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Affordable HD: Always a Promise, Now Almost Reality

When NAB held its HDTV World exhibit in the late 1990s, complete with $200,000 HD cameras and $200,000 HD decks, the typical response from attendees was: “It looks great, but…” Their voices would trail off as they came face to face with the price chasm.

At the time, vendors promised that prices would improve. And they have. But this year, the cost of HDTV production will take another drop—and a more significant one. At least three vendors will display HDTV production solutions that cost less than $10,000. Here is a look at what you can expect to see from major vendors on the show floor.


One of the most anticipated products on the NAB floor will be a technology demonstration of an HD version of the XDCAM optical-disk recording system. Sony's booth will feature a fully operational HD XDCAM deck and camcorder, and the company expects to introduce a number of HD XDCAM systems to meet various price-point and production needs.

The company's goal at the show is to get feedback on what features customers will be looking for in terms of imaging, audio, recording capacity and other functions.

For those looking for SD camcorders, two new high-end units will be on display. The MSW-970 ($39,500) records in the MPEG IMX format and the DVW-970 ($48,500) records in the Digital Betacam format. Both have 2/3-inch Power HAD EX CCD imaging sensors, and feature 14-bit A/D converters for improved picture quality. Also, two new DVCAM camcorders, the DSR-400 ($10,800) and the DSR-450WS models ($18,000 for a widescreen version of the DSR-400), are expected to be available.


Looking for another tapeless HD recording option? Ikegami's latest version of the Editcam HD camcorder will have a new 120-GB FieldPak2 so it can record more than an hour of HD material. It also now has Avid's DNxHD mastering codec so it can record HD resolution, full-raster (1920x1080) images that can be edited on laptop and desktop systems in real time. The camera's data rate is 140 Mbps, giving it plenty of room to record images at 1080/60i, 1080/24p and 720/60p (the DNxHD codec also supports 220 Mbps for future applications).

Ikegami is addressing standard-definition tapeless recording with the DNS-33W Editcam3. It uses 80-GB FieldPak2 (either hard-drive or solid-state memory based) and can record six hours of DV25 digital video, with DV50 and IMX formats available as options.


Recording 720p images at 24p is one of the big buzzes in the industry, and JVC is introducing the new GY-HD100 Pro HD camera (expected price of less than $10,000) to meet professional needs. Manufactured at the same plant that builds JVC's other professional cameras, it will feature four-channel audio, interchangeable lenses, and the ability to record to hard disk and tape at the same time. Dave Walton, JVC national marketing communications director, says a patented motion filter will smooth motion and give a look as if the video was shot at 60 frames. The camera will also be able to output 720p/60 fps for recording on other devices.


Panasonic is touting an HD “palmcorder-style” camera based on its P2 solid-state recording technology. Expected to be priced at less than $10,000, this camera could be a factor in driving prices of HD gear to even lower levels because, unlike HDV-based systems, it will be full-HD resolution. Also look for the AW-E860 ($11,000), a native 16:9 camera with three 2/3-inch CCDs. It has 850 lines of horizontal resolution; 63dB signal-to-noise ratio, a minimum illumination of 0.4 lux, a high sensitivity of F11 at 2000 lux, and variable shutter speeds.

Grass Valley Group

Grass Valley's two product introductions are the LDK 4000 and LDK 400 ITW. The LDK 4000 (starts at around $100,000) is designed for small to medium-size digital production studios that will work with only one HD production format, while the LDK 400 (starts at $45,000) is targeted at broadcasters and studios looking for a camera with 14-bit digital signal processing at an affordable price. Features for the LDK-400 include high sensitivity (f14 at 2000 lux) and a signal-to-noise ratio of 65dB.