Panasonic P2 HD hits the trail and the Internet for end-to-end Iditarod coverage

By Carl Lindemann
SVG New Media correspondent

Panasonic Broadcast is using a fleet of P2 HD solid-state memory camcorders to capture Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. This marks the first year that the entire 1,150-mile sled dog race will be recorded in high definition and the footage will be used to produce documentary features about the event. Meanwhile, a special Website has been posted to get the footage out fast to fans as well as to demonstrate the power of the tapeless workflow.

Panasonic P2 HD camcorders are recording the teams of dogs and their mushers during the marathon race which started in Anchorage on March 4 and will end in Nome 10 to 17 days later. Six video crews equipped with 10 Panasonic P2 HD cameras – the AJ-HPX2000 2/3” shoulder-mount and AG-HVX200 handheld – are on the trail to record the 87 sled dog teams during the race. For Jan Crittenden, Panasonic Broadcast product line business manager, the famed race across the wasteland is an opportunity to show the nay-sayers what the tapeless HD format can do.

“Over last year, people have told me that P2 is just for news,” says Crittenden. “They have said it’s not suitable for documentaries, that it’s not proven under extreme environmental conditions. All of these objections have just come up in people’s heads without any grounding in reality, so I look at this as an opportunity to settle these questions once and for all.”

According to Crittenden, shooting this year’s event with P2 provides an “a-b” comparison with last year’s shot with Betacam SP. Then, the 140 hours of footage shot for the Iditarod Committee made its way into numerous one-hour documentaries. But the tape-based 4×3 SD shoot suffered from more than HD envy. The minus-40 degree conditions go beyond what tape can take, making sled-based shooting difficult. Add gale force winds, the need for a 450-pound transmitter setup to transfer footage, plus lugging a full-blown Beta SP edit suite made for some tough sledding. Now, P2’s laptop-based setup makes for instant ingest, quick edits, and then compression to post to the Internet. What’s more, there’s been no problem at –40 (or even down to –50F) using the solid-state P2 cards so there will be on-the-ground coverage end-to-end.

“This is far faster than anyone has been able to do it before,” says Crittenden. “The 16×9 we’re posting online is also in a different quality as far as image quality. It’s fatter and richer.”

Crittenden also brought along a prototype of the new HPX500 camcorder with 2/3-inch chips, 4 card slots and an interchangeable lens at a list price of $14,000. The camcorder, set to hit the spotlight at NAB is, he says, the big brother to HVX200. The Iditarod footage shot on the new unit with give NAB visitors a chance to make side-by-side comparisons that, he promises, will inspire tail wagging.

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