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Sony Unveils Line of High Definition Products In Its XDCAM Professional Disc System

The next generation of Sony’s XDCAM Professional Disc system—a line of high-definition optical camcorders and decks unveiled today—offers cinematographers, broadcasters and video professionals a complete toolkit of flexible, digital production options.

The Sony XDCAM HD family of optical products includes two camcorders and two decks. The same Professional Disc media used in the standard definition version of the XDCAM system is also compatible with the new HD version. Now, professional users can record up to two hours of high definition content on the versatile optical media, maintaining their workflow continuity by combining HD resolution with the same IT-based benefits made possible by XDCAM technology since its initial launch in 2004.

“The introduction of a high-definition version of our XDCAM system marks the continuing evolution of optical technology as users shift from standard definition production,” said Alec Shapiro, senior vice president of Sony Electronics’ Broadcast and Production Systems Division. “This new XDCAM line-up rounds out Sony’s range of HD production tools, filling an important niche between Sony’s entry-level and high-end formats.”

With the introduction of the XDCAM HD system, Sony is extending its CineAlta family of cinematic, broadcast and professional production systems by giving these new products the CineAlta brand.

The two XDCAM HD camcorders—models PDW-F330 and PDW-F350—both offer the production features that professional users need, such as true 24P recording in SD or HD, interval recording, and slow shutter.

The PDW-F350 additionally offers true variable frame rate recording capabilities; also commonly known as “over-cranking” and “under-cranking” or “slow-motion/fast motion” functionality.

“This is a much-desired and often critical feature for cinematographers and directors of photography who need the flexibility of changing frame rates to create unique ‘looks’ for their productions or to create special effects,” said Robert Ott, vice president of optical and network systems for Sony. “For digital cinematographers, the ability to shoot at slower or faster frame rates than playback gives them the great motion effects often seen in film cinema.”

The PDW-F350 enables variable frame rate recording at a range of frame rates from four frames per second (fps) to 60 fps in one frame increments. For example, when viewed at 24 fps, four fps yields motion six times faster than normal. In comparison, 60 fps yields motion at 40 percent normal speed. These effects can be played back in the camera or on a Sony optical deck, without the need for any additional special processing through a non-linear editing system or converter.

The PDW-F350 also enables true 24P, 25P and 30P image capture, without any additional conversion required.

The XDCAM HD products offer the flexibility of recording 1080i video in three data recording rates: 25 Mbps, plus 35 Mbps and 18 Mbps. The system records high-definition content to Sony’s existing Professional Disc single-layer media using an HD MPEG-2 Long GOP video compression codec.
The camcorders use three half-inch CCD 1.5 megapixel imagers with a variety of lenses from major manufacturers available.

The PDW-F70 and PDW-F30 decks enable high-speed data transfer between compatible nonlinear devices. Both decks up-convert XDCAM standard definition content recorded in the DVCAM format to 1080i high definition at output, and all XDCAM HD camcorders and decks can down-convert HD material to standard definition in anamorphic, letterboxed or 4:3 format.

“We are also continuing to develop our alliances with 30 leading manufacturers of compatible products to further strengthen the adoption of an optical workflow by a broader audience of customers,” said Ott.

Based on blue-laser technology, the XDCAM system’s Professional Disc media offers unique benefits in terms of split-second random access to footage in the field or during the post process, and multi-format flexibility and flexible record times (approximately 120 minutes or more of HD content at 18 Mbps or 85 minutes of SD DVCAM at 25 Mps).

The Sony Professional Disc media is re-usable up to 1,000 read/write cycles and up to 10,000 read/write cycles in ideal conditions, based on Sony’s own testing. The greater number of repeat recordings possible with the XDCAM Professional Disc allows a production crew to re-use it more often than a videotape and without experiencing degradation after multiple uses of the media.

Additional features of the new XDCAM HD products include:

--Expand function: takes a clip that has been initially tagged as a thumbnail and divides it into 12 even time intervals. Each interval also contains its own thumbnail for easy identification. This expand function can be applied up to three times, making it easier to search rapidly for scenes within a long clip, and also allows an operator to drill down into a clip and quickly locate the desired editing point.

--Freeze mix: enables a videographer to switch seamlessly between pre-recorded material and live footage by showing these images on the LCD screen or viewfinder. This function also helps adjust the camera’s position to set the same framing for the next shot.

--Slow shutter: allows a maximum of 64 frames to be accumulated. In low light levels this produces clear and noiseless video, and provides a “fantasy” video effect with a ghost image.

Since 2004, the standard definition version of the XDCAM system has been adopted by news organizations, videographers and for television production, especially in the reality TV genre. Corporations, educational and government facilities, houses of worship and major sports teams have also implemented Sony’s optical technology.

The following XDCAM HD products are planned to be available in March 2006, with suggested list pricing of:

--PDW-F350 camcorder:$25,800
--PDW-F330 camcorder:$16,800
--PDW-F70 deck:$15,990

The PDW-F30 deck is planned to be available in June, with a suggested list price of $9,500. The PFD-23 Professional Disc media is available for approximately $30 per disc, with a capacity of 23.3 GB per disc.