Sony Looks to 3D and Beyond

Sony Professional Solutions Group aims to move sports production firmly beyond HD. At next month’s NAB Show, it will introduce a 3D camcorder that records on XDCAM EX; further developments in low-weight, high-quality OLED display technology; and even 4K-format (and 8K) acquisition systems that can lead to sharper replays and a stronger ability to zoom in on close plays without losing HD resolution.

Shoji Nemoto, SVP/corporate executive/co-president, Sony Professional Solutions Group, unveiled the products at a special press event from Sony’s Atsugi Technology Center in Japan.

The introductions come in a content-creation and -delivery environment facing many challenges and opportunities. While most of TV-station and broadcast-network revenue derives from HD and SD content, delivery of 3D and higher-resolution formats like 2K, 4K, and 8K promise compelling improvements to the viewing experience. Sony’s NAB intros are squarely focused on answering the challenges, creating opportunities, and lessening customer fears about future technologies.

“We introduced HD more than 10 years ago, and there was doubt that it would happen,” Nemoto says, “Today, there is some doubt as to the value of 4K, but we built that, and it has happened in the cinema market. And 3D for sports like golf and soccer is bringing value to our customers.”

3D Options
After the NAB Show, Sony will offer six 3D-camera options, including the shoulder camcorder that the company says is ideal for mid-distance shots on sidelines, interviews, or ENG. And a 3D Handycam will meet the needs of short-distance 3D shooting, such as goal cameras and broadcast booths.

As for the role of 4K acquisition systems, Nemoto notes that current applications in security systems demonstrate how sports broadcasters could use 4K for current HD productions. “In security, they extract HD pictures out of the full 4K image. We can easily adapt it for 3D theater needs,” he says. “And, as we have scaled volume, there will be a price reduction of the total system, as we can focus resources and have redundancies in development.”

Last week, Panasonic pulled the covers off an archive system for the P2 format, and Sony is engaging in similar efforts for its tapeless format with an XDCAM Archive system that can store 800 hours at 50 Mbps but more than 85,000 hours of proxy video at 500 kbps. In addition, the database can control up to 85,000 hours of offline storage, and an XDCAM jukebox can be used as an online archive for importing and exporting to the archive storage system.

OLED Monitors
The developments in OLED will first be seen in the Trimaster EL monitor line that currently comprises a 25-in. and a 17-in. model. The technology has many benefits, but one drawback is that the organic elements within the displays eventually die. Sony is looking to solve that problem.

“We need to add some circuit technology for uniformity control, and we are also aware of concerns about the life of OLED,” says Nemoto. “But we have some experience in prolonging the life of OLED technology and some in-house knowhow.”

A Behavioral Change
To access some external knowhow, Sony will be working more closely with third-party suppliers.

“We do not want to be proprietary but open to third parties,” says Nemoto. “We are not strong enough in the nonlinear-editing market, so we are open to disclosing our API, and that kind of behavior is a change for our team. But it is needed to deliver all of the value of our products for our customers.”

Key to those third-party developments is the Sony Media Backbone, a software-based system originally designed to help postproduction facilities and movie studios tie digital islands together and track workflows and task completion. Such companies as Amberfin, Avid, BBC Radiant Grid, IBM, and Cinergy have already signed on to be easily integrated within the Media Backbone, and other manufacturers are expected to sign on in the future.

Sony also has the ability to tap into equipment from manufacturers that do not officially sign on, as long as the required metadata content and APIs are available to be built into the Backbone.

In-House Teamwork
Along with collaborating outside of the Sony brand will be collaboration inside. Nemoto says that a lot of Sony technologies will emerge out of a more collaborative effort with the company’s semiconductor and consumer groups.

“We want to leverage the consumer technologies and its value for this business as the digital-imaging group can bring some processes together,” he explains. Developments in OLED, battery, and core components can also be leveraged across the Sony companies.

By working more closely with the consumer-products group, the Professional Solutions Group can more easily justify investment in semiconductors, for example, because the same conductors can be used by both divisions. “We look to integrate the same semiconductor devices as much as possible,” Nemoto says.

“For our 2012 products,” he adds, “we will have more teamwork with the consumer group and not only in research and development but also marketing and sales development.”

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