Sony's new professional optical disc system

Later this year, Sony will begin delivering a new line of broadcast products based on a single-sided optical disc. The random access disc, using blue-violet laser technology, represents a new professional storage medium capable of extremely large-capacity recording.

Production units of the Optical Media format equipment, to be shown at IBC2003 this fall, include the PDW-530/530p and PDW-510/510p camcorders, PDW-V1 laptop edit system, PDW-1500 compact source deck and PDW-3000 studio deck, Xpri mobile edit/news system, and the Xpri nonlinear edit workstation.

The disc—equal in size to standard CD and DVD media—provides a storage capacity of 23.3 GB—a feat made possible using a 405 nm blue-violet laser and an object lens with a 0.85 numerical aperture and specially developed recording layer.

This translates to a recording time of 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the bit rate the camera operator chooses.

Sony’s new professional optical disc is a flexible platform on which an assortment of data in a variety of formats can reside. The use of optical disc technology eliminates the restrictions inherent in proprietary tape footprints.

The disc handles information as “data files,” and is therefore flexible as to what can be recorded on it. In addition to video and audio streams, it can record a variety of metadata, such as date/time/location information, scripts, low-resolution video, and audio. The amount of metadata used is completely up to the user, since the information does not have to reside on a limited, predetermined area of the disc.

For those who worry about the ruggedness of optical media in field recording applications, Sony argues that the discs have a natural advantage since they suffer no mechanical contact during recording or playback. The new discs have a re-write cycle greater than a thousand times and a 30-year archival life. This makes them ideal for continuous use and re-use. Weighing three ounces, the discs are also highly resistant to dust, shock, water, heat, humidity, scratches and airport x-rays, and are packaged in a durable, sealed cartridge.

The new disc system’s high transfer rate and quick random access make it ideal for facilities migrating toward an infrastructure based on information technology (IT). The nonlinear nature of the disc alone provides huge benefits when handling audio/video content. When a recording is played back, its physical location on the disc does not impact the time required to access it. Recordings can be accessed in a fraction of the equivalent time taken to access information on tape, making it much easier and faster to locate source material.

The professional optical disc’s data transfer rate is 72 Mb/s from a single optical head unit and 144 Mb/s on a dual head deck.

Sony’s upcoming introduction of the PDW series of optical disc products represents a new gateway to a faster, more cost-effective method for making video programs. These new tools are designed to blur the walls now standing between traditional AV and newer IT broadcast infrastructures. They will introduce new advantages in random access, file transfer, central storage and metadata. The PDW series of optical recorders will allow the recording and playback of a wide assortment of data, including MPEG IMX and DVCAM streams, and low-resolution copies (proxy AV data). Sony has a new term for it: “workflow innovation.”

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