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Panasonic Gets Graphic

Panasonic has been known for offering products in a number of different product areas in the U.S. market, but one that has escaped its attention has been graphics. This year, that changes. NAB attendees can expect to see a graphics processor make its U.S. debut.

Stuart English, Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems vice president, marketing, says the AV-CGP500 began with a joint development of virtual-set technology with NHK two years ago. "It made an astonishingly good virtual set at the time, with all the processing done in hardware instead of on an SGI platform."

The product will be able to render 1080i and 480 graphics. Future versions will be 720p/60- and 1080/24p-capable. The system can be used for virtual-studio applications, but English thinks the HD graphics application will find the most interest from broadcasters.

"This is a third-generation system that fits in a 2RU box," he says. "It isn't a big computer that needs special treatment so it will be attractive for truck applications."

VizRT's graphic application currently sits on top of the platform, but any OpenGL PC applications can be used. The unit's 40,000-polygon/field and 533M-pixels/second fill rate, along with 1-GB texture memory, will no doubt help expand those applications. Defocus image generation, bump mapping, and other 3-D effects are also available along with a built-in chroma keyer. At NAB, the processor will be demonstrated at both VizRT's booth (in a virtual-studio application) and the Panasonic booth (in a sports application).

Panasonic's NAB booth will also be ablaze with products featuring Firewire connections, which give users connectivity with greater bandwidth and make it easier to transfer content without any quality loss to computer-based nonlinear editing systems.

The efforts are a result of addressing a user base whose jobs are increasingly IT- and IP-centric. "Many users are much more comfortable with computer-based systems," English says.

One new product that should see plenty of interest is the AJ-DE10, a Firewire-equipped, ruggedized laptop-computer-based news editing system.

"It's a NewsByte application running on our ToughBook laptop series, which we sell a lot of into the Army, Navy and those who need rugged performance in the field," says English. It will also have options for an external jog pad and audio-fader modules that can be connected via USB interface. Pricing is to be determined.

Other Firewire developments include a new AJ-YAD955G interface board that brings Firewire to DVCPRO50 VTRs, eliminating the need for a PCI capture card to be installed in nonlinear editing systems. List price on the card is $1,500. The new AJ-SD755 DVCPRO VTR ($12,000) will also have Firewire capabilities as will the AG-DV2500 DV Proline VTR ($1,995).

In other VTR news, Panasonic will introduce the AJ-HD1700 studio VTR, which gives users more than two hours of DVCPRO HD recording on a single XL-size DVCPRO HD cassette. The 4RU VTR also has eight 16-bit, 48-kHz PCM audio channels for 5.1 surround sound plus a stereo mix or multi-language programming. The deck will be available in July priced at $65,000.

A new camcorder will also be on display. The AJ-SDX900 can handle 480i/60 applications as well as 480p/24 demands, switching between 4:2:2 sampled DVCPRO50 and 4:1:1 DVCPRO recording.

"We think it's the logical choice for the production community using Betacam SP and maybe even Digital Betacam," says English. "They're sort of stuck when making a new camera purchase in that they need to decide to move down to 4:1:1 processing DVCAM or up to a higher quality. This gives them an intermediate system."

The camcorder will be available in May for less than $30,000.

A new line of LCD monitors to be exhibited at NAB attempts to meet the demands of truck manufacturers that need to build HD-capable trucks but are looking for ways to minimize the weight of related HDTV monitoring equipment.

English says that, until now, LCD technology hasn't been up to scratch, with poor motion rendition, colorimetry and viewing angles hurting its popularity.

"One by one, those issues were addressed, and now LCD has close to CRT performance," he says. "The challenge now is pricing."

The BT-LH900 is an 8.4-inch LCD monitor weighing 5.5 pounds. HD-capable, it has a native resolution of 1024x768 and is priced at $6,000. It also features built in waveform monitoring and film-to-video gamma matrix conversion.