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Tapeless Acquisition Advantages

There’s quite a lot of talk these days about tapeless camcorders and frankly, at Ikegami, we couldn’t be happier. We’ve been advancing tapeless acquisition technology for a full decade with our steadily evolving Editcam camcorders and we’re glad that other companies are now also extolling the benefits of going tapeless.

Eliminating consumables such as videotape, which can easily amount to over $5,000 per camera/per year, is a welcome prospect for TV stations in this budget-conscious era. The nonlinear nature of tapeless acquisition extends the random-access advantages long enjoyed in the post-production realm right up to the moment of image capture, and these advantages are by no means limited to the activity of newsgathering, or even to standard definition video.

Some ten years ago, Ikegami and Avid launched a cooperative effort to substitute digital nonlinear media for videotape in camcorders and thereby eliminate the most annoying and time-consuming aspect of nonlinear editing, which is digitizing video. Our idea was to have the camcorder record to media that would be immediately accepted by nonlinear edit systems. Hard drives were the obvious choice for the FieldPAK digital nonlinear media in our then-new “EditCam,” since hard drives were what Avid editors normally worked with. Since then, hard drives have grown in capacity while declining in cost. Hard drives are a proven, reliable recording and playback media used in everything from broadcast servers to laptops to iPods.

At NAB2002, Ikegami demonstrated the ability to also record video onto solid state RAMPaks. This seamless integration introduced Editcam as the first broadcast camcorder with no moving parts in the recorder mechanism. Today Ikegami’s third-generation Editcam3 camcorder (the model DNS-33W) records to and plays back from the RAMPak with ease and the availability of both it and the disk-based FieldPAK gives Ikegami Editcam and EditcamHD users a freedom of choice that’s uncommon in tapeless nonlinear acquisition. They’re not restricted to just one tapeless recording media. Editcam users can transition from disk-based FieldPAKs to RAMPak media as solid-state prices decline over time.

Editcam FieldPAK and RAMPak technology offers TV stations the ability to depreciate the media their Editcams record to as a capital expense over the life of the camera. For stations that choose to archive off the server to some type of optical disk, it means their stories can go from acquisition, to post-production, to air and get archived without ever having touched videotape.

Today’s second-generation FieldPAKs can fit into a shirt pocket, weigh less than nine ounces and offer an upper capacity of 120 GB, which holds nine hours of DV25 video. A 16 GB RAMPak can hold more than 70 minutes of DV25 video.

A videographer can hand a FieldPAK or a RAMPak loaded with hours of clips to an editor, who can be cutting the content it contains almost immediately. This is because an Avid nonlinear edit system sees the FieldPAK as just as another media drive. Alternately, the shooter has the option of immediately moving their clips to a server at a multiple of realtime playback speed, depending on the interface.

FieldPAKs mount to Avid systems through several types of inexpensive interfaces. Conventional desktop editors will use LVD SCSI towers that can mount from two to seven FieldPAKs simultaneously. For laptop editors, versions of the SAT-110 interface can mount FieldPAKs through either FireWire or USB. And with Telestream’s new professional Flip4Mac digital media import component, Ikegami Editcam FieldPAKs now have file compatibility and direct file transfer into Apple Final Cut Pro systems as well.

The EditcamHD HDN-X10 camcorder, meanwhile, records onto a FieldPAK that can also be recognized and immediately accessed by Avid editors and different adapters. The EditcamHD uses the same FieldPAK as the DNS-33W. The 120 GB capacity would yield about an hour and a half of video when recording at 145 Mbps. Future implementation of 220 Mbps recording is also planned. The EditcamHD also sports an internal downconverter that outputs NTSC, which is primarily used for on-set monitoring. It automatically switches to PAL when the camera section is switched to 50i.

The EditcamHD HDN-X10 camcorder is designed not for HD ENG but as a higher-end production tool. The most consequential reason is the size of the files it’s recording. Ikegami employs Avid’s DNxHD codec in the EditcamHD HDN-X10 camcorder, which, as mentioned above, can record at 145 Mbps or, in the future, 220 Mbps. While 220 Mbps recording offers unrivaled quality in a small, self-contained camera package, the volume of media generated in a typical news environment precludes it from the consideration of most stations. At such a bit-rate, a fleet of ten HD cameras could reasonably be expected to generate a staggering terabyte of media per day. Even recording at 145 Mbps, the amount of server space required for conventional workflows is daunting. Most facilities’ existing infrastructure wouldn’t even support files of this size.

Having said that, Avid’s DNxHD codec offers gorgeous quality with amazing efficiency. Engineered to withstand the rigors of multi-generational processing, the DNxHD codec is a perfect match for the EditcamHD. The codec has been used in commercial and documentary mastering, notably in director Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11.

In addition to using the DNxHD codec, the EditcamHD HDN-X10 camcorder also makes use of three of the latest generation AltaSens 2.1 megapixel CMOS sensors. This groundbreaking advancement in sensor technology enables the EditcamHD to record 1080/60i, 1080/50i, 1080/24p, 720/60p or 720/50p, all natively from the sensors without further conversion. The ability to record in multiple formats is critical to an independent shooter looking to fill the needs of a diverse clientele. And with 24p capability, that clientele now includes high-end episodic television and theatrical motion picture producers.

Whether it’s a DNS-33W Editcam3 being used for TV news or a EditcamHD HDN-X10 camcorder on the set of an episodic series or theatrical feature, any camera operator or DP would be hard-pressed to spot any differences between these cameras and other broadcast-quality digital camcorders they may have previously used. When you press the RECORD button these camcorders record images along with up to four channels of audio sampled at 48k. But the nonlinear aspect of the Editcam and EditcamHD provides acquisition features that are impossible with a conventional tape transport.

One such feature is seen in a pair of buttons marked PREVIOUS and NEXT. They allow the camera operator or DP to jump from clip to clip in a nonlinear mode. Imagine that the operator or DP is reviewing a clip, either watching it play in the viewfinder or on the color LCD side panel. Suddenly, something occurs in front of the camera that needs to be recorded. Hitting the RECORD button automatically records the footage to an empty spot on the FieldPAK disk, ensuring that—unlike tape—previously recorded material won’t be erased.

Another Editcam nonlinear acquisition feature impossible with a conventional tape transport is Retroloop. It allows the camera operator or DP to fill a buffer with video that is constantly being updated but not saved until the RECORD button is pressed. If the DP is, for example, waiting for wildlife to emerge from its habitat during a nature shoot or if the news photographer is waiting for a notorious suspect to be walked out of the courthouse, he or she can rest assured that they’ll be able to capture the event after it’s happened, even if the lens is trained on the action point for hours. Yet another Editcam acquisition feature not possible with a conventional tape transport is time-lapse and animation recording. Ikegami is first and foremost a camera manufacturer, and both the HDN-X10 EditcamHD and the third-generation Editcam3 DNS-33W camcorder benefit from the latest innovations found in our studio cameras.

José Rosado is an Editcam Product Manager for the Broadcast Products Division of Ikegami Electronics (U.S.A.), Inc. (