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Sony at NAB 2007

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sony ex Sony certainly had some fantastic announcements to make at this years NAB in Vegas. You simply won't believe where Sony is taking the XDCAM format! By the end of 2007 Sony will have the most comprehensive and complete range of camcorders in the world, from prosumer, semi-professional to out-and-out high end professional broadcast models in both SD and HD, Tape and Tapeless, and shooting onto both Optical Professional disc as well as the brand new Solid State 'ExpressCard' technology! These new products and technological advancements will put Sony light-years ahead of the competition as they cover tape, disc, solid state cards, native 1920x1080 chip blocks and new 1280x720 HD shooting modes as well as the usual 1080, in both interlace and progressive with variable frame rate cameras (even a budget one) and a full arsenal of decks, USB Professional Optical Disc reader/writers, solid state media cards and devices as well as other pieces of transcend expresscardequipment to complete any professional studio or in-house production company edit suite.

It would appear that Sony want to have a range of camcorders that cover every media recording option in every recording format for everyone from wedding videographers, corporate video producers, music video makers, independent filmmakers, big-budget blue-chip documentary makers through to multi-million dollar budget Hollywood feature film DoPs; everyone's requirements will be fulfilled. By the end of the year Sony will have it all.

Sony's current HD line up consists of the prosumer tape-based HDV camcorders, then there is the ENG style professional full-size shoulder-mount XDCAM HD camcorders, then the very high end HDCAM and SR models. So where are Sony going from here? Hold on very tight whilst I take you on one serious kick-ass thrill-seeking rollercoaster ride into the future of HD production with Sony.

Throughout this Sony NAB 2007 special news feature you will read about the following new products:
New 2/3rd-inch XDCAM HD camcorder
New 1/2-inch XDCAM HD camcorder (model PDW-F355L)
New Solid-State ExpressCard camcorder (model XDCAM EX HD)
New full-size shoulder-mounted large 276 minute cassette HDV camcorder
New high end XDCAM deck
New XDCAM deck (model PDW-F75)
New Professional XDCAM Optical disc USB reader/writer (model PDW-U1)
New PDZ-1 XDCAM HD logging software for PC
New PDZK-P1 XDCAM HD transfer software for Mac

sony 50gb xdcam discAs you can see from the above list, Sony have sprung a whole bunch of surprises on us. Personally I'd have been happy with the new dual-layer disc capable PDW-F355 and the new 2/3rd-inch XDCAM HD cameras; and Sony go and spring all this other amazing stuff on us. In fact this reminds me of the famous line spoken by Samuel L Jackson in Tarantino's movie Pulp Fiction. It's the part when Jackson and Travolta turn up at Tarrantino's place and Tarantino makes them a coffee, then Jackson says "Goddamn Jimmie, this is some serious gourmet shit. Me an'Vincent woulda been satisfied with some freeze-dried Tasters Choice, and you spring this gourmet shit on us."

It would appear that Sony are out to dominate the world in all areas of video production; by the end of the year they will quite simply have it all.

Okay, now I've got you all whipped up into a frenzy of excitement, where do I begin? Well I could start with the all-new 'Solid State ExpressCard' camcorder, known as the 'EX' Series; nah, I'll leave that until a little later in the article to give you something to look forward to.

MODELS SO FAR
Sony's current XDCAM HD range is being extended; big time! The current XDCAM HD range consists of the PDW-F330 and the PDW-F350. XDCAM is now to become the family name for ALL Sony's tapeless acquisition products. Oh, for the record, the XD in XDCAM breaks down like this.

As a new breakthrough of workflow advantages, XDCAM is attributed as follows: 'X' represents unlimited and ultimate power. 'D' represents disc, digital, dimension, definition.

The above is straight from Sony HQ in Japan. We all know the current XDCAM HD range are 1/2-inch models, to the absolute delight of most, but to the dismay of others; mainly hire companies. But all this is going to change during the final quarter of 2007, which is when an all-new 2/3rd-inch XDCAM HD model will be available to buy. In September 2007 you will also be able to buy the all-new PDW-F355L XDCAM HD camcorder, which retains the 1/2-inch chips of the current PDW-F350 model.

PDW-F355L 1/2-Inch XDCAM HD CAMCORDER
sony pdw-f355The first big announcement for Sony is the all-new PDW-F355L 1/2-inch XDCAM HD model. This new model is essentially a PDW-F350 with some extra bells and whistles and dual-layer 50GB disc compatibility. The new PDW-F355L 1/2-inch model will feature the new dual-layer optical disc drive, all ready for the new 50GB dual layer Professional XDCAM HD discs that will become available a short time later in December 2007 when the likes of TDK, Maxel, Fuji and Sony of course, bring out new 50GB dual-layer XDCAM discs. Shooting at HQ HD 35Mbps you will now be able to fit 140 minutes of glorious HD footage onto a single 50GB disc. The new PDW-355L will also be backward compatible so you can also shoot to the current range of single layer Professional Discs. Other features of the F355 include: SD/SDI as well as the usual HD/SDI with 24p output via HD/SDI too. It will also use the latest Sony Memory Stick Pro media sticks, which although appears to be a tiny change, it is in fact a very big one, as the current 1/2-inch XDCAM HD camcorders were designed to use Sony Memory Sticks up to a maximum of 128MB capacity. The new model also has a 'shutter angle' setting for film. Oh yes, there is also DVCAM interval record and cache record functions too; great for those wishing to shoot in SD mode for the foreseeable.

However, the PDW-F355 does not come with a viewfinder. Which leads one to think that Sony could have a new viewfinder option coming out as well as the one and a half inch and the two inch versions that are currently available for the PDW-F330 and PDW-F350 camcorders; we shall see.

2/3rd-Inch XDCAM HD CAMCORDER
Sony also announced a brand new 2/3rd-inch XDCAM HD camcorder that features brand new native 1920x1080 CCD chip sets, that's three 2.2 Megapixel CCD blocks! This should keep the anti-half-inchers very happy indeed. Expect to see hire companies adopt this camera in their droves. Did I mention that it uses 4:2:2 colour sampling too! Sony are calling this new model the MPEGHD422 XDCAM HD camera. Effectively the colour sampling of the new 2/3rd XDCAM model is in fact better than HDCAM. The brand new codec chip also allows higher quality bit-rate recordings of 50Mbps as well as the 18, 25 and 35Mbps settings currently used in the 1/2-inch models. As well as native 1920x1080 HD recording it also has the option to record in 1280x720 50/60P in 4:2:2 at 50Mbps and 1280x720 50/60P 4:2:0 at 35Mbps; this will come in handy whilst the EBU try and make up their minds with regard to HD standards.

sony pdw-fxxx

The camera also has 14-Bit A/D conversion, built in up/down conversion and cross conversion from 1080 to 720; nice! Also this new camera has F10 sensitivity! At full-on 50Mbps quality you will manage very respectable recording times of 45 minutes onto a current 23GB disc, or 100 minutes onto a new 50GB dual layer disc. Sony Professional disc media also continues to come down in price - this is reflected in the prices from companies such as PMD Magnetics and Stanley Productions for example. As Sony's XDCAM HD range continues to expand and sales skyrocket beyond even Sony's wildest expectations we can expect to see the price of XDCAM HD discs drop even more in the future; not that they are expensive now at less than 20 a pop.

sony mpeg422Sony are saying that this new 2/3rd-inch XDCAM HD model will not have variable framerates; at least to start with. They are in two minds on this one; perhaps a flag-ship all-singing-all-dancing model that does have variable framerate options, or a firmware update at a later date. The camera is physically capable of variable framerates, it is for Sony to decide which way they will go with it. Personally I think they will be waiting to see how this new 2/3rd-inch XDCAM HD camcorder affects HDCAM sales. If HDCAM sales plummet as a result of this new camera, Sony will more than likely bring out a flag-ship 2/3rd-inch XDCAM HD model as a HDCAM replacement. If on the other hand HDCAM sales are not affected, Sony will more than likely bring out a firmware update to allow variable framerate options.

2/3rd-inch XDCAM HD Specifications
3 x 2/3" 2.2 megapixel CCD
14-bit A/D conversion
F10 sensitivity
Dual layer capable for new 50GB discs
Improved FAM and FTP transfer speeds
pdw-1500Built in up/down converter
Built in conversion from 1080 to/from 720
Built in colour LCD
Live and Play (clean switching from EE to PB for one-man operations)
Data transfer on HD-SDI such as Teletext, ARIB, and Closed Caption
Remote recording with the connected deck through HD-SDI.

XDCAM HD DECKS
There are also two new XDCAM HD decks on the horizon. The new PDW-F75 has dual-layer disc capabilities for the new 50GB discs, as well as being backward compatible with the single layer 23GB discs. It also has DVCAM recording, MS Pro, additional base band setting, additional REF lock mode at playback, Trigger REC over HD/SDI as well as various menu improvements and the ability to take Memory Stick Pro. Sony are also bringing out a very high end flagship model featuring mega fast transfers via 2 optical heads and 4:2:2 colour space. The latter is quite simply state-of-the-art and has every conceivable feature and input/output you could wish for.

sony pdw-f75 deck

PDW-U1 USB XDCAM HD DISC READER/WRITER
sony pdw-u1Remember, you don't actually need to buy a deck if you are on a budget as the XDCAM HD camcorders transfer to/from computer via FAM (file transfer mode) FireWire at speeds of less than half real time. If you can't afford a deck, but would like another option as opposed to using your camcorder - which might be in the field - then you could opt for the brand new PDW-U1. The PDW-U1 is a new USB drive that reads and writes to Sony's Professional XDCAM HD Optical Disc. This little device is simply stunning, as well as incredibly compact; about the size of a small external FireWire hard drive such as the LaCie models. The PDW-U1 has the following features: USB 2.0 interface, single optical head with Max read of 120Mbps, support for phase1, 2 and 3 media, dual-layer ready, multiple file access, and bundled software utilities including PDZ-1 for Windows, PDZ-VX10 viewer for Windows, PDZK-P1 transfer software for Mac and utility firmware upgrade for Windows and Macintosh. The PDW-U1 will be available to buy in September for around 1800 list price.

PDW-U1 Specifications
USB 2.0 interface
Single optical head (120Mbps max read speed)
Supports all announced XDCAM media
Dual layer ready
Multiple file access
Free included software for Mac and PC

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So that's the higher end additions to the XDCAM HD range, but what about the lower end. Well, the prices of the new low-end range might be low, but the quality is anything but; get a load of this. Sony also announced the new 'EX' series of camcorders.

NEW 'EX' SERIES SOLID-STATE 'EXPRESSCARD' CAMCORDER!!!
Sony's biggest announcement by far is their all-new 'EX' series XDCAM EX HD compact camcorder. The EX series is part of the XDCAM family of products. The EX series is a compact camcorder that records to solid-state ExpressCards. This is Sony's first ever solid-state camcorder. The EX series is a much requested camcorder in Sony's HD line up. It is targetted at any HD production where size and affordability is an issue including HD ENG productions. The EX series camcorder may be compared to the Panasonic HVX200 P2 camcorder, in fact I'd go so far as to say that Sony's new EX series is a direct attack at the HVX200, only the Sony model uses larger 1/2-inch CCD chips with superior image quality.expresscard As the XDCAM HD brand is synonymous with picture quality and high resolution chips, it is my guess that these 1/2-inch CCDs will be native 1080x1440, just like the 1/2-inch chips in the current PDW-F350 camera. However, they could be CMOS, only time will tell. The first EX series camcorder will be available to buy late in 2007; but boy will it be worth the wait!

The new EX series will be about the same size and weight of the current HVR-V1E model, but that is where the similarities end. The new EX model is solid-state only, unlike the Panasonic HVX200, Sony's EX has no tape mechanism slammed on the side, no sir, Sony are looking far into the future with this one. The new compact EX series camcorder is based on new 'ExpressCard' memory technology. The ExpressCard Standard is the next generation of PC Card technology and is the successor to the PCMCIA PC card style interface that Panasonic use with their P2 card system. The current PCMCIA PC card type is now considered old technology and the latest Apple Mac laptops and Sony Vaio laptops no longer support it. Sony's new EX series camcorder has two ExpressCard slots on the side. The newer ExpressCard technology allows faster file transfer than P2 as a far lower cost of ownership.

sony xdcam ex

How does the ExpressCard that Sony use differ from Panasonic's P2 card type?
1. Panasonic's P2 cards are based on the old PCMCIA PC card technology, which is old technology and no longer supported by the IT industry. In fact the only company supporting PC card technology is Panasonic with their P2 cards; for the rest of the world, PC card technology is yesterdays technology and it has no place in the future if IT or professional video production.

2. The transfer/read/write speeds of the new ExpressCard is much faster than P2.

3. ExpressCard media is a 'Comodity' solid-state media type, which basically means it is made by lots of companies, not just Sony. It is not a Sony invention. This means you can walk into regular computer and electrical stores and buy one right over the counter. Panasonic's P2 cards are made by Panasonic, and Panasonic only. This will never change simply because companies like Fuji, Lexar, Kodak and Sandisk to name a few have no interest in P2 because they would only ever sell one or two to Panasonic P2 users; hardly a profit making business for these third party companies. However, these came companies will make ExpressCard media because they can sell millions of them to people not only using Sony solid-state ExpressCard camcorders, but also to the IT industry where people use ExpressCards in the latest Apple MacBook and Sony Viao Laptop computers, not to mention Dell and other laptop computer manufacturers who are now supporting the newer ExpressCard technology on their latest laptop computers.

4. Express cards are much cheaper to buy than Panasonic P2 cards. This is because there is a much greater demand for them and they are made in larger quantaties for lots of applications outside professional HD video production. Because of the sheer mass production of Express cards the costs are far less. Today you can buy an 8GB ExpressCard for around 225 or a 16GB card for around 375. As ExpressCard technology becomes the norm, these (already cheap) prices will drop considerably and will be priced more like CF cards are in digital stills photography.

5. No more solid-state archival/storage issues like those that have been the cancer of P2. P2 has been riddled with workflow issues, just check out the forums, virtually every post is about what workflow works best. Panasonic even hired a top IT guy to come in and figure out the best workflow for them as nobody else could. Apparently this IT expert suggested either Blu-Ray or DLT (Digital Linear Tape). Well Blu-Ray is a consumer format and is nowhere near as robost or reliable as Sony's XDCAM Optical Professional Discs. And DLT is a joke because if you archive onto this old tape system, what happens if you want to pull some footage 15 years from now? you won't be able to buy a DLT player, and you certainly won't be able to get a used DLT player repaired as there simply won't be the parts. So basically, P2 is as stuck now, as it ever was and it is because of these factors (and the expensive price of P2 cards) that P2 simply won't be around come 2010. So how does Sony get around these issues? simple, in fact VERY SIMPLE. The Express cards are much cheaper to start with, but get this. Sony has also just announced the new PDW-U1 (see above), which as you've just read, is a USB XDCAM Professional Optical Disc reader/writer. It cost just 1,995 inc VAT in the UK. Because the new EX ExpressCard camcorder records to exactly the same codec and file type as it's big brother, the full-size XDCAM HD models, you can simply dump your footage over onto blank XDCAM HD discs by means of fast drag-and-drop methods and all your cliplists and metadata remain in tact as there is no processing required; how sweet is that. These discs are good for archival purposes for a minimum shelf-life of 50 years. Oh, it is dirt cheap to as the current price of a 23GB XDCAM disc is around 15 from the likes of Fuji, TDK, Maxell and of course, Sony. And you have the peace of mind that you are backing up to Sony's 'Professional' highly robust XDCAM discs, and not hte problematic consumer version i.e. fingerprints, damage to disc surface, stability issues etc. So all-in-all, Sony's solid-state ExpressCard camera is cheaper, faster, more reliable and totally trouble and hassle-free when it comes to archiving.

6. Because the EX series records to the same 18, 25 and 35Mbps MPEG2 format as it's big brothers, the PDW-F330, the PDW-F350 and the PDW-F355, the EX series camcorder's footage is totally 100% compatible with all existing XDCAM compatible non-linear edit systems, but with a totally cheap and workable archive plan all in place and ready to go; or should I say, ready to rock!!

Notice in the picture below of the XDCAM EX's lens. It is built by Fujinon and it has all the 'proper' manual features as well as auto-servo. It has a proper aperture ring as well as focus and zoom control markings.

sony xdcam ex

ExpressCard speed is up to 800Mbps, the theoretical speed of a Panasonic P2 card (which is based on old technology PCMCIA PC card technology) is just 640Mbps. Sony could have gone with their own 'Memory Stick Pro' technology, but MS would not be fast enough for transfer/record speeds, but above all, Sony wanted to go with a commodity solid state system that is the very latest state-of-the-art technology that can be advanced well into the future allowing for much larger storage capacities and faster read/write/transfer speeds. It will also be more readily available from non-video retail shops such as Dixons and PC World as ExpressCards are made by lots of different manufacturers. Unlike Panasonic's P2 cards, the new ExpressCard technology is a commodity storage medium, which basically means lots of other companies WILL be making these cards because they can be used in other applications outside the world of video. The current cards (such as the HSC range, see: www.hsc-us.com)are available in 8GB and 16GB capacities, with 32GB becoming available by the end of 2007 and 64GB cards in 2008. The current 8GB and 16GB cards available on the market today cost just 225 for the 8GB one (a far cry from the prices of an 8GB Panasonic P2 card), let's see what Sony themselves come to market with in the ExpressCard department. Also, because of the superb XDCAM HD 35Mbps MPEG codec, recording times are much longer. With a 16GB card recording at 25Mbps the recording time is 3.5 minutes per gig; that's 56 minutes of great HD footage on a single 16GB card. At High-Quality 35Mbps onto a 16GB card the recording time is 2.5 minutes per gig; that's 40 minutes of stunning HQ (high quality) HD footage. The new EX compact camcorder has two card slots, so you can double these times to 112 minutes at 25Mbps or 80 minutes at 35Mbps. When the 32GB cards become available the times will be 224 minutes or 160 minutes of glorious HQ HD footage.

sony ex

expresscard sizesNow get this, the new EX series also have 3 x 1/2-inch ccd chips that will help in low-light recording situations. It also record at 25Mbps and 35Mbps, which is identical to the current 1/2-inch XDCAM HD models such as the F350; the codec is exactly the same. The EX will record at 1080p and 1080i as well as 720p and it shoots in 24p too. It also has cine-gamma curves and it shoots in variable framerates from 1 to 60p which is great for over/undercranking slo-motion shots. The camcorder also includes a fixed 14x superior quality Fujinon zoom lens.

Although the artist impression of the EX camera says Canon on the lens, I've had it straight from the horses mouth that it is going to be a Fujinon built in lens and quite possibly a proper one with infinity stops, not a servo-focus job that simply spins for ever. But the latter is not totally confirmed yet. The camera also states CMOS on the body, which may or may not be true. Either way they will be half inch full resolution 1080 chips.

sxs cards

The new EX series camcorder will make an ideal B-camera to the full size XDCAM HD models because of the identical codec and shooting formats.

So basically, Sony have watched Panasonic and have learned from their good points and their not so good points. They have allowed Panasonic go gloat for the past few years, but now they are here to crash the party; big time! and they are bringing a bigger keg of beer that tastes a lot nicer. I've always compared the solid-state thing as a video version of the 'space race' between the Americans and the Russians. Who was going to get to the moon first? Well this was similar, because Panasonic wanted to get their first, they simply rushed the technology by stuffing four bog-standard SD cards into a PC Card by way of raid as this was the only way to achieve the transfer speeds required. Sure, Panasonic got there first, but with the wrong technology; old technology. Instead, Sony watched and waited and now they are going to spring their trump card and it is called the EX series XDCAM EX HD. It's new, it's the latest technology that will be around long after the P2 graveyard has had new houses and modern apartments built over the top of it. It is not going to be around until November this year, but when it is, expect a revolution as Sony take the XDCAM family well and truly into the future.

Okay, some folk on the Panasonic side of the fence will be jumping up and down shouting "but XDCAM HD uses the Long GoP MPEG2 compression format, whilst Panasonic uses the superior DVCPROHD intrafame compression format. Now anyone running around saying the DVCPROHD intrafame compression type is superior to XDCAM HD's MPEG2 Long GoP compression type is seriously ill-informed and uneducated in compression types. Fact is, both DVCPRO HD and XDCAM HD use compression, just different types. The only reason Panasonic use the 'capacity-sapping' DVCPROHD intrafame compression codec is because they simply don't understand how to build a great MPEG2 Long GoP interframe codec like that of Sony's XDCAM HD. One day Panasonic will learn how to do this and they too will start using it. Remember when Panasonic slagged off Sony's DVCAM colour space? well they did, but a few years later they figured out how to do it and have also been using it ever since.

sxs cards

Lots of highly respected and reputable high-end professional graders (three of which I've spoken to personally) around the world have rated the XDCAM HD 4:2:0 Long GoP codec as being almost as good as HDCAM, if not better in come circumstances. The ones I spoke to have told me they were simply amazed at how much colour can be pulled from XDCAM HD footage and professional grader Angus of Studio Alba off the west coast of scotland (www.studioalba.com) has pushed and pulled XDCAM HD footage using the programme Smoke and he is well impressed with how well XDCAM HD footage holds up; and he is not an easy man to please. Angus is used to cutting features from film formats and high end HD formats like HDCAM SR. He recently edited a short piece together shot on XDCAM HD and after grading it and playing it back go visitors, many simply thought it was film and did not believe it was a digital format.

So, colour grading is as good as any high end format, and I've spoken to people who have done green-screen keying jobs on XDCAM HD and they have also said it is right up there and it's easy to pull a nice clean key from the footage. These comments are coming from high end professional graders who know their onions. With facts like these, Panasonic simply can't go around shouting that their intraframe codec is better than Sony's interframe codec, if they do, they simply haven't used it in anger to realise that it is anything but better.

Price of the XDCAM EX
The official word from Sony Japan is that the new EX series XDCAM EX will sell for a list price of 4,995 (8000, $8,000), but by the time it hits the streets and retailers discount accordingly the more realistic price will be about 3,995 including VAT. This is slightly more than a Z1, but then the XDCAM EX does have half inch CCD blocks. The XDCAM EX will also ship with an 8GB card as part of the package. Of course (like the Z1) the price will come down more once the camera has been out for 6 months or so.

About ExpressCard Technology
ExpressCard technology is designed to deliver high-performance, modular expansion to both desktop and notebook computers at a lower cost and in a smaller form factor. Users are able to add memory, wired and wireless communications, multimedia and security features by inserting ExpressCard modules into compliant systems. At roughly half the size and lighter than today's PC Card, ExpressCard products also leverage the proven advantages of PC Card technology, including reliability, durability and expansion flexibility while offering improved performance.

ExpressCard Advantages
A Smaller and Faster PC Card Solution
Suitable for Mobile and Desktop Systems
Supports USB 2.0 and PCI Express Applications
Lower System and Card Complexity

Relationship to the PC Card Standard
expresscard 34The ExpressCard Standard is the next generation of PC Card technology used in more than 95% of all notebook computers for adding new hardware capabilities. The ExpressCard Standard was created by a broad coalition of PCMCIA member companies including Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, Lexar Media, Microsoft, SCM Microsystems and Texas Instruments. PCMCIA developed the new standard with assistance from the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) and the PCI-SIG (Peripheral Component Interconnect-Special Interest Group). PCMCIA is a non-profit trade association founded in 1989 to establish technical standards for PC Card technology and to promote interchangeability among computer systems. The ExpressCard standard builds on the success of the PC Card Standard, including the 16-bit PC Card and the popular CardBus PC Card. Over time, ExpressCard technology is expected to replace CardBus as the preferred solution for hot-pluggable internal I/O expansion for notebook and desktop computers, especially in smaller form factor 'sealed box' designs. ExpressCard technology uses a simpler connector and eliminates the CardBus controller by using direct connections to PCI-Express and USB ports in the host. This lowers the cost of slot implementations in host systems.

ExpressCard Module Form Factors
There are two standard formats of ExpressCard modules: the ExpressCard-34 module (34mmx75mm) and the ExpressCard-54 module (54mmx75mm). Both formats are 5mm thick, the same as the older PC Card that this ExpressCard replaces. The standard module length is 75mm, which is 10.6mm shorter than a standard PC Card. Both module formats use the same connector interface.

The two ExpressCard module sizes give system manufacturers greater flexibility than in the past.

The ExpressCard technology improves the data transfer speed by using higher performance serial data interfaces rather than parallel buses.

ExpressCard technology is designed to allow users to install and remove modules at any time, without having to switch off their systems. This hot-plug functionality is a well-established part of the CardBus and USB specification.

SONY & SANDISK ANNOUNCE SxS ExpressCard
Just to add to this amazing party, below is a press release of the Sandisk/Sony SxS ExpressCard for professional camcorders.

SanDisk and Sony have jointly today announced the new SxS memory card format designed for professional camcorders. This new format is essentially the definition of a PCI Express memory card, it's the same size and has the same interface. Initially announced in 16 GB capacity we wouldn't be surprised to see this doubling within a few months (such is the pace of flash memory development). Although not strictly digital photography related (yet) this format may well be of interest to developers of professional medium format backs and other specialized cameras.

Press Release
SanDisk and Sony Announce SxS Memory Card Specification for Professional Camcorders

SxS offers high capacity and high-speed data transfer
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, April 15, 2007 -- SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ: SNDK) and Sony Corporation today announced that the two companies have agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU ) with the intention of developing the SxS (S-by-S) memory card specification, with high-speed transfer technology compliant to the ExpressCard industry standard. SxS memory cards will leverage the technology strength of SanDisk and Sony, who have a long and successful history of co-developing and promoting flash memory products. With this high-performance and high-reliability memory card, both companies are targeting workflow improvements for professional camcorders and non-linear video editing systems.

sandisk sony sxsThe SxS memory card specification uses flash memory and complies with the ExpressCard industry standard, and the card connects directly to computer systems through the high-speed PCI-Express bus. ExpressCard has been rapidly adopted by PC manufacturers to replace the legacy PC Card form factor, giving the SxS memory cards broad support in post-production hardware.

Sony will adopt this high-speed SxS memory card specification in its XDCAM EX series professional camcorders. SxS memory cards from SanDisk and Sony are expected to be available later in 2007.

Benefits
High-speed data transfer of large video files. SxS memory cards are the first native PCI Express solid-state storage media1. PCI Express has a maximum data transfer speed of 2.5 gigabits per second, twice as fast as PC Card-based storage media. In addition, SanDisk and Sony have optimized the technology protocol for controlling communication between hardware and SxS memory cards to enable high-speed transfer of large files, such as high-definition video, to PCs for non-linear video-editing. The target transfer speed of SxS memory cards is 800 megabits per second.

Compact Size. The SxS memory card specification uses ExpressCard/34 modules (width: 34mm, height: 5mm, length: 75mm), half the size of PC Cards. This enables the design of professional camcorders that are smaller and lighter, while still offering high storage capacities. Sony and SanDisk share the goal of providing leadership in high-performance, high-capacity recording solutions for professional video, said Eli Harari, Chairman and CEO of SanDisk. I am proud of the close cooperation we have had with Sony over the years, and I look forward to the exciting new products that SxS memory cards will enable.

Yutaka Nakagawa, Executive Deputy President and Corporate Executive Officer of Sony Corporation, said: Sony has successfully collaborated with SanDisk Corporation in promoting the Memory Stick formats. Significant milestones have been the Memory Stick PRO format in 2003, the Memory Stick Micro in 2005 and Memory Stick PRO-HG in 2006. I am delighted by todays joint announcement of this new technology, which expands our collaboration to a new area, the professional video market, offering great benefits to users in this field. With the introduction of this SxS memory card, we will seek to expand its use throughout professional video applications to enable highly efficient workflow systems.

FULL-SIZE HDV CAMCORDER
Okay, we are not quite done yet. Sony also announced an all-new full-size HDV camcorder; just how many rabbits are Sony going to pull out of the hat this year?

sony full size hdv camcorder

My guess is that this could well be Sony's final tape-based camcorder, certainly in the prosumer market anyway. But if it is, they are certainly leaving the tape market behind with a bang with this one.

With high end 2/3rd-inch XDCAM HD and 1/2-inch XDCAM HD and now the compact EX solid state camcorder Sony are looking at a tapeless future. However, tape still has a lot of life in it and Sony recognize this fact, which is why they also produced the HVR-V1E earlier this year also.

I would say that this new full-size shoulder-mounted HDV camcorder is aimed squarely at the corporate and wedding videography market, where it will be welcomed with open arms. Wedding videographers especially have been gagging for a HD or HDV camcorder with long recording times. Now there prayers have been answered as they can now happily record even the most patience-testing long-winded speeches of the best man to a full-size 276 minute HDV cassette, or 184 minutes in standard-definition DVCAM mode. Never before has 276 minutes of glorious HDV 1080 footage been possible on a single cassette from an acquisition camcorder; until now.

Because of the full-size Sony V-mount batteries, the running time is also right up there where it should be too. Up to 8 hours of continuous shooting is possible with some of the larger V-type batteries from the likes of Sony, Hawk-Woods and Anton Bauer.

The lens is a built-in servo-focus type, not to dissimilar in design to the older DSR-200, but this lens appears to be a superior version with improved optics and overall handling. There is also a Sony Memory Stick slot on the rear of the camera for the usual scene files etc.

This full-size HDV camcorder will be available to buy in October at a cost of around 4,995 inc VAT UK price.

NEW XDCAM SOFTWARE
Sony also anounced new XDCAM HD software too. The PDZ-1 logging software for PC moves up to version 2.2 and has the following new features: export AAF file from cliplist, memory card direct access and edit, clip rename with prefix + numeric, partial clip transfer with margins, set clip status (OK, NG, KEEP).

Apple Mac/Final Cut Pro fans will be delighted with the all-new PDZK-P1 XDCAM Transfer Software for Mac. This will move to Version 2 and has the following new features: clip rename and deletion, quick thumbnail load, metadata editing, connect multiple XDCAM devices via FAM, import with 'Disc Name + Clip Name', improve performance of partial HD clip import, cliplist preview and import partial HR clip, support for PDW-U1 bare drive. The transfer speeds are going to be faster too. This is because proxies are currently cached and are not accessed directly from the disc. With the new PDZK-P1 software the proxies will be accessed directly from disc so overall transfer/import times will be much quicker.

Sony has built up 35 XDCAM partners in just 4 years including the likes of AVID, Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Grass Valley, Matrox, Canopus and many others.

Conclusions
There is absolutely no doubt that 2007 is going to be Sony's year; and a very busy one at that. Sony are about to take the XDCAM HD family further than anyone would have dreamed possible; and then some. The use of ExpressCards on the new EX camcorder has come as a great surprise to many, but it is a very nice surprise and because of their use of a commodity solid-state recording medium, it has made professional HD solid-state a far more viable option for the masses and the far longer recording times makes it an even more attractive solid-state HD recording option. The fact that Sony are keeping the recording formats identical across the board means the the entire XDCAM family will simply grow and go from strength-to-strength.

So there it is, we have the current range of 1/2-inch XDCAM HD camcorders with a new PDW-F355 on the way. A brand new 2/3-inch XDCAM HD model running at 50Mbps into a 4:2:2 sampling colour space as well as the all-new solid-state EX series compact budget camcorder too. Overall the future is looking very bright and rosy indeed for those currently in the Sony camp; and for those are aren't.

For more details on the latest PCMCIA ExpressCard technology visit: www.expresscard.org

Details of the new Sony products will appear on Sony's website soon after NAB visit: www.sonybiz.net

For details on the entire XDCAM family and for XDCAM information in general visit the DVuser sister website: www.xdcamuser.co.uk

For details on the entire XDCAM family and for XDCAM information in general visit another great UK website: www.tapelessrev.com

2007 Nigel Cooper

Date: 11-04-2007

 
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