Sony high (def) on XDCAM

Sports broadcasters and teams looking for another HD option will have yet another in early March when Sony begins shipping XDCAM HD, the high-definition version of its XDCAM blu-ray based recording format.

All sports teams are dealing with HD networks that are asking the teams for footage but the can only provide SD footage, says Bob Ott, vice president of professional audio and video products for Sony Electronics Broadcast and Production Systems Division of the sports market. So the teams and leagues are looking at the HD solutions and figuring out how they can get into HD with the least amount of expense and impact on their infrastructure.

Pricing for the new XDCAM-HD camcorders is $25,800 for the high-end PDW350 and $16,800 for the PDW330. The PDW350 has overcranking and undercranking for slow-motion or fast-motion effects and also HDSDI output and balanced XLR audio outputs. The PDW300 only has analog audio outputs and analog component connections.

Two decks are also available: the PDWF70 recording deck ($15,990) and the PDWF30 viewing deck ($9,500). Both the decks have jog-shuttles as well to quickly move through footage.
With respect to image quality the camcorders use three 1/2-inch CCDs with a sampling rate of 4:2:0 (those looking for 4:2:2 will need to go to higher-level HDCAM systems).

Pictorially what we re essentially doing is taking a 1440×1080 signal, which amounts to around 750 Mbps, and use a 4:2:0 version of that stream and then compress it to three different bit rates, says Hugo Gaggioni, Sony Broadcast, CTO.

Those three bit rates are 18 Mbps (delivering 120 minutes of HD recording on a single 23 GB blu-ray disk), 25 Mbps (for 90 minutes of recording and compatibility with HDV material) and 35 Mbps (delivering 60 minutes of recording per disk).

Giving sports users flexibility in bit rate can prove important. More and more teams are moving to server-based storage of games and practices, so being able to cut storage costs with the help of video compression could make XDCAM HD a winner. Our competition is offering data rates of 75 Mbps and 100 Mbps so someone using those systems will need up to three times the amount of server storage, says Ott in reference to Panasonic s DVCPRO P2 HD and Grass Valley s Infinity systems.

The XDCAM HD system has the same workflow as the standard-definition version and also records on the same disks. New features include Freeze Mix, letting the cameraperson switch seamlessly between pre-recorded material on the disk and a live shot. That makes it possible for the camera person to do the type of video switching that previously required another person in a truck or back at a station.

Another feature is the Expand Function which takes a clip and then divides into 12 evenly timed sections. Each one of those sections has its own thumbnail so an editor can easily find the clip they re looking for (one clip can have the expand function applied up to three times for a longer clip like a football game or tennis set).

Ott also says the ability to shoot at variable frame rates for slow-motion effects can also come in handy for sports broadcasters.
Gaggioni points to the system s ability to support Gigabit Ethernet and iLink (or FireWire) is an important feature. We can stream content over FireWire and also use the same interface to use file access mode where we transmit content as data packets, he says. Data can also be moved over the Gigabit Ethernet as files.

At least one segment of the sports market won t have to wait until NAB to check out the new system. It s expected to be on display at the NFL combine in February and at least two NFL clubs are seriously considering the new format.

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