Technical adversaries square off over the high-def ENG market, but nobody lands any punches. Grass Valley debuts new Infinity camcorders.
There was much talk, and little action on the ENG front at NAB over the weekend.
The two old combatants—Sony and Panasonic—staged elaborate press events at Las Vegas hotels on Sunday to tout their latest newsgathering gear as the battle for the lucrative broadcasting market moves from SD video to HD video.
But neither had major products to unveil and neither had significant new broadcasting deals.
And both appeared unfazed by the formal entry of a third major competitor into the marketplace. Grass Valley brought 10 of its new $26,000 Infinity camcorders to the show, giving potential customers the first opportunity to see what they can do.
“There room enough for everybody,” said Sony top marketer Alec Shapiro. But then he added: “We’ll have the market all tied up before they move in.”
Panasonic and Sony enter the HD fray with proprietary tapeless recording media that will help broadcasters improve workflow as they move more deeply into the IT-based production. Panasonic’s P2 line uses solid-state recording cards that pop into the camera and into companion field and studio recorders.
Sony’s uses a Blu-ray optical disk similar to the conventional DVD.
Grass Valley’s strategy is to attack the proprietary or “closed” systems of the Panasonic and Sony, while promoting the “openness” of its own tapeless Infinity system.
Spinning disks and solid-state have their advantages and disadvantages, said Grass Valley Vice Presodent Jeff Rosica. “With Infinity, you can have both,” he said. “You don’t have to choose.”
The Infinity camcorder, which will be ready to ship this summer, is compatible with hard drives like iomega’s REVPRO and off-the-shelf 8 gigabyte memory cards from SanDisk.
Panasonics claims 80% of the broadcasting market with its DVCPRO tape-based products and aims to hang on to the market share over the next several years with it P2 line.
Panasonic said the price of its solid-state cards is coming down while their capacity is going up. The price of the basic 4 gigabyte card (40 minutes of HD) has dropped from $1,400 to $550 since NAB 2005, Grass Valley said, adding that 16 gigabyte cards are on the way.
To squeeze still more recording time out of the cards, Panasonic said that it would begin supporting MPEG-4 compression (technically compliant with the SMPTE H.264 standard) in the P2 format.
It announced that the Raycom station group is increasing its investment in P2 gear. By the end of the year, Raycom will have P2 in operation at 21 stations.
Panasonic also said that the host broadcasting authority for the Beijing summer Olympics in 2008 is committed to total HD coverage of the games and will be using Panasonic DVCPRO tape-based system and P2 HD for the job.
At the Sony event, Shapiro said that Gannett had decided to put its optical disk to work gathering news for WUSA Washington. Gannett is already committed to using Sony in the studio at its stations in Denver, St. Louis, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Cleveland, he said.
Sony previously announced that CBS News and the CBS stations had adopted the format.
Also joining the Sony HD news family are News Hour with Jim Lehrer and Cablevision Channel 12 in the New York area, Shapiro said.
Jim Lehrer appeared on videotape to endorse the move to Sony and HD early next year. “We have been known for the depth and breadth of our news,” he said. “This conversion will give our breadth a whole new meaning.”
Shapiro said three public stations—KQED San Francisco, WETA Washington and WYCC Chicago—are also upgrading their facilities for HD production with the help of Sony.
Jeff Clarke, president and CEO of KQED, said that it was not only the quality of Sony’s equipment that appealed to him, but also the company’s “ability to stand behind the product” and the fact that all new Sony equipment is “compatible with the things that came before.”