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NAB 2008: Sony Touts XDCAM Progress

Sony has completed the development of a new XDCAM HD optical-disc camcorder that has a 2/3-inch imaging chip and will record high-definition video at up to 50 megabits per second with 4:2:2 color sampling.

That is a significant bump in quality from previous XDCAM HD ½-inch chip models, which recorded at rates of 18, 25 or 35 Mbps and used 4:2:0 color sampling. More important, the new PDW-700 camcorder, which will be available in April for a list price of $30,000, will also deliver true 1920-by-1080 hi-def resolution, while the ½-inch cameras only captured 1440-by-1080.

NBC will use the new camera for newsgathering applications during the Olympics this summer. Sony says that networks such as CBS and CNN, which have been using standard-def XDCAM cameras because they liked the quality of their 2/3-inch imaging chips, are expected to upgrade to the new HD camera.

The PDW-700, which can output HD video in either the 1080-line interlace (1080i) or 720-line progressive (720p) HD formats, uses MPEG-2 4:2:2P@HL (high level) compression technology to record on new dual-layer 50 gigabyte (GB) dual-layer optical discs. The 50 GB XDCAM HD discs, which are available now for $60, provide approximately 95 minutes of record time at 50 Mbps, 150 minutes at 35 Mbps and 200 minutes at 25 Mbps HD. The PDW-700 camera is complemented by a new, $20,000 high-end recording deck, the PDW-HD1500, which will also ship in April.

Sony has sold some 31,000 units of XDCAM to date, including its popular new solid-state XDCAM EX hi-def camcorder, which records video on flash memory cards and costs $7,000. Sony senior VP of sales and marketing Alec Shapiro calls XDCAM EX, which began shipping in November, “our most successful product launch ever,” and claims that Sony is actually experiencing a back-order problem due to demand. He says Sony will have shipped 5,000 XDCAM EX units by NAB.

Sony will unveil 25 new products in all within its 24,000-square-foot booth at NAB, which will be broken into five key areas: HD News & Field Production (with products such as XDCAM HD); HD Live Production (with high-end studio cameras such as the HDC-1500); HD Event Production (more affordable HD gear, including two new HDV-format camcorders, the $6,850 HVR-Z7U handheld and $10,500 HVR-S270U shoulder-mount model); HD Digital Cinema Production (including a new CineAlta camera with a 35 mm lens); and an area with all of Sony's display products including the BVM-L420. That's a new 42-inch LCD master monitor with 10-bit processing that is designed for program and preview monitoring in broadcast master control rooms or mobile production trucks.

The shift to LCD monitors is in full swing, says Shapiro, who says as a sign of the times that for the first time ever, there will be no CRT (cathode-ray tube) monitors in Sony's booth.