(PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 23, 2006) At this week's Sundance Film Festival, Sony is taking the wraps off of the next generation of its XDCAM™ Professional Disc™ system - a line of high-definition optical camcorders and decks that offers cinematographers and directors of photography a toolkit of flexible, digital production options.
The XDCAM HD system is the latest Sony digital innovation to debut at Sundance, and marks the continuing evolution of optical technology as video professionals shift from standard definition production.
This new line-up, which includes two camcorders and two decks, rounds out Sony's range of HD production tools, filling a niche between entry-level and high-end formats. One of the new camcorders, the PDW-F350, offers a feature of particular interest to cinematographers: true variable frame rate recording capabilities; also commonly known as "over-cranking" and "under-cranking" or "slow-motion/fast motion" functionality.
"This is a much-desired and often critical feature for cinematographers and directors of photography who need the flexibility of changing frame rates to create unique `looks' for their productions or to create special effects," said Robert Ott, vice president of optical and network systems for Sony Electronics. "For digital cinematographers, shooting at slower or faster frame rates than playback gives them the great motion effects often seen in film cinema."
With the introduction of the XDCAM HD system, Sony is also extending its CineAlta™ family of cinematic, broadcast and professional production systems by embracing these new products within the CineAlta brand.
The two XDCAM HD camcorders - the PDW-F330 and PDW-F350 - both offer true 24P recording in SD or HD, interval recording, and slow shutter. The same Professional Disc media used in the standard definition version of the XDCAM system is also compatible with the new HD version. Now, professional users can record up to two hours of high definition content on the versatile optical media, maintaining their workflow continuity by combining HD resolution with the same IT-based benefits made possible by XDCAM technology since its initial launch in 2004.
The standard definition version of the XDCAM system has been adopted by news organizations, videographers and television producers, especially for reality TV shows.
The standard definition version of the XDCAM system has also made its way into the world of cinematography. A new release from InDigEnt Films, "Puccini for Beginners," was shot entirely in standard-definition XDCAM format and is a narrative feature entry in the Dramatic Competition at this year's festival.
Filmmaker Mauricio Rubenstein of InDigEnt Films ("Pieces of April," "Personal Velocity," "Tadpole") credits the XDCAM optical technology for his ability to shoot the feature in just 18 days with minimal technical support. Rubenstein was most impressed by the ability to have immediate, random access to footage on the set using the XDCAM Professional Disc media, enabling him to thumbnail through dailies while on set, without fear of scratching or erasing footage. He also noted the appearance of day exteriors and the camera's ability to adjust to low-light conditions.
"The color (in the day exteriors) doesn't wash out, and the resolution is strong and rich; wide shot images don't appear degraded," said Rubenstein. "We shot an entire scene under a lamppost using a 150 watt lamp, and the detail the XDCAM system picked up was unbelievable."
Ian Calderon, director of digital initiatives for the Sundance Institute, is already familiar with the XDCAM system from its use at the Institute's summer Filmmaker's Lab. According to Calderon, the availability of an HD version holds incredible potential for movie-making.
"Optical technology is reliable, practical and ideal for the independent filmmaker," he said. "The picture quality is breathtaking and the disc-based technology is reasonably priced and indestructible. It gives filmmakers remarkable freedom and on the fly, instantaneous access to footage while on location and during post production."
The introduction of the XDCAM HD system continues to reinforce Sony's leadership position in digital cinematography, and at Sundance. This year, one-third of the festival entries were shot on a Sony digital video format. Also, all screenings will be projected digitally using Sony's HDCAM format.
Based on blue-laser technology, the XDCAM system's Professional Disc media offers unique benefits in terms of split-second random access to footage in the field or during the post process, and multi-format flexibility and flexible record times (approximately 120 minutes or more of HD content at 18 Mbps or 85 minutes of SD DVCAM at 25 Mps).
The Sony Professional Disc media is re-usable up to 1,000 read/write cycles and up to 10,000 read/write cycles in ideal conditions, based on Sony's own testing. The greater number of repeat recordings possible with the XDCAM Professional Disc allows a production crew to re-use it more often than a videotape and without experiencing degradation after multiple uses of the media.
In addition to a technology display at the Sundance Film Center, Sony is also conducting workshops on the topics of:
- The Sony XDCAM System - Featuring DP Mauricio Rubinstein who will discuss the XDCAM optical disc acquisition technology used to create the new film "Puccini for Beginners" (Monday, Jan. 23, 2:00 p.m., Workshop Area A; and
- HD Media Choices - A discussion about choosing the right media for HD applications (January 22 and 24, 2:00 p.m.,Workshop Area A)
The following XDCAM HD products are planned to be available this March, with suggested list pricing of:
- PDW-F350 camcorder: $25,800
- PDW-F330 camcorder: $16,800
- PDW-F70 deck: $15,990
The PDW-F30 deck is planned to be available in June, with a suggested list price of $9,500. The PFD-23 Professional Disc media is available for approximately $30 per disc, with a capacity of 23.3 GB per disc.