Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Upgrades Broadcast Facility With Panasonic AK-HC3800 HD Studio Cameras

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which operates the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, VA, has just installed four Panasonic AK-AC3800 studio cameras as part of an overall HD upgrade of its broadcast studio. For the past four years, the Foundation has assigned its extensive field production assignments to a pair of Panasonic AJ-HPX3700 P2 HD VariCam camcorders.

Colonial Williamsburg Productions, Jorin Hood, director of photography, grabs a handheld shot of two members of the Fife & Drum Corps.

Colonial Williamsburg Productions, Jorin Hood, director of photography, grabs a handheld shot of two members of the Fife & Drum Corps.

During the upcoming 2014-2015 school year, the VariCams and HC3800s will team up on pre-production and live broadcasts of the Foundation’s Emmy-Award winning Electronic Field Trips (EFT), live Internet events and television broadcasts for fourth through eighth grades.  The EFT program is designed so that classrooms around the world can experience interactive history lessons from Colonial Williamsburg.

The EFT broadcast schedule features seven one-hour live programs airing October through Aprilon participating public broadcasting stations, as well as on educational and cable channels.  Viewers can also watch via free online streaming.

The Foundation’s Director of Productions Bill Wagner explained that the HC3800s will be used to produce at least five live webcasts, beginning this September, as well as to support the institution’s expansive educational mandate with video assets.

“This year, our EFT program will be fully HD, and the HC3800s are certainly a linchpin of that transition,” said Wagner. “Based on our superior experience with the VariCams, we were disposed to consider a Panasonic studio camera, and we were sold on the HC3800’s attractive pricing and superb color handling, which is so similar to that of the HPX3700.”

“We been doing preliminary work with the HC3800s and can immediately appreciate the depth of the camera’s color space. And with its F11 sensitivity, we need less illumination in the studio,” he added. “Our studio output has never looked like our VariCam field work before, but with the HC3800’s precision 16-bit image processing, we are realizing that.”

Wagner said that along with the four HC3800s, the Foundation also purchased four AK-HCU200 CCU units, which have two HD/SD-SDI output channels and two additional HD/SD-SDI output channels that can be used in conjunction with the picture monitor outs.

Since 2010, the Foundation has shot hundreds of field and studio assignments with the HPX3700 VariCams, ranging from single-camera interviews in the broadcast studio to the elaborate scripted, historic reenactments that are shot for the EFTs.

“We love the HPX3700’s image production and low-light handling,” Wagner said. “Our field assignments are wide ranging and we use the VariCams on sticks, dollies, jibs and often shoot handheld. We’re very comfortable with the P2 workflow.”

The HPX3700s are outfitted with Canon zoom lenses; Wagner shoots AVC-Intra 100 in 1080/30p, and edits in HD on Avid Symphony.

“Until now, we’ve been all-HD in the field, but with SD deliverables,” he noted. “With our studio and truck HD upgrades, we’ll be all HD, including broadcasts of the EFTs this coming year. We’rehappy with our decision to stay with the Panasonic family of cameras.”

DP Glen Kantziper Fields Assignments with Panasonic’s AJ-PX270 P2 HD Handheld
Glen Kantziper, owner/operator of KPSR, Inc. (Greensboro, NC), purchased an AJ-PX270 camcorder, Panasonic’s first P2 HD handheld with AVC-ULTRA recording, as soon as it became available  this spring. Since then, he has used the PX270 on many of the wide-ranging corporate and broadcast assignments that are the foundation of his production company.

Kantziper has provided professional field production support to broadcast clients such as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and ESPN, as well as to corporate giants such as Hanesbrands and the VF Corporation. Over the past several weeks, the DP has utilized the PX270 to shoot extensive green screen work for Hanesbrands (Maidenform, Champion); an interview for the U.S. Army’s web series, “Starting Strong”; a segment for Al Jazeera America’s investigative show, “The System”; and a workplace violence awareness video for Piedmont Natural Gas.  Kantziper also used the PX270 to shoot what turned out to be one of the last interviews with the late poet/performer Maya Angelou, footage that will be used as part of a planned documentary about her life and work.

“The PX270 is a small-form camera with full-size camera specs: for the first time ever, this camera offers the imagery, sensitivity and adjustability of a full-size camera,” said Kantziper.

“Capable of recording AVC-Intra 100 4:2:2 1080/60p, the PX270 allows me to shoot for normal, real-time or pull beautiful slo-mo. There’s no need to switch settings while shooting. I also get more flexibility in post production.”

Kantziper is a veteran Panasonic shooter, having purchased, years ago, an AG-HVX200 P2 HD handheld, then upgraded to an AG-HPX250, which he continues to use. He also owns an AG-AF100 micro four thirds imager camera. He has combined the PX270 and his older camcorders on three-camera shoots but, he said, “The PX270 imagery is so improved, it’s almost too good to use with the other gear.”

“With the PX270, I’m getting the expansive color space I require for my extensive green screen work, as well as the longer fixed lens I want for B-roll shoots,” the DP said. “I was already using the microP2 adapter with the HPX250, so I’m very happy with the PX270’s two standard microP2 slots. P2 media has afforded me bullet-proof reliability over the years and now I get that benefit along with the SD card form factor of the microP2 card.”

Kantziper noted that he finds the PX270 better balanced, lighter, faster and improved in low-light conditions. “Other assets include user buttons not being hidden by the LCD monitor, which means I can easily access controls I use the most, like zebra and waveform,” he said.  “The new 22X lens is dramatically better, as is the LCD monitor. And being able to shoot 1080/60p is great! Great on its own merits, plus it lets me either extract 30p or pull slo-mo without changing the frame rate.”

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