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 Format Wars 2005 Title


Since 2002, the focus of this series has been to report what trends, if any, we have seen in our client’s camera/format purchases from year to year. When people think formats, tape-based camcorders are generally what they think of, however this year, I have added IT-based camcorders as well. When factoring only "New Camera Set-ups", we have seen some interesting figures for broadcast and HD camcorders.

What are camera setups, and why do all professional cameras with removable lenses require them? Prior to purchase, new cameras are calibrated to factory specifications with test lenses. As many of you know, lenses have different color tints, optical flare, and white shading characteristics which are due to manufacturing model differences, and age. This is the main reason why video shot with crews with the same model cameras look different. Some cameras look cool, while others have a green tint. All these characteristics are compensated for with a proper setup, which balances the camera to 3,200K, eliminates black tracking errors with flare compensation, and provides a flat color field with camera white shading alignments. In addition to this base set-up, the picture look can be improved over factory settings by calibrating the colorimetry settings, such as gammas and matrix, to a more pleasing realistic look. Half of our clients come to us specifically for that "Macie Uniform Standard" look.

The following numbers represent trend changes in 2005, as compared to 2004. Considering new-camera setups only: Panasonic Varicams have increased by 450%, AJ-SDX-900 are up 300%, HDCAMS remained the same. DVCAM camcorders have decreased 60%, and Digibeta is down 33%. For new, IT-based camcorders, in 2005, we set-up six Sony XDCAMs. Overall, numbers of new-camera setups have decreased by 26%.

Another interesting trend in 2005 was a 100 percent increase in used camcorder purchases, as determined by the number of "Pre–purchase checks" performed. Many of our clients send us camcorders to evaluate prior to purchase. We perform all kinds of inspections from bad pixels, leaky capacitors, worn video heads, deck mechanical condition, and inspection for hidden damage. "Buyer beware" applies to expensive video gear as well. Occasionally we get a camcorder in with bad pixels, worn heads, and leaky capacitors. Repairs of all these problems is usually very expensive, and if these items are not corrected, reliability can become intolerable.

Back in 2002 when I started the "Format Wars" series, analog BetacamSP accounted for 90 percent of our tape format service business. Currently it is 52 percent, with digital Prosumer DV, HDV, DVCAM, DVCPRO, DVCPROHD, and Digibeta on the increase. The volume of repairs has increased over 60 percent during the same period .

There are so many more options for acquisition in the last few years than any time in the history of video, making the choice more difficult that ever. I feel the frustration on a daily basis with our clients looking for replacements for aging gear. What do I buy! Should it be HD or SD? What format? Tape or IT based? 1080I or 720P? What about HDV? The only good news is that prices have dropped overall, while value and quality has increased.

In this time of "Format Wars" I have said if only buyers would just pick one or two models, and go with it. This time is not much different than with VHS vs. BETA, or Betacam vs. M2 wars. From what we’ve seen here, 2005 has shown me that Panasonic has won the war this year for the high-end acquisition.

It’s not the purpose of this series to predict the future, only show the trends of the recent past. One thing I know is that we are in the "Decade of HD" (not my words) and that we all must get prepared for a lot of changes, from our business to our home. Have a great-blessed year.

Take care,


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