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HD transition continues in the field and studio

This week’s Sound Off continues with its periodic conversations with broadcasters and vendors about what hot HD trends to expect at the NAB Show by turning to Larry Thorpe, national marketing executive of the Broadcast and Communications Division of Canon U.S.A.

Last year, Canon arrived in Las Vegas with an expansion of the HDgc lens family, originally introduced at the 2007 NAB Show, aimed at delivering the performance broadcasters require for HD ENG but with a value-oriented price.

Given the reality that the broadcast industry is feeling the impact of the decline in the nation’s economy, it made sense to speak with Thorpe about Canon’s value-priced family of HD lenses and any other HD developments to look forward to in Las Vegas.

HD Technology Update: Last year in Las Vegas, Canon expanded its value-oriented line of HD ENG lenses in response to the demand for more affordable solutions. What can we expect as relates to HD ENG this year?

Larry Thorpe: All of the major camera manufacturers are moving to tapeless. Most introduced tapeless cameras in 2008 and are now delivering. We’ve been closely watching that one.

That’s a very distinct trend as the transition to HD newsgathering unfolds, and we anticipated lower-cost camcorders. At NAB '07, we introduced the HDgc platform HD lenses, a lower-priced lens tailored for newsgathering and tailored for those camcorders. At NAB '09, we will introduce a second generation of that lower-cost lens series.

We’ve had the chance to learn a little more from the early tapeless systems and broadcaster experiences in the HD transition, and our designers have done some reoptimization. We will debut a higher-performance HDgc lens at essentially the same pricing at NAB, and more will join that family downstream. More bang for the buck; that is a definite trend.

HD Technology Update: What other new developments can we expect from Canon with respect to the ongoing transition from SD to HD?

Larry Thorpe: We will certainly be emphasizing studio lenses. There’s a distinct trend to convert the news studio to HD. This picked up the pace in 2008 and is clipping along this year. Last year, Canon introduced a new flagship studio lens and began delivering it in midsummer.

The truck business is also still moving along. The big trucks are largely done, but we are seeing a trend toward smaller HD trucks around the country, which are being equipped with long lenses.

In the production area, we will introduce a new wide-angle, high-end, portable HD lens. A wider angle with higher optical performance is something the industry always seeks. At 4.3mm, it may be the widest 2/3in lens in the industry; we'll have to see. Equally important, we have extended the focal range to 14x.

HD Technology Update: Are there any other developments you can discuss regarding Canon’s HD offerings at the NAB Show?

Larry Thorpe: We introduced the BU-45H, an HD pan/tilt/zoom system for outdoor use, at last year’s show, and this NAB, we will introduce the sister HD pan/tilt/zoom system for studio use. The new BU-50H has most of the same performance and operational characteristics without the outdoor housing. We paid a lot of attention to extremely low noise operation when actuated for applications like those in studios or churches.

HD Technology Update: In the past year, there have been several demonstrations of live 3-D production. What’s Canon’s take on live 3-D TV?

Larry Thorpe: We have been watching 3-D closely, and in one case, quietly doing some experimenting. We’ve been working with one user investigating how to handle a long lens for 3-D. But remember, 3-D is still in the early stages.

3-D for live TV is very challenging. That was learned at the BCS and NFL games produced in 3-D. 3-D is not quite plug and play. Further developments are definitely needed.

Howerver, these experimental shoots are very important because they do uncover crucial operational needs. We are learning that cutting live between 3-D cameras is very different because of the eye-brain psychophysics. We are hopeful that these experiments will continue.There is no short-circuting them.

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