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Local news may soon follow HD path

At Sony’s NAB2005 booth, local station engineers could watch demonstrations of the company’s new HVR-Z1U camcorder based on the HDV format.

The availability of high-definition content from broadcasters has been limited to high-end episodic television shows, live sports and entertainment events and converted feature films. At NAB2005 a ground swell of interest in producing local programming and news was readily apparent simply by visiting the JVC and Sony exhibit floor booths. It was there that stations flocked to see demonstrations of two new cameras based on the emerging HDV format.

With prices that start at less than $6000 for a digital camera capable of recording 720p or 1080i images on a DV or miniDV cassette, many said they were compelled to buy one just to try it out and see how it looks on-screen.

While JVC unveiled a prosumer-level (single-chip) HDV camera at NAB2004, Sony jumpstarted the HDV rush with its introduction of the HVR-Z1U camcorder earlier this year. The camera, which features 3-CCD chips and professional audio connections, has already been used for small aerial segments on the CBS network series “JAG.”

Interestingly, the networks appear to be hesitant about committing to yet another digital video format. Preston Davis, senior vice president of technology and operations for ABC, said several of JVC’s GY-HD100U HDV camcorders were used in 720p mode during the recent coverage of the Pope’s funeral in Rome. This footage was never aired, but will be kept for archival purposes.

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