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 Format Wars 2004 Title


2004 has turned out to be an interesting year for our business, showing the sentiment of our 1800 plus clients. As you know we have expanded our business to include prosumer DV, DVCAM and DVCPRO products. This year’s volume increased 91 percent for these products and 140 percent for BetacamSP. What do these numbers mean? Betacam clients are waiting for a transition, and have been maintaining their gear to assure reliability. Quite a few have upgraded with newer Betacam gear, while many have been buying into the Sony Professional Series DXC-D50 dockable cameras with Betacam or DVCAM backs.  

"Interim format" is the key phrase today. We all know that with new technologies beginning to ship, and HD production picking up, changes are inevitable. I have read that Sony’s XD series optical disk camcorder may, in the future, record HD. Panasonic’s P2 memory card camcorder may have this capability as well. Currently, Sony is shipping a consumer high definition camcorder that records on yet another compressed format - HDV 1080i. JVC has shipped over a thousand of its HDV 720p camcorders as well.  

What are those who must buy now purchasing? As far as HD is concerned, we see the Panasonic Varicam is an eight-to-one favorite over the competition. It has proven itself very reliable, and has built up quite a following. A terrific book has been written -  "Goodman’s Guide to the Varicam", for operators who need an in-depth operating field manual. High Def Expo Varicamp is another great three-day course on transitioning to HD. Three film DPs taught the one I attended. The Varicam is versatile enough for television production, as well as film replacement. Wide range frame rates, under cranking and over cranking are just a few of the must-have features film shooters love.  

With the Panasonic AJ-HD1200A VTR, DVCPRO HD video can be fed without loss into an inexpensive Apple Final Cut Pro HD NLE. Gone are the days of expensive on-line editing suites. We even have one to help us verify firewire connections and enable us to edit our own video. More about that in future newsletters.  

As far as SD is concerned, I would like to pass on an email which says it all. From Dino Quaglietta of New York: "Is it time to bid farewell to old friend Beta SP? Crew 1 TV owns 4 Beta SP camera packages and wish nothing but continued success from Sony's workhorse. However, over the past year we have seen increased requests for the Panasonic SDX 900, which has been hailed for its versatility. The unit is capable of recording at 24p, 30p, and 60i in 16:9 or 4:3, and can do all of this in both DVCPRO 50 (4:2:2) and DVCPRO 25 (4:1:1) recording modes, with the DVCPRO 50 mode being the functional equivalent of Sony's DigiBeta format.  

At first I was tentative with exploring new formats, but after doing some research and lengthy discussions with owners of the camera, Crew 1 TV has invested in two Panasonic SDX 900's and we’re not looking back. I put the word out and the bookings have been immediate, clients are thrilled with the quality and versatility, and I can present this new technology at Beta SP crew/package rates. It’s my opinion that this is the camera that standard definition TV has been waiting for--better quality, more features, and the cost of admission is barley $25,000 for the camera head, VF and Mic. Len's carry across, but we invested in HD glass.  

The best part is that we didn't cave into the industry attempts at making "Prosumer" technology (PD 150) the standard definition norm and lower rates. This camera is the real deal and will be around until HD technology takes over. "  

The other winner in the SD format has been the Ikegami HL-DV7AW camcorder. With less than half the price tag of the SDX 900, this has been the most popular full sized DVCAM camcorder available to date. We have a constant flow of these in the shop for camera set-ups and general maintenance.  

On the prosumer side, the Panasonic AG-DVX100A and Sony DSR-PD170 seem to be equally popular. What could make that change is the new Sony consumer HDR-FX1 HDV 1080I camcorder, and it’s soon to be shipped professional version. For a moderate increase in price, you can have a switchable SD, DV and HDV camcorder. My first demo of this camcorder was at a local SMPTE meeting. HDV recording of a marathon and some tropical footage were played back on a $30,000 HD monitor. While not the quality of the Varicam, it looked substantially better that DV. The fact that this consumer product was shown at a broadcast television meeting says to me that this could find its way into a lot more applications than just consumers.  

What do you think? As you know, my opinions expressed in my newsletters are partly based on my experience, plus what I hear from you, our clients. I’d love an email from you with your opinion of this new HD format. Email:

As you can see, things are getting very interesting in the video acquisition industry. With so much new technology on our door steps, it is no wonder everyone is so cautious before making any big purchases. Quality is on the rise while prices are dropping on new technologies. That’s good news for all of us.  

As I look back on 2004, I thank God for you and your support, and for the talented and dedicated crew at Macie Video Service. May God richly bless you with good health and prosperity in 2005 as well.  

Take care,

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