February 14, 2010

Canon's codec choice

As the last of the major camcorder manufacturers to introduce tapeless professional camcorders, Canon has had a little longer to make its choice of recording codec, and it seems to have been listening to broadcasters as it will adopt MPEG-2 4:2:2 at 50Mbps and MXF for its upcoming professional file-based camcorders.

This has been the minimum requirement for full HD recording put forward by several European broadcasters, such as the BBC, so will be a welcome addition for what will almost certainly be a budget camcorder (probably in the £4,000 to £8,000 bracket). Rival camcorders from Sony and JVC typically record at 35Mbps, while Panasonic's most recent small camcorders have used 24Mbps AVCHD (the 10-bit 4:2:2 HPX301 is a larger, shoulder-mounted P2 camcorder).

Canon's current line-up of professional camcorders, the XL H1, XH G1s and XH A1s, are all HDV models, so the new model will record at twice the data rate, and with double the colour data, and will record full HD (1920x1080) instead of 1440x1080.

Canon showed a mock-up of the proposed camera under glass, which looks to be between the XL H1 and XH G1s in size (with 1/3-inch sensors and two XLR audio sockets), although the eventual form factor may be different.

Instead of choosing a more efficient codec like MPEG-4 or a wavelet-based codec (such as JPEG 2000), "MPEG-2 was chosen because it is widely compatible with current IT technology and workflow environments and therefore more beneficial to our customers. Furthermore, the MXF wrapper is the industry standard, with well structured metadata that is easy to search," explained a Canon Europe spokesperson.

There isn't a lot more information on the camera yet, but it will have two card slots (although the specific media hasn't been announced), and Canon is working with Adobe, Apple, Avid and Grass Valley "to ensure compatibility" with their software.

Canon took part in the recent Final Cut Pro Supermeet at Macworld Expo, and MacVideo's Rick Young recorded its announcement of the new codec (and, first up, the new DSLR plug-in for FCP). He also shot an interview with Joe Bogacz, of Product Marketing, Canon USA, which includes shots of the mock-up camcorder (pictured above).

[UPDATE: The cameras, the XF300 and XF305 have been launched - more at Canon fires out first 4:2:2 file-based camcorders ]

By David Fox

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