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IBC2008: Panasonic Touts Olympics Role, AVCHD Momentum

Panasonic used the platform of IBC2008 to highlight its role in last month’s 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and describe the continued progress of AVCHD, a low-cost compressed camera format that records video on standard SD (secure digital) solid-state memory cards instead of the specialized P2 memory cards used by its higher-end DVCPRO HD camcorder line.

In an elaborate presentation in the RAI Auditorium’s “Big Screen,” Jaume Rey, head of Panasonic Broadcast’s European business, described the breadth of equipment Panasonic supplied to host broadcaster Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, which used DVCPRO HD as its official recording format: more than 100 camcorders, including solid-state P2 HD AJ-HPX3000 and AJ-HPX2000 models; 250 recorders, including the new P2 HD AJ-HPM110 P2 Mobile; and approximately 1,500 production monitors.

Panasonic’s giant AstroVision screens and Ramsa audio equipment were also used to support the opening and closing ceremonies held at the “Bird’s Nest” stadium.

Panasonic has shipped more than 100,000 units of P2 HD worldwide to some 900 broadcasters, Rey said, and 29 third-party vendors showed their support for the format at IBC including editing and effects firms like Autodesk and Apple, who both appeared at Panasonic’s IBC2008 press event. Rey added that the popularity of the P2 format isn’t just about a recording format without moving parts, but about the complete file-based work flow that it enables.

“It’s not about tapeless, it’s about IT [information technology],” he said.

Along those lines, Panasonic Broadcast product manager Volker Kersbaum announced that German broadcaster ZDF is adopting AVC-Intra, the new version of P2 HD that uses advanced video compression to record HD video at high-quality bit rates (50 and 100 megabits per second, with 10-bit video and 4:2:2 color sampling), as its house production and archiving format.

Autodesk vice president Bruno Sargent also took the stage to describe the support for AVC-Intra by his company’s compositing and effects products.

Panasonic also introduced a European version of its AG-HMC150 AVCHD handheld camcorder, the AG-HMC151E, which uses MPEG-4 compression to record HD video at bit rates up to 21 mbps and store it on SD memory cards. That product will sell for 3,650 euros, or about $5,175. Adobe said it will support native editing of AVCHD and provide a transcription-based browsing tool called SpeechSearch that uses metadata to find and sort AVCHD clips.

Panasonic also announced that it launched a major distribution effort in Europe to push the AVCHD format by forming sales agreements with dealers in France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.

Under the distribution deal -- which focuses on the AG-HMC151 and shoulder-mounted AG-HMC71 cameras -- the dealers committed to take an initial 3,000 AVCHD units in the 2008 fiscal year.