber optics between the camera and the base station. It really comes down to, if you have an affiliation with either camera format, you have a choice of native camera images," he said.
It also helps that the studio cameras are part of a wider family of cameras built using Panasonic's Varicam technology. Mahrer said the Panasonics can do similar processing, with variable frame rates, appearances-such as cinecam.
Finally, he said the fact that both the 930 and 931 camera heads are built in the portable camera configuration, with the ability to be placed in a studio camera build-up kit, gives them flexibility.
"If you're doing studio shots and you need a handheld, you can just pull one camera out and put a small lens on it." and go to the handheld, he said.
Hitachi Denshi America has also enticed customers to its HD studio cameras by selling the HD cameras in the portable body configuration with studio adapter kits to offer the features and capability of studio-body cameras. For the customer this brings flexibility and a cost savings.
"Hard bodied cameras had to be 20 to 40 percent more because of the expenses of tooling and the chassis that has to be done to bring that camera to market," said Emelio Aleman, product manager, Broadcast and Professional Products for Hitachi. "Nowadays, it's just dollars and cents. People just want to have more bang for the buck."
Aleman pointed out that while in studio configuration, the cameras offer all the features of a studio-bodied camera, in a matter of minutes the customer can remove the camera itself for portable use.