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 Format Wars 2009 Title

 

2009 marks our Eighth Annual Installment of our “Format Wars” Series. With a client base of over 2,800 clients using video gear in all sorts of applications from videographers, rental and production companies, sports networks and teams, corporate, and cable and TV stations, we are servicing a great cross section of the broadcast and professional video industry. After reviewing our invoices, I have been able to categorize trends of what camcorders are being purchased new and used, and what formats are being serviced.

Many of our high-end clients, who require the highest possible image quality, will send their new camcorders in for our “Macie Uniform Standard” camera alignment. Data on this type of service enables us to see trends in which manufacturer, model, and format are in demand. It turns out that cameras using removable lenses require important correction alignments for parameters that vary not only from the lens used by the manufacturer for its factory “look,” but also vary from lens to lens, as well. Preset color, lens flare, and white shading alignments account for about half of a camera's picture quality improvement. The remainder alignments improve the “look” over the factory settings. Because all of our alignments are made to our Uniform Standard look, each and every camera will “look” much better and will closely match any other make and model that we set up, as well. Using our Uniform Standard as a base, we end up with a total of eight specialty “looks” and settings on most models. One half of our new clients come to Macie Video Service for this particular camera service.

In 2008, one hundred percent of new camcorders were what I call cost-effective, archival media models. By cost effectiveness, I refer to the ones where the client walks away with either a video tape or optical disk, both of which are relatively inexpensive and are archival media. Seventy percent were the Panasonic DVCPRO and DVCPROHD, along with a few Sony HDCAM models. The remaining thirty percent were Sony HDXDCAM models.

In 2009, we began to see more purchases of the Panasonic P2 and Sony SXS model camcorders, which use a much more expensive media that is meant either to be edited from or transferred to video servers for editing and archiving, or backed up on tape or other data media. Twenty percent consisted of the Panasonic P2 camcorders, and five percent were Sony's EX-1s and EX-3s. I like the Sony models because they have a camera-alignment menu structure, much like a full-sized, high-end model. As far as cost-effective, archiving models, fifty percent were Sony's HDXDCAM PDW-700 and PDW-F800 models. The remaining twenty-five percent was with the Panasonic AJ-HDX900.

We have been keeping track of our clients purchasing used camcorders by the pre-purchase check-ups we perform. We go through each camcorder checking for internal damage, bad pixels, and transport wear, and usually perform a full camera set-up as requested by the customer. Thirty-nine percent of these were Sony's Standard Definition PDWs bought to fulfill the needs of network shooters, eleven percent were Panasonic's SDX-900s and twenty-two percent HDX-900s. HDCAMs, Digibeta, AJ-HDC27 Varicams, and memory card-based camcorders were under five percent total.

With general maintenance and repairs of all cameras, camcorders, and decks, the breakdown is as follows. Betacam has slipped to twenty percent from thirty percent in 2008. DVCPRO has doubled to twenty-five percent. DVCAM is down to thirty-four percent from forty-five percent. HDCAM stayed at the four-percent level. And all XDCAMs SD and HD models account for ten percent in 2009, up from near zero in 2008.

For the breakdown of service by manufacturer, Sony was sixty-five percent, Panasonic twenty-seven percent, and Ikegami eight percent. Of those camcorders, sixty-three percent were Standard Definition and thirty-seven percent were High Definition.

In 2008 we set up an equal amount of Sony and Panasonic camcorders. Sony took the lead in new camera purchases in 2009 with fifty-five percent of sales over Panasonics' forty-five percent. Quite a few of our clients have already made the move to an HD camcorder, and what we are beginning to see is a new trend emerging. “There is a New Sherriff in Town,” as they say in the old westerns. With the emergence of smaller, faster, larger capacity, and less expensive solid-state memory cards, it is now possible to record to this media. There are also units that record to integral or removable inexpensive hard drives. For example, Convergent Design makes the Nano Flash which records about three hours of HD video on an $80, 32-gig compact flash card with a $2,999 list price. The Panasonic AG-HMR10 records between two to ten hours on a 32-gig SD card with a $2,600 list price. To further future-proof your HD camcorder, you can even record on P2 cards with the AG-HPG20 with a street price of $4,300 or on SxS memory cards with Sony's PMW-EX30 with a $3,999 list price.

Is there a Betacam of today? I think the closest we have come is with the Panasonic AJ-HDX900 that has been the most popular HD camcorder to date. Why? It still records on cost-effective archival video tape, has not been as expensive as earlier HD camcorders, and is now becoming future-proofed with all these optional recording devices. Panasonic's competition is with the Sony HDXDCAM models, which also record on Optical Data Disks that are not only cost-effective, but also can be archived. 2010 will certainly be an interesting year.

I have continued to support our clients “on-location” as video engineer and am on my fourth season on three national network programs. It's been great working side-by-side with a group of regular clients.
 

If you are interested in any of these or other services, please give us a call.
Again, we all at Macie Video Service want to thank you for all your continued support.
Have a blessed 2010.

Take care,
Roger

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