File-based workflow, codec progress point way to future HD newsgathering

As the focus of HD news operations gradually shifts to field acquisition throughout the next few years, news directors, news engineers and station management would do well to remember how HD remotes will be integrated into a file-based workflow back at the station, according to author, consultant and HD expert Tore Nordahl.

Nordahl, who recently published an update to his 142-page “HD ENG/EFP & HDV Camcorders for Broadcasting & Production,” has identified the integration of HD acquisition into file-based workflows as the top priority for news operations as they plan for HD.

“We have realized for sometime that the old tape cassette is now finally on its way out,” he said. “And although people are still using a lot of tape, the emerging models of HD camcorders are all without internal tape cassette drives.”

Pointing out that three major HD acquisition formats — Sony’s XDCAM HD, Panasonic’s DVCPro HD P2 and Grass Valley’s Infinity — all reflect the ultimate adoption of file-based acquisition for HD, Nordahl said removal of the ingest step, fast sharing of files and searchable archives would give station news operations an incentive to continue their drive toward file-based workflows, even in the HD domain where bandwidth requirements are greater.

Steps are being taken to make bit rates and bandwidth requirements manageable in the newsroom and the field. At NAB2006, Panasonic announced its professional ENG format called AVC-Intra, which compresses HD to 50Mb/s intraframe. In May, Sony and Panasonic jointly announced a consumer format called AVCHD, which Nordahl said had the potential of delivering “very good HD picture quality at a data rate of less than 20Mb/s.”

Nordahl predicted the AVCHD format would soon find professional uses and that “in the longer term,” the new format would “take over” the portion of the market “now being developed by the HDV camcorders.”

MPEG-4 Part 10 H.264 and JPEG 2000, Nordahl said, will be “important in the long term” for ENG use.