Panasonic P2 powers sports productions

Sports was front-and-center at Panasonic s NAB press briefing on Sunday when the company announced that it has been named the official broadcast equipment supplier for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. It will be the first time the entire Olympics will be shot in HD and DVCPRO HD will be there, said John Baisley, Panasonic Broadcast president.

While sports users topped the list of presentations it was a new codec, AVC-Intra, that topped the list of innovations. The MPEG-4 h.264 dual codec that will be available as an option for P2 gear by April 2007. This is a substantial advancement, says Robert Harris, Panasonic Broadcast VP of marketing. It will deliver superb HD quality with an increase in bandwidth efficiency vs. other codec s with HD-like images at half the bandwidth without compromise. It has advantages for both storage and distribution.

Sports also figured in to two presentations at the event designed to highlight the power of the low-cost AG-HVX200 multi-format, low-cost DVCPRO P2 HD system. More than 10,000 units have been shipped since its introduction in December.

Bob Scott, director of photography for Cappy Production s (owned by legendary Bud Greenspan) documentary on the Torino Olympic Games relied on a mix of Panasonic Varicam systems and the AG-HVX200 P2 system.

I have to deliver images that support Greenspan s vision, and that requires more than just beautiful pictures, says Scott. They need to evoke emotions and move people. Varicam, he says, has the unique ability to draw viewers in with a film-like feel that, in some ways, is better than film.
The P2 gear also was able to evoke emotion with the use of true off-speed effects that allowed clouds to be shot rolling in to the Alps like water. We used high-speed shots more than normal shots during the production, says Scott. We had shots of U.S. figure skater Sasha Cohen at 60 fps where she was in a tornado spin that were the perfect example of how true slow motion can suspend a moment and make it truly poetic.

The camera s small size also came in handy on the ski course when the camerman was able to hold it around the front of the men s downhill ski start house and get a dramatic shot of skier Herman Maier blasting out of the gate.

We dubbed it the Mole because we could burrow it in unusual positions, says Scott. Material was dumped off the cameras via Firewire to Panasonic 1200 tape decks for archiving.

Peter Kagan of Streamline Content, discussed via video presentation a Subway commercial featuring USC running back Reggie Bush. In the spot Bush sits on a white bench in a white room wearing a completely white outfit devoid of team logos and colors as he waits for the NFL draft and finally becomes associated with a team again.
The use of only various shades of the color white pushed the camera, says Kagan. The whites held out and the premise of solid state, which involves trusting a little card, is something I m used to thanks to digital still photography.

With 4GB P2 cards now down to $550 Baisley says Panasonic believes it will continue to see more traction in the market. To date to company has sold 15,000 DVCPRO HD P2 units to more than 300 broadcasters worldwide. At NAB 12 more Raycom stations announced they would be going to P2 by the end of the year.

Panasonic also took the wraps off of some new P2 models. The AJ-HDX900 DVCPRO HD, records in 11 formats, has 2/3-inch CCDs, cine-like gamma functions for a film look and Firewire output for capturing HD with no loss of image quality. It s expected to be available in Janaury for $26,500.

Also introduced was the AJ-HD1400 DVCPRO HD VTR. It has a built-in up and downconverter, HD SDI and Firewire connections and has a list price of $25,000. Expect it to hit the streets in July,

For POV needs buyers can look to the AK-HC1500, a 2/3-inch multipurpose camera with multi-frame rates and all international video standards. Pricing is $19,950.

Panasonic also took the wraps off of a new small production switcher with six HD/SD inputs. The AV-HS300 also has frame sync and will list for $8,000 when it s available in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Lastly, look for the AJ-HPM100 mobile P2 HD recorder with 9-inch LCD screen and six-slot P2 card drive to be available for $12,000 in November while the AJ-HPS1500 P2 HD station recorder, bridges the gap between HD and SD and has a 3.5-inch screen and VTR-like controls. Expect it to be available in January for $19,950.