Sony gung-ho for HDTV

Don't tell Sony that HDTV is a bust. The nation's leading TV-equipment supplier is heading into the National Association of Broadcasters convention this April with an expanded line of high-def production gear.

"We've had trouble keeping up with demand," says Ed Grebow, president of Sony Broadcast and Professional Products.

"The acceptance of 24p by program producers has exceeded even our own expectations," Grebow says. "Whether it be for motion picture feature production or prime time episodic television, 24p is firmly established throughout the world."

The 24p refers to HDTV with progressive scanning and a 24-per-second frame rate that permits easy transfer to 35mm film-still the medium of choice for movie theaters.

HDTV for live production is also growing, Grebow says. CBS used the Sony HDCAM 60i line (interlaced scanning at 60 frames per second) to produce the Sony Open golf tournament and the Super Bowl last month, he says, and plans to use it for its Masters golf tournament coverage this April.

"Price points for HDCAM 60i production systems are becoming more affordable, comparable with industry-standard Digital Betacam systems for standard definition," Grebow says.

So here's what's debuting at NAB:

  • The MAV-777 Multi-Access Video Disk Recorder-Using HDCAM compression, the MAV-777 HD recorder can handle live sports and news production. It's compatible with the Sony BE editors and with controllers for the MAV-555 standard-definition (SD) disk recorder. With one input, one output and three hours of storage, the recorder is listed at $94,000. With two inputs, two outputs and six hours of storage, the price rises to $131,000.

-The HDW-2000 series-Intended to speed HD into newsrooms, the series comprises the HDW-2000, a HDCAM video cassette recorder; the HDW-M2000, an HDCAM recorder that can playback other formats, including Digital Betacam, MPEG IMX, Betacam SX and Betacam SP; and the HDW-2100, a player with the same half-inch format compatiblity. The entire line provides built-in up conversion and down conversion. The HDW-2000 lists for $40,000; the HDW-M2000, for $60,000; and the HDW-M2100, for $50,000.

  • The XPRI nonlinear editing system-Taking over for the ES-3 and ES-7 systems, the XPRI can handle a variety of signal formats, including compressed HDCAM; uncompressed HD at 1080i-50, 1080i-60 or 1080p-24; and compressed 50 Mb/s MPEG. Users can buy an SD-only version and upgrade later to HD. XPRI uses the same effects algorithms as the Sony DME-7000 effects system. Sony says the systems will be available in April but, as of last week, had not announced prices.

The MVS switcher-Sony is attempting to extend its reach into the live-switcher market with this flexible new switcher that can shift from SD to HD "in a matter of seconds." It can be configured with two, three or four mix-effects banks-each with four keyers. The switcher also incorporates full-blown 3-D digital effects with multiple time lines per channel and LCD buttons that can be labeled electronically. It will be ready in August, but Sony isn't talking prices yet.

  • HDW-750 and HDW-730-Sony's two new HDCAM camcorders, which differ only in the type of CCDs they use, will take some of the weight off the news shooter. Sony's first-generation HD camcorder, the HDW-700, was the size of a Digital Betacam camcorder; the new models are the size of Betacam SX-that is, significantly smaller. The new camcorders cost about the same as the HDW-700 but are better in low light and give the operator more control over color and gamma. The HDW-750, fitted with FIT CCDs, sells for $65,000 and will be available right after NAB; the HDW-730, with IT CCDs, will be ready (and priced) by the end the year.

The BVW-F24U CineAlta Monitor-Designed for 24p movie makers, the 24-inch flat-panel features circuitry that, Sony says, "virtually eliminates flicker." Available this October, it sells for $27,000.