Sony professional media is back

After months of customers having to literally beg and borrow to get their hands on blank HDCAM SR videotape, Sony has resumed production and delivery of the high-quality (4:4:4 color sampling) format. The company said its tape manufacturing facilities in Sendai (northern Japan) that were damaged by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake of March 11 will soon be returning to full capability, with gradual increases in production and shipments.

The company said that tape-coating production of both HDCAM SR and HDCAM media restarted on schedule in July at Sony's Sendai Technology Center in Tagajo, with shipments of new product resuming at the end of August (for HDCAM SR) and early September (for HDCAM).

Sony said stock volumes would increase each month, as it continues to stabilize production and ensure quality control standards.

A number of production and playout facilities initially struggled in the wake of the shortage, with some recycling existing tape stock while others moved to a file-based workflow, eliminating tape altogether. There were also reports that Sony had contacted numerous tape dealers and asked them to return all HDCAM SR tapes so they could be used by Hollywood studios and television shows, which have standardized on the format when delivering a final master recording. Some episodic TV shows-such as NBC's "Community" were known to regularly use up to 100 SR tapes per week.

"Our teams in Japan have done a tremendous job in recovering production over the past six months," said Darin Scott, senior vice president of Sony's Media and Applications Solution Division. "We are taking a cautious approach to assure the quality of the product we ship to the market, but I'm proud to say Sony Professional Media is back."

In addition to renewed production of HDCAM SR and HDCAM media, manufacturing of the DVCAM/Digital Master and Professional Disc formats resumed in May and Sony said the production and supply of those products have been "consistent and stable to date."

As for other coating media products, Sony Digital Betacam restarted end-to-end production at the end of September, with MPEG IMX and Betacam SP following later this month.

The Sendai 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 manufactures li-ion secondary batteries, magnetic tapes, IC cards, semiconductor lasers and conventional CDs and DVDs, but there is no official word on how those products are doing.

HDCAM SR cassettes had been priced from $50 for a 40-minute cassette to $220 for a 130-minute cassette. Prices were reportedly higher in recent months as a result of the lack of product availability.