NAB 2015: Panasonic Touts 4K, Cloud Advances

Award-winning cinematographer Theo Van de Sande, ASC recently completed his second pilot, CBS’s “Evil Men,” shot with Panasonic’s new VariCam 35 4K camera/recorder. From left to right: Taka Mitsu, Panasonic’s chief engineer for the VariCam; Theo Van De Sande, ASC; and Michael Cioni, CEO of Hollywood post-production company Light Iron.

LAS VEGAS—Orders for 4K programming from Amazon and Netflix over the past year are music to Steve Cooperman’s ears.

“Others seem to be coming to the forefront as well, and that’s only going to grow the real world of 4K,” the senior product manager for Panasonic’s professional video line said. “It’s now not just ‘hey, it’s cool, let’s shoot 4K,’ but there’s an actual market for people who utilize 4K content.”

Panasonic is well positioned to take advantage of the call for 4K content, having introduced its VariCam 35 at last year’s NAB Show. That full-frame sensor camera married the ability to shoot in 4K or 2K resolution with the VariCam look, which Cooperman describes as having great dynamic range and real-life colors. “The VariCam for years has been Panasonic’s top brand in the Professional Video Group,” he said.

As for the market for programs produced in 4K, “we’ve had purchases by the rental companies in L.A., New York, Dallas, D.C., and a lot of other big markets,” Cooperman said.

He pointed to a feature on the VariCam 35 that may have been initially overlooked: a dual native sensitivity ISO setting, ISO800 and ISO5000. “It basically allows you to have two separate cameras, for if you’re shooting in bright situations, or if you’re shooting in a dark type situation,” Cooperman said. “It’s not an IR camera you’d use in the military, but it has amazing sensitivity to shoot really high-quality, clean video in very lowlight situations.”

Another growing trend is the demand for more mobility in ENG equipment, according to Cooperman.

At last year’s NAB Show, Panasonic introduced its latest ENG camcorder, the AJ-PX270, its first P2 HD handheld camcorder featuring AVC-Ultra recording. The AJ-PX5000G, a full-sized camcorder introduced several months earlier, also supports AVC-Ultra. In the 12 months since, firmware updates have added to the PX5000G’s and PX270’s ability to speed breaking news video back to the studios.

First came the ability to FTP a low-resolution proxy file, or even high resolution with the right data path. The FTP content feed could be done over an optional USB Wi-Fi Module, 4G/LTE cellular modem, or hard-wired Ethernet.

Panasonic’s PX270 and PX5000G can live stream straight out of the camera over a network without any external encoders with very minimal delay. But what is unique about Panasonic’s live streaming protocol is a quality of service layer. “We have the ability to dynamically adjust the bitrate of the streaming signal, on a frame by frame basis, if/when the bandwidth from the 4G cellular changes,” Cooperman said.

When Panasonic launched the PX270 at last year’s show, it described the camera as the company’s first “cloud-ready” ENG camera. At this year’s show, it will launch its “P2 Cast” cloud-based service, a first for the company’s professional video division.

“It’s a cloud-based production system that is complementary to the network features in the AVC-Ultra cameras that we’ve been beta testing with a couple of major news services here in the U.S. as well as worldwide in Europe and Asia as well,” Cooperman said. “The streaming camera and FTP capability is integrated in this system, so when content is uploaded to the cloud, it’s available for review and edit, all in the cloud.”

A major advantage of P2 Cast is the ability to move low-resolution proxy video off the camcorder in the field first, do a basic video sequence of the desired clips, and then allow the newsroom systems to automatically pull back high-resolution video for air from the camera in the field, through the cloud. Expect to see a full-featured demonstration of P2 Cast in Panasonic’s booth.

Finally, Cooperman noted that Panasonic has long made PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) cameras that have targeted the education, government and industrial markets. “But over the past year we’ve seen growth in our PTZ cameras for reality television production, where they’ll have dozens to over 100 cameras like this in use,” he said.

Last fall the company released the AW-HE130, a pan/tilt/zoom camera incorporating recently-developed high-sensitivity, low-noise 1/3-inch 3-MOS imagers. “This is an amazing camera, an integrated PTZ that shoots 1080/60p and 24p outputs it over 3G SDI,” Cooperman said. “So we’re definitely growing these cameras not just in their traditional areas but in the production area where it hasn’t been to this point. Furthermore, it also features built-in HD streaming encoders and PC/tablet-based control via a web browser.”

Panasonic will be in booth #C3607.