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Despite economic gloom, Sony intros new gear at NAB

It’s been a difficult week for Sony. Just as the NAB show was set to open in Las Vegas, half a world away Sony’s new CEO, Kazuo Hirai, faced television cameras to announce losses much worse than expected. The company expects to lose a whopping $6.4 billion this year.

In this brutal financial environment, the company’s new leader said it is time for Sony to change now. Big layoffs and major changes are coming soon, but it was mostly unspecified. By week’s end, financial analysts were claiming the game for Sony is almost up.

Yet, with a smile on his face, Alex Shapiro, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Sony’s broadcast and production systems division, took the stage at NAB to announce new products.

When asked about Sony’s dismal financial picture, he said the broadcast division he oversees has not been affected at all.

“Sony's Professional Solutions business is as healthy as it has ever been," he said.

After a year of hype, Sony was one of the few companies still pitching 3-D television at NAB. “The market for 3-D television is growing,” he said.

For broadcasters, the company is introducing the full-featured yet light and compact PMW-100 handheld camcorder. It joins Sony’s XDCAM HD422 line-up as the smallest and lightest camera in the XDCAM family.

Equipped with a 1/2.9-inch “Exmor” CMOS sensor, the camcorder delivers high picture performance and also achieves minimum illumination of 0.08lx. Featuring a 5.4-54mm (40-400mm in 35mm equivalent) zoom lens, the versatile PMW-100 allows users to work in virtually any production environment where mobility and flexibility is critical.

It supports full HD video at 1080i, 1080p and 720p up to 50 Mbps MXF record and playback based on the MPEG HD422 codec using the standard MPEG HD422 Long GOP compression technology. It is also switchable to MPEG HD420 35/25Mbps or even DVCAM 25Mbps recording, which similar options in the market do not offer. The PMW-100 can also record high quality 24-bit four-channel audio at uncompressed 48kHz.

The PMW-100 XDCAM camcorder is planned to be available in May, with a price of $4,500. Even lower priced, at $2,500, is Sony’s HXR-NX30U high-definition camcorder, a palm-size model that uses Sony’s Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization technology to significantly reduce camera shake in challenging shooting applications.

Conventional image stabilization systems typically “float” an individual lens element with a motor drive to compensate for camera shake. Balanced Optical SteadyShot combines the entire lens and image sensor assembly into one floating element that moves as a unit to reduce the shaking effect caused by normal motion during shooting.

The camcorder also offers convenient features such as a built-in projector, all combined in Sony’s smallest, lightest handheld professional camcorder. The new HXR-NX30U records at full 1920 x 1080 HD resolution using a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens (35mm equivalent :26.0mm -260mm) for high optical quality, sharpness and brightness.

The camcorder’s 1/2.88-inch image sensor uses Sony’s Exmor R CMOS technology, which significantly enhances low-light performance, speeds image readout, reduces rolling shutter artifacts and enables a range of frame rates—1080/60p, 1080/30p, 24p, 60i, 720/60p.

Using AVCHD recording, the camera has 96 gigabytes of internal memory (approximately 40 hours of HD content), with a slot that accepts either SD or Memory Stick media cards for additional recording capacity. A built-in video projector lets users play back images of up to 100 inches from a distance of about 16 feet (5m) on any flat surface. This feature is ideal for reviewing footage in the field or on a set, when a monitor is either not available or convenient to use.

Shapiro also said E.W. Scripps, Fisher and Sunbeam are the latest station groups to adopt Sony’s XD cameras. Sony’s Media Backbone technology, he said, will be an integral part of NBC’s production for the Summer Games. NBC’s Highlight Factory will use Media Backbone to streamline its production process by managing content metadata.

Media Backbone will provide overarching workflow orchestration that will ensure NBC production and distribution systems are operating efficiently while reducing the time it takes to publish highlights clips to all the digital distribution outlets. It gives producers and editors an overview into the entire production cycle and allows them to closely monitor each clip at every step of the production process.

Sony’s System Solutions Group is also the prime contractor on the construction of the NBC Sports Group’s new headquarters in Stamford Conn. Outfitted with Sony’s cameras, switchers, displays and XDCAM recorders, this new facility will feature studios and edit rooms, control rooms, graphics creation and pre-production facilities for all of the NBC Sports Group.