The future of ENG?

How would you like a portable camera that would allow you to broadcast live pictures without having to hassle with cables? Or how about an ENG camcorder with the convenience of optical-disk technology? Recognizing that many news and sports producers would like such gear, Sony is hard at work developing it.

During a tour of its Atsugi manufacturing plant in Toyko two weeks ago, Sony showed a prototype of a wireless camera and new optical-disk technology it hopes will become the guts of a new breed of camcorder.

The digital wireless camera comprises a 4.5-pound transmitter that fits on the back of conventional ENG cameras. It transmits an MPEG-compressed COFDM signal back to a lunch-box-size receive antenna mounted on a tripod.

According to Sony engineers, the transmitter, which operates in the 2 GHz band and requires 8 MHz of bandwidth, has a range of about 500 meters. The system will work as long as the transmit does not stray outside the receiver's 60-degree "field of view." Also, unlike today's analog wireless cameras, the engineers say, the digital camera doesn't necessarily have to have a line of sight to the receive antenna.

Sony had hoped to show the wireless camera at NAB, but a spokesman last week that it may not: "We're still a couple a years before it goes into production."

Sony's lastest hope for an optical-disk camcorder, which would simplify operation and speed editing, is based on its DVR-Blue technology. With a recording rate of 35 Mb/s and a per-disk capacity of 22.5 GB, DVR-Blue could deliver enough video quality and recording time to make it practical. Engineers say the biggest problem is making the system rugged enough for camcorders.

At Atsugi, the disk recorder was shown by itself on a tabletop. Sony hopes to have it built into a camera for demonstrations at NAB.