Japan crisis results in Sony HDCAM SR shortage

The fallout from the devastation in Japan continues to reverberate throughout the professional production industry, and there’s now confirmation from Sony that its Sendai Technology Center in Tagaiyo (Miyagi Prefecture) was severely damaged in the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck near there.

The Sendai Sony plant was the only facility in the world capable of manufacturing most of Sony's professional media products. Specific products impacted by the earthquake include HDCAM SR, HDCAM, DVCAM, Betacam SP, Digital Betacam, Betacam IMX, Betacam SX, XDCAM, SxS, DV and HDV. The facility also manufactured Li-Ion secondary batteries, magnetic tapes, IC cards, semiconductor lasers and conventional CDs and DVDs.

Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates and an expert in data storage products, said the SR technology is particularly precise (with its 4:4:4 signal processing), and it may be sometime before manufacturing can begin at another facility. As a result of the loss of the Sendai manufacturing facility, Sony is carefully allocating shipments to prevent hoarding.

Rob Kobrin, CTO at Integrated Media Technologies, a North Hollywood, CA-based consulting, design, construction and systems integration company, predicts a three-month shortage of HDCAM SR tape inventory.

“In particular, high-volume users who manage cash flow may have only a two-week supply on hand of HDCAM SR tape,” Kobrin said.

HDCAM SR cassettes had recently been priced from $50 for a 40-minute cassette to $220 for a 130-minute cassette. These prices will likely rise as a result of product availability.

Coughlin said a number of production and playout facilities have been discussing how to recycle and recertify their redundant HDCAM SR tapes to extend their current supply and have also accelerated efforts to move away from HDCAM SR-based archives and workflow to file-based workflow and archives using HDD-arrays, LTO tape libraries and other storage methods. Many expect short-term growth in the use of disk drives and digital tape archives as well as solid-state server storage in the broadcast and entertainment industry as a result of the shortage of HDCAM SR tapes.

Several reports said Sony is also facing trouble with plants in Koriyama, Motomiya, Kuki, Ibaraki, Kanuma, Tochigi and Atsugi because of power-outage issues. But, this situation is deemed short-termed, and Sony is expected to start production soon.