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Eyes on the Prize

When Sony introduced its XDCAM optical-disc-based format at last year's NAB, it signaled a new era in newsgathering: the ability to move out of the world of linear tape and into the world of disc. Improved workflow was an added bonus, say Alec Shapiro, senior vice president, marketing, Sony Broadcast and Production Systems Division, and Theresa Alesso, general manager/director of marketing, optical, display and network products group, Sony. Here they discuss the new format.

How are the XDCAM shipments going?

They started the first week of March, and the first 200 units we've received from Japan are on their way to customers. We're selling the first-generation product on a direct basis, but we do have 26 resellers acting as broadcast reps. They're selling the product, plus we've sold quite a few units to rental companies like BandPro in Los Angeles and Film Equipment Video in Colorado.

You mention the rental houses. It seems that, while Panasonic's P2 format would be able to compete in the news market, Sony would have an advantage in long-form production. Can you comment on what you see as the opportunity in that market?

It's funny … we view optical as the next format for newsgathering. We target it because it's the single largest application that is easy to identify and we understand that business very well. But [broadcasters] operate on a fiscal-year budget, and, if they haven't budgeted to purchase optical or other gear in 2004, they won't make significant purchases. But independent producers and freelancers don't work on the same fiscal structure. We saw this in the '80s when we introduced Betacam SP. It was positioned as an ENG format, but the majority of initial users in years one and two were from the production community. But ultimately, it became the news standard.

You mentioned Betacam SP, and there are obviously a lot of stations still using tape. Should they be concerned about camera development on the tape side or support for tape products?

I don't think so. It was years before we finally let go of Umatic products, and we'll continue to support tape products. But what optical does is add to the benefits we've provided in the tape-based world and put new workflow enhancements on top of that. But we won't be kicking away the products that have done so well for us for the past 20 years.

What's your general advice to stations considering optical? How do they integrate it into their facility?

If they have the budget to make the transition and they're replacing everything and going to nonlinear editing, then it makes sense to go with the forklift approach. But the benefit of optical is that it works so well in the existing system because of the inputs and outputs it has. And, if you want to do it step by step or room by room, you can do that. We leave it up to the customer to decide.