Post-NAB Coverage — Panasonic Seeks New Markets

Panasonic's debutantes this year reflect a larger push by the parent company in Japan to hit revenues of ¥10 trillion by 2010. The goal, the equivalent of about $US98 billion, was announced earlier this year when Panasonic's Tokyo parent, Matsushita, revealed a plan to rename the entire business Panasonic.

Part of the strategy to get there from the $US87 billion targeted for the 12 months that ended March 31 is to increase overseas sales, including that of camcorders in the United States.

That is where the new Panasonic AG-HMC70 camcorder comes in. The HMC70 is a hi-def, widescreen shoulder-mount model that records on SD cards using AVCHD compression.

"This is primarily focused on institutional customers — government, schools, industry ..." said Robert Harris, vice president of marketing for Panasonic Broadcast, a division of the North American branch of Matsushita, speaking at the company's NAB press conference.

Panasonic is convinced that the institutional video segment is anybody's ball game for several reasons. First, few camcorders provide professional-level functions at a price that will not make school board members roll their eyes.

Harris said the type of technology encompassed by the AG-HMC70 is typically around twice this camcorder's list price of just under $US2,500.

Recording media is another factor. Similarly priced and cheaper HD camcorders generally use HDV technology, which has enjoyed rapid adoption in the institutional sector.

"This is where I think HDV had their stronghold, and [AVCHD] is our technology that we feel has significant advantages over HDV," Harris said.


"HDV is tape-based versus AVCHD, which is solid state. It works just like a digital camera. Everybody's got a digital still camera. You just take the SD card to the laptop or the desktop and edit or store it on cheap hard drives. With tape, in order to get it into your computer, you've got to get a tape deck and take an hour to bring it into your PC. It has huge speed advantages. Everybody understands that because they have digital still cameras."

The HMC70 has professional audio connections, to interface with a church sound system for example, and it has live output — a handy way to project speakers onto a large screen in real time.

"The other nice thing, because it's an SD card, while you're shooting video, you can take stills," Harris said.

The HMC70 also has the type of stabilization capability that Panasonic considers ideal for the institutional segment. "If you're a church or a school, you may be using volunteers," he said. "These aren't necessarily full-time videographers."

Institutional videography, as a sector, is attractive to Panasonic's parent as a growth category because it is, indeed, huge and growing, as exemplified by a program to assist U.S. Marines injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The San Diego-Calif.-based Wounded Marines Careers Foundation offers career retraining in media careers. Panasonic highlighted the program at its Sunday press conference because 11 of its P2 HVX200 camcorders were used in the inaugural training session, completed last month by 25 Marines. ©2008 NAB