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 Format Wars 2002 Title


Greetings from Roger Macie:

I am constantly asked about what has become the most purchased format since Sony has stopped manufacturing BVW series BetacamSP decks and camcorders. While Betacam has been the lifeblood of the broadcast and high-end production industry for about two decades, things are beginning to change. What I would like to share is what I see happening as of November 2002.

Many thought or wished that HD (high definition) would replace Betacam by now, however, that hasn't happened. There is much confusion with all the SD (standard definition) and HD formats that exist today. Few are interested in taking a chance that what we purchase today will become unpopular tomorrow. It is because of that fear that Sony’s DVCAM has become the most purchased format. Its quality is close to Betacam. It’s inexpensive in both tape stock and equipment, and is a perfect mate for NLEs (non-linear editors) because it can transfer in digital form directly though a fire wire data connection.

While the big networks take most of their video in the analog format, they are beginning to see the advantages of DVCAM acquisition. In remote locations they can shoot and edit on laptop NLEs, which create costs savings. While a lot of the footage is shot with tiny hand held PD-150 type camcorders, they now have the ability to use high quality full sized cameras and benefit from the advantages of the DVCAM tape format. We see this happening with many other broadcast applications and I would not be surprised if the networks begin to hire crews with the high-end DVCAM camcorders such as the Ikegami HL-DV7W or Sony DSR-570.

One indicator of this is with Tamberelli Video in New York City. They are a premier rental and video services company and, until recently, dealt with mostly Digital Betacam and BetacamSP. Currently about 75 percent of their business is renting their 16 full sized Ikegami HL-DV7Ws and 15 Sony DSR-PD-150 camcorders. The demand for the more expensive formats has shifted, at least for now. Recently, I have received a number of calls from freelancers who are shooting everything with high-end DVCAMs, and are looking to sell their Betacams while they still have good value.

Several stations I know have made the switch also. WKYC TV in Cleveland went from BetaSX to DVCAM with the purchase of over 20 DSR-500s and has gone tapeless inside the plant. The photographers return from a shoot and load their own tapes directly into video servers at four times normal speed. The video is edited on NLEs and airs directly from the server. WCVB-TV, the Boston ABC affiliate and my former employer, replaced all of their BetacamSP camcorders with Ikegami's HL-DV7W camcorders. In house they edit on NLEs and DVCAM edit decks.

While the format is important, it's the picture quality of the camera that makes its video look so good. Both are low light sensitive and have scene files for camera set-ups which gives flexibility of changing camera set-up parameters, either for special looks or for dealing with difficult lighting conditions. With a street price of about $15,000 and $13,000 for the Sony and Ikegami, many are receiving a new lease on life until the industry shakes things out. What's also neat is that these camcorders use standard 2/3-inch lenses and existing batteries.

With the current popularity of DVCAM and the fact that the networks are already taking in DV and DVCAM, I would not be surprised if they begin taking in footage on a regular basis shot with these now popular camcorders. They will not only maintain the picture quality they are used to with Betacam, but benefit from the ability to field edit on notebook NLEs.

As you are probably aware, Macie Video Service specializes in camera and deck related maintenance on the most popular broadcast formats. Until this year BetacamSP has been our main focus. Just as most of you have held out purchasing new gear, we also have held out servicing the many digital formats until we could justify our expense in training, specialized tools, spare parts, manuals, and purchase of camcorders ourselves.

Currently about 20% of our new camera set-ups and 10% of our deck maintenance is with the high-end DVCAM camcorders. Every videographer is just as happy with DVCAM as they have been with Betacam. Clients can't tell the difference between formats once the cameras have been set-up properly to the Macie Uniform Standard.

In case you haven't noticed we are now giving free listings for crews with the high end DVCAM Sony DSR-300A, 500, 570, or Ikegami HL-DV5 or 7 camcorders (dockables included) on our website.

Take care,


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