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Despite the economy, Panasonic and Sony once again had large booths at NAB 2009. And, as in years past, the codec wars continued: AVC-Intra pitted against MPEG Long GOP. This year Sony directly challenged Panasonic’s usual comparison demos with an impressive comparison of their own.

In addition Panasonic showed off their previously released Varicam series cameras that now record to P2 cards. The only new P2 Varicam is the AJ-HPX3700, which outputs 4:4:4 RGB dual link signals live from the camera and records HD in camera to 4:2:2. It is positioned as a premium production Varicam..They also introduced a new line of budget priced P2 cards, they call the E-series.

Panasonic highlighted their new low priced 1/3” full raster CMOS 2.2 megapixel AG-HPX300 camera, which lists for $11,000 on  At that price point the camera has received a lot of attention. It does sport a 1/3” chip however, which will suffer from an inherently large depth of field.  

Another announcement by Panasonic was the introduction of AVC-Ultra, which will allow for AVC-Intra 200 Mb recording at 4:4:4. Let’s hope for Panasonic’s sake this is the last of the Mb upgrades, unless they plan on naming the 300 Mb version “AVC-Super Ultra”.

I watched the Sony presentation as the salesman stated that Sony was tired of taking Panasonic demos in the chin for the past couple of years and they were fighting back.

Sony has done their own tests, recording detailed HD material directly to an SR deck. They then played this tape out to an XDCam deck recording at 50 Mb and an AVC-Intra deck recording at 100 Mb. They combined these two images into one image through a switcher for a side by side comparison.

I understand the theory of Long GOP recording and I have seen MPEG at 50Mb easily match or better AVC-Intra at 100 Mb and visa versa. BUT . . .  this AVC-Intra really looked ugly.

I won’t accuse Sony of being disingenuous, but I will say I have never seen an AVC-Intra image look quite as bad as it does in this Sony test.

Sony revealed the PDW-F800 XDCam camera, which has the same chip set, formats and guts as the PDW-700. For an added $12,000 the 800 includes the 24FPS 1080i option as standard as well as under-cranking and over-cranking, and the ability to import, via memory stick, gamma set ups identical to their F-23 electronic cinema camera. There are a few other added cinema like extras. The only attributes which can not be added to the 700 through an upgrade option is the under-crank/over-crank feature. 

Sony has also upgraded the PDW-HD1500 deck. The PDW-F1600 XDCam deck is a full editing deck.  With insert/assemble editing capabilities, it can be used in an edit suite just like a conventional VTR.

I have seen no announcement of the device that you see in this picture to the right, the device attached between the camera and the battery. If it is indeed a unit built by Focus Enhancements, as the guy at the Focus Enhancements booth claimed, then the unit allows recording to SxS cards in the XDCam EX 35Mb format.  The unit is controlled and gets video, audio, and timecode via the HD-SDI output of the camera.

The E series cards are faster at “up to” 1.2 Gbit/sec but more importantly they are more economical, with 64 GB coming in under $1000 ($998); 32 GB $625 and 16 GB just $420. Unlike the original P2 media, the E series is not as robust and has a limited life of five years. The E-series significantly changes the cost dynamics of P2 media making it much more affordable to a wider range of people.

The Sony booth also contained some interesting demos of third party XDCam helper apps and a new plug-in from Sony. The plug-in is called cinemon and it allows MXF wrapped files to be imported directly into Final Cut Pro. ie. no unwrapping, which is a good thing. The cost is $900.00 per seat, which is not so great, but if it works as advertised and is more transparently functional than mxf4mac or callibrated{Q} MXF it would be a time and workflow saver and would allow for single file Omneon recording of our HD promos. 

New XDCam workflow apps include software made by Imagine Products Inc. ShotPut Pro helps automate and streamline file based workflows. Imagine has even teamed up with a local Minnesota company, Primera, to automate an immediate archive of XDCam files directly to blu-ray disk.