April 08, 2013

Sony PMW-400 XAVC camcorder

Sony gave its XAVC codec another boost at NAB in Las Vegas with the introduction of a new broadcast camcorder that supports it. It also extended XAVC downwards for prosumer and consumer users. In other news, Sony also introduced a new studio/OB camera.

The new PMW-400 shoulder-mount camcorder (pictured above) is an “affordable” broadcast camera with three 2/3-inch high quality Exmor CMOS sensors – boasting good low-light sensitivity of F12 at 59.94Hz and F13 at 50Hz.

Like the popular PMW-500, it supports all current SD and HD 4:2:2 broadcast workflows based XDCAM EX using the .MP4 and .AVI codecs (including MPEG2 HD422@50Mbps, HD420@35Mbps or 25Mbps, MPEG IMX@50Mbps and DVCAM), recording to SxS memory cards, MemoryStick, SD card or XQD card (FAT32 formatted). It can also record .MXF broadcast files can on SxS and XQD cards (UDF formatted).

The camera, which will be available from August, is also future-proofed by supporting the new XAVC codec to offer 10-bit HD422 recordings, including XAVC Intra frame 10-bit HD422 100Mbps and XAVC Long GOP 10-bit HD422 (low bit rate) – although only up to 25p or 30p in HD (naturally, 4K is not supported).

The PMW-400K comes with a 16x zoom HD lens, while the PMW-400L ships without a lens. Both feature: a high resolution 960x540 colour LCD viewfinder; 3DNR noise reduction processing (to give a typical signal to noise ratio of 60dB); an internal flash band reducer to avoid the disconcerting rolling shutter effect that shows camera flash on part of a frame (which will arrive via a firmware update); gain selection from -3dB up to +42dB maximum gain; dual SD/HD-SDI parallel outputs, HDMI out, Time Code in/out and Gen-lock input.

In a throwback to almost forgotten tech it also has an i.LINK (DV – four-pin FireWire) input and recording.

Power consumption is about 23W with LCD, viewfinder, lens and microphone.

“We’ve designed the PMW-400 to acquire high quality, clean images especially in low-light environments. It’s very ergonomically-balanced, easy to operate and includes features that make it fit seamlessly into various types of productions and workflows. This really opens up new opportunities around cost efficiency and flexible shooting to achieve the desired results,” said Fabien Pisano, Strategic Marketing Head, Sony Europe.

The camcorder can also allow live logging from a tablet or smartphone via WiFi. If you add the new CBK-WA100 wireless adapter, content can be wirelessly uploaded via ftp to a customer’s server or cloud service via the 3G/4G mobile phone network.

An optional CBK-CE01 50-pin interface converts the shoulder camcorder to a system camera (for studio/OB use), offering compatibility with CA-TX70 digital triax and CA-FB70 fibre adapters.

New XAVC S format for prosumers

Sony has announced a prosumer/consumer version of the XAVC codec. It is a Long GoP (Group of Pictures) format, and will deliver 4K at 4:2:0 (ie with less colour information) and HD at 4:2:2 (which is the broadcast standard for colour information – giving enough data for high-quality chroma keying). This high-efficiency version of the codec has been designed for the broader content production market. Besides serving the consumer market, XAVC S, which employs an MP4 (H.264) wrapping format, will also help to expand XAVC, to help encourage the growth of 4K content in the consumer market.

The XAVC S profile will encompass: 4K (3840 x 2160), HD, and Proxy resolutions; MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 compression; the MP4 wrapping format; and both Linear PCM and AAC audio. Each manufacturer signing up to support XAVC S will be able to decide which profile and operating point of XAVC they will implement in their products.

XAVC is an open format, and was designed to help promote and establish 4K content production. A license program is proposed not only for editing software manufacturers but also for hardware manufacturers. Currently, more than 60 manufacturers have filed a request to become a licensee, and 31 manufacturers’ products plan on their support for the Sony XAVC format and workflow.

The current list includes: Abekas, Adobe, Assimilate, Astrodesign, Avid, Blackmagic Design, Cinegy, Codex Digital, Colorfront, CyberLink, Digital Vision, EVS Broadcast, Fairlight, FilmLight, Final Cut Pro X, Firefly Cinema, Grass Valley, Harris Broadcast, IBEX Technology, Imagination Technologies, Matrox, MTI Film, Pegasys, Quantel, Rohde & Schwarz DVS, Rovi's MainConcept, SAKURA EIKI, Sobey Digital Technology, Sony Vegas Pro 12, YoYotta, and Zaxel Systems.

Digital triax transmission

Also at NAB, Sony unveiled the latest in its HDC-2500 range of studio/OB cameras. The HDC-2570 HD Portable Camera with three 2/3-inch Power HAD CCD sensors, has a digital triax transmission interface that allows the transmission of 1080p or 2xSloMo signals (1080i – at 100 or 120fps) over triax cables.

“From speaking to our customers we know that while the adoption of fibre optic transmission systems is growing, many existing venue infrastructures are still triax based,” said Claus Pfeifer, Strategic Marketing Manager, Sony Europe.
“We believe customers should be able to generate outstanding content, regardless of what setup is in place. Our Digital Triax Camera System uses state-of-the-art technology to deliver broadcast quality content at 1080 50p/60p through traditional triax cables, with extremely low latency. The system is also extremely flexible, a key factor in sports production, making it easy to switch from triax to fibre as required.”

The same technology is being extended to the existing HDC-2400/2500/2550 system cameras via the new HKC-TR27 digital triax adaptor side cover (pictured above).

There is also the HDFX-200 external converter box that interfaces with triax to fibre to enable the digital signals to feed into the HDC-2000/2500 Camera Control Unit (CCU) via conventional triax cable, while the HDTX-200 field converter box (available end of August) allows a quick change from fibre to triax transmission for HDC-1500 Series or HDC-2000 Series system cameras that do not have HKC-TR27 digital triax adaptor technology.

By David Fox

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