NAB Sunday: Panasonic and Sony Press Conferences

What the two big camera companies taked about officially.
Adam Wilt
By Adam Wilt 04.16.12

One of many GH2s being used to record the Panasonic press conference.

When big companies hold press conferences, they're a mix of marketing / sales encomiums from happy customers, and some actual useful information about technologies and products. I'll mostly focus on the tech stuff that Panasonic and Sony announced today (and adding my own snarky commentary in [square brackets]).

Panasonic Press Conference

Theme is "Xtraordinary performance for the real world". [Due to supply-chain problems in post-tsunami Japan, Panasonic is apparently short of capital "E"s this year.]

Major things: Micro P2, AVC Ultra, AC130/160 upgrades, PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom remotely-operated) cameras and system products, AV-HS410 switcher upgrades.

It's been 9 years since P2 was introduced. 250 thousand sold. TV station users: Univision; Sinclair (P2 and PTZ); WABC-NY (HPX2000/370/250 cameras); Young Broadcasting; Barrington Broadcasting (repeat customer, 5 stations); CNBC (PTZ for NYSE and 4 years of P2). Sports: HMC10 POV cam very popular; NHL uses HC1500 box camera and 2700 Varicam; 80% of NCAA division 1 teams use P2 and AVCCAM. 2012 Olympics using P2HD as official format: 200 cams, 300 recorders, 1000 monitors. Bexel also supplying P2 gear to international broadcasters. AG-3DP1 3D for Olympics: 200 hrs; on NBC in USA.

Panasonic's "Shoot It | Share It" contest this year concentrated on AF100 content (The Panasonic micro-four-thirds LSS camcorder). Graham Streeter's "This Guy's in Love with You" won the grand prize.

Product stuff:

Sorry, no new MFT camcorder to build upon or succeed the AF100; no new MFT lenses. Dang. However, software upgrade for the AF100: 1080/60p at 28mbps, 2.35:1 display marker; available May, $250.

Updated 1/3" handhelds: AG-AC130A and AC160A add expanded focus, one push autofocus, 60p, to the feature sets of the AC130 and AC160. $5100 for the 160A and $4200 for the 130A. You'll be able to upgrade existing 130/160 cams to A level for $300.

New HPX255, $7000 uses a remote operations panel for remote control/shading; first time that I recall seeing this level of professional remote control in a 1/3" handheld (though the Sony NXCAMs with the RM-1000 remote come close).

HPX250 upgrade adds focus-in-red, turbo autofocus (so now both the 130/160 and the 250 give you both expanded focus and focus-in-red). Vitec's Focus FS-P250 264 proxy recorder, $1400, will allow proxy recording from the 250 (I think).

Monitors: BT-LH2170 is a 21.5", 1920x1080 native IPS LCD display with 3D assist features and a 3D LUT capability. The BT-LH1850, 18.5", accepts SDI or HDMI, has 3D LUT, LED backlighting: 22 watts, $2600. A 3-chip DLP projector, 20,000 lumens, PT-DZ21K due in May, price TBA.

AV-HS410 smart switcher upgrade: thumbnails of clips, 2-channel playback, Ethernet clip transfer.

HPX600 this fall: 2/3" with LiveU video uplink (future option), AVC Ultra compatibility in the future; think of a future-proofed 2/3" big brother to the HPX370.

Details on the HPX600, an upcoming $16,000 2/3" 3MOS camcorder.

Left side of the HPX600 mockup.

How the LinkU system currently works. There will be a dockable module for the HPX600 in the future.

Partnerships: Dejero LIVE+ software (and card?) in Panasonic Toughbook 53 laptop, allows live transmission over LTE mobile networks, delivers genlocked HD SDI to station equipment.

Panasonic Production Network (PPN) with London's Aframe; cloud-based media management servers. Upload & store unlimited amounts of full res media, $99/month. Gigabit plus speeds. [It'll be interesting to see how this plays out in bandwidth-challenged America!]

AVC Ultra will record on Micro P2 cards, starting in 2013. Same form factor as current SDXC cards, uses RAIDing within the card (just as original P2 cards RAID SD cards internally) to get the data rate.

Micro P2 card and adapter. Adapter is the size of current P2 cards.

AVC Ultra: Class 200 (200Mbit/sec), AVC LongG (long-GOP), Class 444 for 1080p, 2K, and 4K. AVC Proxy, too. 60p support on Classes 50 and up. Class 200 is said to be visually lossless. Class 444 will be 12 bit; 4K takes about 400 Mbps. AVC Proxy suitable for airing breaking news while awaiting the full-res delivery; future products should all include proxy generation. DVS Clipster offers Class 200 now.

4K concept camera shown; NOT a product yet, but Panasonic's "balsacams" have a history of turning into real products in a year to 18 months, so this looks, shall we say, interesting...

Left side of the 4K Varicam mockup.

Right side of the 4K Varicam mockup.

Details of the 4K Varicam left side.

Overall: a real focus on systems-level integration / extension / maturation; aside from the 4K Varicam mockup it's all solid, workaday stuff expanding and filling in the product lines, codecs, and storage media for file-based workflows. Incremental upgrades to existing products (often with upgrade options for cameras and switchers in the field; very nice) rather than groundbreaking new stuff. No focus on 3D, which some Panasonic folks said to me hasn't been the breakthrough product category they'd hoped it would be.

Next: Sony's Press Conference...

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