Skip to main content

Tapeless Editing Emerges in 2004

What a year it has been! For this last "Focus on Editing" installment in 2004, we're going to look back on the most significant post-production watershed crowning the calendar--the move toward tapeless editing.

Many of us have been editing off-disk for some time. But since acquisition has been stuck in the tape era, there's been the bottleneck of getting those shots from the field into our NLEs by somehow spooling them from one end of a reel to the other. Well, no longer.

Now that four companies--JVC, Sony, Panasonic and Ikegami--have presented versions of recording systems devoid of tape, the days of "hold on while I rewind" may be history.

"There are a number of tapeless options available right now, and the choices are becoming more robust every day," said Pete Fasciano, co-founder of Avid and a corporate fellow there for advanced development. "Tapeless editing is a new art, but it's a rapidly advancing art."


JVC is the exclusive source for the FireStore DR-DV5000 portable DV (25 Mbps) disk-recording module made by Focus Enhancements that is designed to dock on the back of JVC's GY-DV5000U camcorder.

As Dave Walton, communications marketing manager for JVC explained, the DR-DV5000 has a unique direct-to-edit (DTE) feature that records edit-ready video in the native NLE file formats required by different manufacturers. Cutting in Final Cut Pro? The DR-DV5000 gives you the kind of files Apple's FCP requires. Posting on Avid? Again, you can tell the DR-DV5000 to record OMF files that require no subsequent conversion.

Using standard hot-pluggable FireWire magnetic hard drives, the DR-DV5000 comes with a 40 GB (184 minutes of record time) or 80 GB (369 minutes) IDE drive, each fast enough to let you edit directly off them via a IEEE-1394 connection.

"Thanks to DTE, every clip stored on the camera's DR-DV5000 will instantaneously appear on your timeline from any of the hundreds of DR-DV5000 recording modules in the field," Walton said. "It's just like hanging your edit system on the back of the camera without any additional input devices except a $25 FireWire cable."

Ken Miles, director of business development at Avid said, "It just works. We know lots of people using the DR-DV5000, and it just works as a practical removable hard-drive system."


Since last April, Sony Electronics has delivered more than 400 of its XDCAM optical-disc recording systems to U.S. customers, including CBS, CNN and King World Productions, which uses it for "Inside Edition." (More than 3,500 XDCAMS have been shipped worldwide.)

The XDCAM family includes the PDW-510 DVCAM and the PDW-530 MPEG IMX/DVCAM optical-disc camcorders, the PDW-1500 optical-disc compact deck with jog/shuttle capabilities, and the PDW-V1 optical-disc mobile deck. The system uses blue-laser Sony Professional Disc optical media, which can store 23.3 GB on one disc for 85 minutes of reusable recording, depending upon format.

Wayne Zuchowski, network and optical solutions marketing manager for Sony Electronics said "XDCAM records either DVCAM (25 Mbps) or Sony's own IMX format (30, 40 or 50 Mbps), and gives you file-based recording simultaneously in both full IMX/DVCAM resolution and also as an MPEG-4 proxy. That way you can transport the proxies over IP or for instant browsing before transferring your higher-rez images into your NLE."

XDCAM is fully compatible with Sony's XPRI nonlinear edit system, and most other NLE manufacturers will be able to access the MPEG-4 proxies at 30 to 50 times real time early next year. Full-rez DVCAM images require five times real time to import over Gigabit Ethernet or 2.5X via i-Link--Sony's version of FireWire. The XDCAM system has an optional 24PsF card that enables the system to switch from interlace to 24p recording. Fox's "The Next Great Champ," to air in January, was shot in 24p with XDCAM.

At the October SMPTE meeting in Pasadena, Calif., Avid's Jim Frantzreb, senior product marketing manager for broadcast and workgroups, demonstrated shipping versions of XDCAM at the company's exhibit.

"Over Gigabit Ethernet, we can import XDCAM's original DV files at more than real time," Frantzreb said, "but at a speed that is perfectly acceptable. We look forward to a phase II development that will let us instantly import the MPEG-4 proxy files sometime next year."


Panasonic's tapeless solution is based on P2 cards that use solid-state secure digital flash memory to store DV-based media. For trivia buffs, there never was a P1, and there probably won't be a P3 since "P2" just stands for "Professional Plug-in."

A P2 card is comprised of six major electronic components: four SD memory cards, a P2 control LSI, and the external connector, all housed in a PCMCIA Type II form-factor case. In Panasonic terminology, P2 is designed for nonlinear ENG based on Internet technology, so ENG becomes "ING" or "IT News Gathering."

A key advantage to this approach, according to Phil Livingston, Panasonic vice president and technical liaison, is that since the cost of SD flash memory is driven by the marketplace, its price will continue to fall. Currently, there are two levels of P2 cards--a 2-GB card that records eight minutes of DVCPRO 25 and a 4-GB card (16 minutes). Cut those times in half for DVCPRO 50.

"This architecture should survive up to 32 GB on a single SD card," he said, "so even HD applications should be possible in the near future with P2 modules reaching up to 128 GB."

P2 can transfer DV material onto an NLE laptop at about two times real time, with the limitation being the speed of the hard drive itself.

Thanks to "card spanning," the metadata recorded with each clip tells the system how to seamlessly record and play back while jumping from one card to another. Also, P2 is Media eXchange Format (MXF) compatible, so its files can be read in DVCPRO 25's native format by any MXF Operational Pattern (OP) Adam-compliant edit system directly.

"With its card transfer rate of 640 Mb, we have seen five video streams and 12 audio channels coming off a P2 card simultaneously," Livingston said.

Again, Avid's Frantzreb demonstrated those five streams of simultaneous video at the October SMPTE meeting, and Avid's Miles said, "P2 is a very interesting technology, and we intend to support it completely in an upcoming product release."


Finally, Ikegami and Avid developed the Editcam disk-based recording system in 1995, and has sold thousands of units to U.S. government and military clients and to news organizations in Europe and Japan.

At GV Expo in Washington, D.C., Ikegami showed off its latest iteration, the DNS-33W Editcam3 camcorder with an 80 GB FieldPak2 that can record six hours of DV25 digital video and four channels of audio.

According to José Rosado, Ikegami's product specialist for the Editcam line, "FieldPak2 is availablehard-drive or solid-state memory versions, and its material is immediately available to an NLE user--so there is never any delay digitizing footage into a nonlinear edit system."

Perhaps most exciting, at NAB2004, Ikegami demonstrated recording and playback from a FieldPak at 220 Mbps using Avid's DNxHD codec attached to an Avid DS system. Since the DNxHD codec records the full pixel count of each HD line, without "raster decimation," the Ikegami/Avid approach may be the first gateway to tapeless HD recording. Look for a prototype of an HD Editcam using DNxHD compression and CMOS sensors at NAB2005.

So save those well-worn tape cassettes, fellow editors. One of these days they may have as great an antique value as a can of Edivue Diluent splicing developer. Happy Holidays!