January 11, 2010

Panasonic unveils HD 3D camcorder

Panasonic has announced what it claims is the world’s first professional, fully integrated Full HD 3D camcorder. The Wall-E look-alike should start shipping late 2010, and Panasonic will start taking orders at NAB, when more details will be announced. It showed engineering samples of the solid-state camcorder at CES in Las Vegas, last week, and estimates that it will cost about $21,000.

The new camcorder should be simpler to use than existing twin-camera set ups, as its two lenses, camera head and dual memory card recorder are integrated into a single body. The camcorder also has stereoscopic adjustment controls. The twin-lens system allows the convergence point to be adjusted (according to the closeness of the objects being viewed), and there are also functions for automatically correcting horizontal and vertical displacement. Most current 3D camera systems require these adjustments to be made via a PC or an external video processor. The Panasonic camcorder will automatically recalibrate itself, making it easier to react quickly to changing requirements.

The camcorder is also a lot lighter and smaller than most current 3D rigs (although systems from Lux Media Plan [pictured right] and Polecam are smaller still, as both use two tiny cameras). However, the Panasonic model should be ideal for handheld use. Its simpler set up should make it particularly suitable for sports or documentary production.

Most conventional rigs require time-consuming adjustments whenever they are moved or knocked, but as this is a combined unit, the two cameras shouldn't go out of alignment. However, this may mean that it isn't as flexible in getting the perfect alignment for objects at certain distances.

All side-by-side 3D systems have an advantage over larger mirror rigs (where the cameras are too big to sit beside each other) as they don't lose any light coming through the mirror.

The Panasonic's left and right HD video streams will be processed separately and recorded as files on SDHC Memory Cards, with all the benefits that brings (less risk of being affected by dust or adverse weather, or knocks – compared to tape or disk), and reasonable costs compared to other solid-state media.

When Panasonic first showed a rather more curvaceous mock-up of this camera at NAB 2009 (right), it was to have recorded to P2 cards. That mock-up also had the AVC Ultra logo, but Panasonic hasn't stated what format the new camcorder will use. The fastest SDHC cards can record more than 100Mbps, but this could just as easily be an AVCHD device (at 24Mbps) – although AVC-I 4:2:2 would seem to be the minimum for professional 3D production and post.

Power consumption should be less than 19W, and it will weigh less than 3kg.

Panasonic is also developing a 3D Full HD LCD monitor for use on location and a professional HD digital AV mixer for live event production.

Like most of the big manufacturers, Panasonic sees considerable opportunities in moving to 3D, especially for its home theatre systems. It showed several 3D Plasma TV sets at the exhibition, 3D-enabled Blu-ray disc players, and 3D glasses, which will be available this Spring. It set up an Advanced Authoring Center (within the Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory) last February, where 3D movies are authored for 3D Blu-ray.

[UPDATE - Related post: Panasonic 3D camcorder gets AVCHD ]

By David Fox

January 08, 2010

Sony HXR-NX5 is NX big thing

Sony's first NXCAM camcorder, the HXR-NX5, is now available. Details are pretty much as described in  our previous post and video, but now we know the name, and have a a little more information. Most notably, its two Memory Stick slots can also be used to record content on to the more widely available (and cheaper) SDHC cards, which makes the NX5 one of the most flexible solid-state camcorders yet built. You just have to remember to insert the SD cards the other way round to the MS cards, as its electronic contacts are opposite the MS card's ones. [UPDATE: We have a further video looking at the practicalities of using the HXR-NX5 and how it works with various non-linear editors]

Recording codec: AVCHD (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 - long GoP) at 24Mbps (Variable Bitrate), 8-bit sampling, 4:2:0, plus two-track PCM uncompressed (16-bit/48kHz) audio or Dolby AC-3 audio; MPEG-2 at 9Mbps for Standard Definition. It can also output 10-bit 4:2:2 video via HD-SDI or HDMI (for recording to a separate recorder, like the AJA KiPro, for example)

Recording media: Memory Stick Pro Duo (two slots - allowing consecutive "relay" recording) or SDHC (Class 4 or higher), plus optional HXR-FMU128 128GB Flash Memory Unit

Lens: Sony's own 20x G Lens (4.1-82mm - equivalent to 29.5-590mm); manual zoom, focus and iris rings (no end stops), Auto Focus can have manual assist; three neutral density filters; Optical Steady Shot image stabilisation with Active Mode (for added anti-shake)

Sensors: Three 1/3-inch Exmor CMOS chips using a ClearVid array for improved low-light sensitivity

Low-light sensitivity: 1.5 Lux (almost as good as the fabled PD170, which was 1 Lux)

Recording standards: 1920x1080 at 50i or 25p, plus 720/50p and Standard Definition - US version  offers 60i/30p/24p and 720/60p - an optional upgrade makes it 60i/50i switchable

Connections: HD-SDI, HDMI (both can be used at once), component, composite and stereo audio (using RCA jacks), USB 2.0; 2x XLR audio inputs with +48v phantom power; LANC remote control; Timecode link

GPS: Built-in GPS receiver,  which embeds GPS metadata when recording.

Display/Controls: 3.2-inch 921,000-pixel LCD (1920x480), with Touchscreen interface. There are also seven customisable buttons on the camera which can be assigned with different functions for quick access. Electronic, high resolution viewfinder (1,227,000 pixels)

Power consumption: 7.7 Watts (8.8W with HXR-FMU128)

Weight/size: 2.5kg; 175x193x342mm


There will also be a less expensive, less professional version, the HDR-AX2000, which won't be able to take the 128GB drive, although, unlike previous cut-down versions of its professional cameras, the AX2000 will have two XLR audio jacks. However, it also apparently lacks HD-SDI (as can be seen in the picture on the left), 720p, Standard Definition recording, and GPS.

By David Fox