At NAB, Panasonic Will Continue Commitment to 3D

At this year’s NAB Show, Panasonic will continue its commitment to 3D production with several new products, including a 6-lb. 3D camcorder and a 25-in. 3D production monitor, both at a price point meant to attract film schools and the cost-conscious 3D market.

“Panasonic is fully committed to 3D,” says Robert Harris, VP of marketing and business expansion. “We already have a big stake in the game with plasma and Blu-ray displays, and the opportunity was to come in at a much lower price point.”

Cameras for Everyone
With the announcement of 3D channels from Discovery and ESPN, among others, the need for HD 3D content is growing rapidly, and Panasonic’s new 6.6-lb. AG-3DA1 is designed to help fill that need. Priced at $21,000 — the product can be ordered today with a $1,000 deposit — these cameras are built to order, catering to both local producers, which need to figure out how to create 3D content, and film schools, where students are clamoring to get their hands dirty in the new medium. The cameras will be available this fall.

“This new camera is an easy way for people to capture 3D content and learn how to make compelling 3D content,” Harris says.

Unlike with heavier 3D camera rigs, two lenses, a camera head, and a memory-card recorder are all incorporated into the handheld housing of the 3DA1. Because the camera is so light and compact, it can be used on a sideline, for an interview, or in a dugout.

Full Operator Operation
No outside stereographer is required to operate the convergence settings on the camera as stereoscopic adjustment controls are also included in the body. The camera incorporates solid-state file-based recording and looks and feels like other Panasonic camcorders.

“Most of the functionality of this camcorder is very similar to our Panasonic camcorders, but you have a convergence control in here,” Harris says. “As you pick your convergence point and zoom out and focus, all of your lenses are synched. This is a camcorder that a individual can use to go out and shoot very compelling content.”

The twin-lens system allows the convergence point to be adjusted, but a decision about offering an automated convergence feature has not yet been made.

“What we didn’t expect was so many folks saying, hey, I want to order the camera, without having a sense of all of the specs,” Harris says.

Most of the specs on AG-3DA1 are available now. The camera is equipped with dual lenses, dual recording on SD cards, and two full 1220×1080 3-MOS HD imagers to record various frame rates (1080/60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, and 24p native and 720/60p and 50p in AVCHD). It can record up to 180 minutes on dual 32-GB SD cards. It has dual HD-SDI out, as well as HDMI 1.4, which will be the primary interface on plasma displays. Two XLR connectors, built-in stereo microphone, and twin-lens camera remotes will also help this camera integrate seamlessly into a 3D workflow.

Full HD video streams of the right and left lenses can be recorded and distributed as files on SDHC/SD memory cards, which will also help keep the operational costs of this camera down.

A Monitor To Match
Continuing the 3D workflow, Panasonic also announced the BT-3DL2550, a 25-in. 3D LCD production monitor. The left-eye and right-eye images can be viewed simultaneously on the screen or can be overlaid for the full 3D effect. The 1920×1200-resolution monitor is designed to be used with polarizing (passive) glasses.

“This can be used with passive glasses, which are very affordable,” Harris says. “Also, in the production environment, using a synchronized shutter-type arrangement wouldn’t make sense because you may be looking at multiple monitors.”

The $9,900 price point includes two pairs of passive glasses. The monitor is set to begin shipping in September.

Inputs include two HD/SD-SDI and DVI, as well as component, RGB, and standard RS-232C and GPI remote inputs.

Rounding out Panasonic’s 3D workflow announcements is the AG-HMX100, an HD/SD digital AV mixer for 3D live-event production. The mixer incorporates a built-in multiviewer display output and combines video-switching and audio-mixing features at a price point of $5,800. It will be available in June.

Already Preparing for the Next Generation
Although all of Panasonic’s 3D products will be available this year, the cameras especially are made-to-order products.

“We’re not going to have a warehouse full of them,” says Joseph Facchini, VP of sales and product management for Panasonic.

Indeed, as individuals learn to use them, the company will make adjustments of its own in designing and building the next generation.

“We’re going to gain a body of experience building these,” says Michael Bergeron, strategic technology liaison. “We’ll be in a good position for the next generation.”