Live From NAB: Panasonic All About AVC-Ultra, Tease 4K VariCam and Workflow

Although it will not actually hit the market until 2013, Panasonic’s new compression scheme, AVC-Ultra, permeated through nearly every major announcement at the company’s pre-NAB press conference in Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon. Panasonic’s two highest profile announcements – the new lightweight AG-HPX600 P2 HD should-mount camcorder and a new series of small form factor microP2 cards – will both support AVC-Ultra, which promises to be a universal compression

The highlight of the event came when Panasonic teased what AVC-Ultra could present in the future by offering attendees a look at a 4K VariCam prototype and briefly discussing how the compression platform could make widespread 4K a reality sooner rather than later.

“I believe that our approach to the delivery of 4K differs from others in that we can establish a complete 4K workflow with AVC-Ultra at its core,” Michael Bergeron, Business Development Manager for Panasonic System Communications Company of North America (PSCNA), said as he held up the 4K Varicam prototype to applause from the crowd. “The unprecedented file sizes for 4k can severely limit the applications and a powerful mezzanine compression tool will move the stunning images from the camera to the post process to a Panasonic display all in real time. With that kind of simplicity we plan to make 4K attainable for a host of new applications.”

AG-HPX600 Shoulder Cam: The Lightest of the Light
Panasonic’s other big news came in the form of the AG-HPX600, a new P2 HD camcorder with 10-bit, 4:2:2 AVC-Intra recording and the lowest weight of a shoulder-mount unit. Weighing less than seven pounds and using low power, the HPX600 incorporates a newly-developed 2/3 type MOS sensor to produce high quality HD and SD images. The HPX600 will achieve the high sensitivity of F12 (at 59.94 Hz) and a signal-to-noise ratio of 59dB. It supports AVC-Intra100/50, DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO50, DVCPRO, and DV as standard. It is 50 Hz and 59.94 Hz switchable for worldwide use.

Options on the camera include wireless metadata input, proxy recording, and variable frame rates (available this Fall), and then AVC-ULTRA recording when it becomes available in 2013 (the AG-HPX600 will not support all AVC-ULTRA formats, however).

AG-HPX600 will be available in the Fall at a targeted suggested list price of less than $16,000 (body only) and less than $18,000 with AG-CVF10 new color viewfinder.

Panasonic also announced that the HPX600 would serve as the camcorder in a new live video uplink solution the company is working on with LiveU. LiveU’s LU40i video uplink device will be linked via the camera interface, giving camera operators a real-time indication of LiveU’s transmission status and video transmission quality. With the LU40i and HPX600, a camera operator will be able to manage the video uplink while shooting.

Think Small: MicroP2 Cards Pack P2 Punch in SD Size Package
The microP2 cards come in an SD card form factor to cut down on media costs. The microP2 card will ensure high-speed transfer, high reliability, and the writing assurance of all P2 frame rates, formats and codecs, as well as Panasonic’s newest compression platform, up to the AVC-Intra200 mode of AVC-ULTRA.

Anyone worried about how this will affect their existing P2 camera workflow can take comfort in the fact that Panasonic simultaneously introduced the microP2 Card Adaptor, which allows 64GB and 32GB microP2 cards to operate in current P2 hardware. The microP2 card adaptor design allows Class 10 or high-quality SD cards (at bit rates only up to 50Mbps) to be used in P2 products in emergency situations.

However, The microP2 card and microP2 card adaptor will not support all P2 products. To use the microP2 card adaptor, a firmware upgrade of current P2 hardware is required and a fee will be charged.

The microP2 media and microP2 Card Adaptor will be available in spring 2013.

Aframe, Panasonic Team Up for PPN
Panasonic also announced an intriguing to new partnership with Aframe (which is well established in Europe but didn’t launch in the U.S. until 2009) to create “the Panasonic Production Network (PPN)”, a cloud video production network that allows professionals to rapidly upload and view their high-quality video from dedicated cloud servers.

Aframe’s cloud network allows users to share, search and collaborate without on-site equipment or full-time staff, and only requires an internet connection. Aframe allows for any original, large broadcast-quality video format in any length to be uploaded, including uncompressed raw footage – not proxies or intermediaries.

Odds and Ends
Other new product introductions included the PT-DZ21 3-chip DLP projector series – the world’s smallest and lightest 20,000 lumen projectors, according to Panasonic – and the expansion of the company’s high-end LCD production monitors with the BT-LH2170 21.5″ and BT-LH1850 18.5″ models.

Panasonic also announced upgrades to the AG-AF100 Large Sensor HD Cinema camera, and the AV-HS410 HD/SD “smart” switcher, AG-HPX250 P2 HD and AG-AC160/AC130 AVCCAM HD handheld camcorders, as well as to the AJ-HPM200 and AJ-HPD2500 solid-state recorders.