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April 24, 2006

Table of Contents

HD Today: The Allure of Panasonic’s P2
Focus Enhancements Ships New FireStore FS-100 DTE Recorder for the Panasonic AG-HVX200
Matrox Announces Matrox RT.X2 Professional Realtime Native HDV and DV Editing Platform
DV Caddie Announces "Spring Offerings"
NVIDIA Introduces Six New Quadro FX Graphics Solutions
CineBags Introduces DV Backpack at NAB 2006
Memberships Now Being Accepted for 4EVER Group Videographers Network
Microboards Announces Integrated CD/DVD Duplicator/Printer, Blu-ray Tower at NAB
FFV Launches NDT 200 DVR at NAB2006

HD Today: The Allure of Panasonic’s P2

There is a great buzz around Panasonic's AG-HVX200 camcorder, a prosumer-sized device with several unique capabilities. Like the DVX100 series camcorders it closely resembles, the HVX200 can record DV on a MiniDV tape. It can also record myriad other formats on solid-state memory embedded into PC cards. These other formats include the higher-sampling DVCPRO 50, as well as DVCPRO HD for both 720p and 1080i. It also records at various frame rates, making it possible to do true 24p, as well as over- or under-"crank" the capture process to produce true slow motion or accelerated motion when played back at 24p.

Best of all, this camcorder doesn't carry the price tag of a BMW—in fact, it costs less than the cheapest Hyundai. But at $5,995 it's expensive for a MiniDV camera, and the trick to getting any of the capabilities above basic DV shooting is that you need Panasonic's P2 cards, the solid state cards that fit into the camcorder's two PC (PCMCIA) card slots.

The first thing you'll discover about P2 is that the cards are wicked expensive. At this writing, an 8GB P2 card has just dropped in price from $2,200 to $1,400. Panasonic explains that the P2 card consists of four $100 2GB SD cards, "structured in a RAID 0 array. The capacity of the SD memory in the P2 card is multiplied by a factor of 4 and so is the basic interface speed." This means that the RAID controller and the rest of the interface on the P2 card cost you $1,000. The costs of the media itself will likely continue to drop, but there are other issues.

If you are shooting 1080i on P2, Panasonic's own charts indicate you'll fill up an 8GB card in eight minutes. The camcorder can cascade from one card to another while you shoot, but with only two P2 slots, you must constantly fiddle with the back of the camcorder, ejecting and inserting cards to keep recording. And that's only if you've bought enough P2 cards to sustain you through a day-long shoot—at $1,400 each, an absurd proposition.

The more practical solution is to hire someone to offload the data while the cameraperson keeps shooting, which means it takes two people to keep the camcorder recording. Only with film have you needed a "loader" before. Thus HVX200 purchasers need to figure in the cost of additional personnel to clear data off the P2 cards to make them usable again. You won't find this cost listed in the brochure.

A few companies have announced external hard drive recorders that connect to the HVX200 and provide 100GB for the price of a single 8GB P2 card. They tout that the various "extras" of thumbnail images, proxy clips, etc. will be on the hard drive as well. But none of these units fit inside the HVX-200. They attach to it with a cable and have to be kept connected. As someone who did many a job with DXC-M7 or DXC-3000 attached to 3/4" decks, betacam decks, or even VHS decks, I'm really not looking forward to something I left behind in the 1980s.

One solution uses a FireWire cable to connect to the camcorder. The tiny 4-pin FireWire port does not lock and sticks straight out the side of the camcorder. The cable can easily be yanked out of the camcorder or banged and permanently damaged.

I recently tested the CitiDISK HDV external hard drive system with a Sony HDV camcorder. This camcorder arranges the FireWire port pointing down so the cable is flush with the camera body and can be taped in place, or run through the Velcro'd hand-strap for greater protection of the fragile 4-pin FireWire port.

Panasonic touts the solid-state nature of P2, emphasizing its durability and lack of moving parts. Even if the P2 card is solid state, the camcorder itself has internal moving parts--not just for the image stabilizer, but the lens has servo zoom and focus because it has to move different parts of the lens in different directions. So the camera itself is quite delicate and will most likely used with a tripod, steadicam, or other platform.

Panasonic offers the P2 Store, a hard drive-based, portable device where you can offload the P2 cards to an internal 2.5" laptop drive. This is very similar to using a laptop to offload the clips. Coupled with the numerous, endorsed external hard drive solutions for the P2 camcorders, your trusted clips will always end up on a hard drive. They'll likely be edited on a hard drive. If shipped electronically, they'll be served and probably broadcast from a hard drive.

How come the HVX200 and the bigger P2 camcorders don't record onto ordinary, inexpensive, removable hard drives? The 80GB hard drive module Focus Enhancements makes for the FS-3 costs $900 and connects to any computer with a powered 6-pin FireWire port. This includes today's desktop computers that generally don't come with PCMCIA slots.

There are already numerous consumer camcorders with internal hard drives, and higher-end professional camcorders (Ikegami and Hitachi) have done hard drive recording for many years. If you're considering P2 acquisition, ask yourself why Panasonic did not use a hard drive from the outset and consider the entire workflow.

The HVX200 is a compelling camera with a lot of features at an interesting price. But by saddling it with solid-state media, instead of proven hard drive technologies, Panasonic has made it a hard pill to swallow. For some workflows and productions, P2 works just fine. But if you're a shooter used to going non-stop for an hour or more on a $5 cassette, rub the dazzle of HD recording from your eyes and consider what the entire P2 media system will cost you in additional gear, time, and personnel.

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Focus Enhancements Ships New FireStore FS-100 DTE Recorder for the Panasonic AG-HVX200

Focus Enhancements Inc. today announced the availability of its FireStore FS-100 portable Direct To Edit (DTE) DVCPRO HD disk recorders for Panasonic's AG-HVX200 P2 handheld camera-recorder. As an official Panasonic P2 partner, the FS-100 is optimized for use with the Panasonic AG-HVX200 P2 camera recorder and can also be used with any Panasonic DV, DVCPRO, DVCPRO 50, or DVCPRO HD equipment featuring an IEEE 1394 interface. It features the ability to record DVCPRO HD or DVCPRO 50 in Panasonic's widely supported P2 MXF format or DV/DVCPRO in up to 10 different native NLE file formats.

The FS-100 provides a real-time digital back-up to P2 card content and extends the overall recording duration by 100 minutes. The FireStore FS-100 enables videographers to record drop-out free DV/DVCPRO, DVCPRO 50, or DVCPRO HD video streams via FireWire while in the field. Users can then connect directly to a Mac or PC to edit content directly from the FireStore or ingest clips to P2 supported applications, eliminating the need to digitize footage.

In DVCPRO HD and DVCPRO 50 mode, clips are recorded to disk in the MXF P2 format. In DV and DVCPRO mode, users can choose from the most popular NLE formats including Avid OMF, QuickTime, Canopus AVI, Matrox AVI and more. "

FireStore FS-100 key features include the following:

  • Records DVCPRO HD 100Mb/s or DVCPRO 50 from the AG-HVX200 Handheld Camera-recorder in the MXF P2 format
  • Provides digital backup for P2 card content and adds an additional 100 minutes of recording time
  • Offers DV/DVCPRO DTE-Direct To Edit recording
  • Integrates with the AG-HVX200 including FS-100 status in the viewfinder
  • Eliminates the need to capture footage on supported NLE systems; simply import clips from the disk directly to the NLE's timeline and edit immediately
  • Features a compact rugged design, comprehensive graphical LCD, and a removable Li-Ion Battery Pack

The FireStore FS-100 is available now through the Panasonic worldwide dealer and distributor network for an estimated MSRP of $2,195. For more information on Focus Enhancements and its products, please visit www.focusinfo.com.

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Matrox Announces Matrox RT.X2 Professional Realtime Native HDV and DV Editing Platform

Matrox Video Products Group has announced Matrox RT.X2, a high-performance realtime native HDV and DV editing platform bundled with Adobe Premiere Pro. Designed for corporate communicators, event videographers, project studios, educational facilities, and digital filmmakers, Matrox RT.X2 is designed primarily for realtime native HDV and DV editing. It also provides a high-quality MPEG-2 4:2:2 I-frame codec so users can capture other HD and SD formats using RT.X2's analog inputs and mix all types of footage on the timeline in real time.

Key features of Matrox RT.X2 include the following:

  •  Realtime multi-layer workflows that combine HD and SD material from analog and digital sources
  • Realtime Matrox Flex CPU effects ­- color correction, speed changes, chroma/luma keying and many more
  • Realtime and accelerated Matrox Flex GPU effects - 2D/3D DVE, blur/glow/soft focus, shine and many more
  • Native HDV and MPEG-2 4:2:2 I-frame HD editing
  • Native DV, DVCAM, DVCPRO, and MPEG-2 4:2:2 I-frame SD editing
  • Realtime mixing of HD codecs and SD codecs on any timeline
  • Realtime mixed-format multi-cam
  • Realtime high-quality hardware downscaling for SD output from an HD timeline
  • Accelerated export to DVD, multimedia formats including Flash Video, and Adobe Clip Notes
  • WYSIWYG for Adobe After Effects and Photoshop, Autodesk Combustion and 3ds Max, eyeon Fusion, and NewTek LightWave 3D with dynamic Alt+Tab switching
  • Composite, Y/C, HD/SD analog component input and output
  • Full-resolution HD monitoring on an inexpensive flat panel display via independent DVI output
  • Includes Adobe Premiere Pro

Priced at $1,995 US in North America including Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0, Matrox RT.X2 will be available in May 2006 through a worldwide network of authorized dealers. A special limited-time in-box coupon offer entitles the purchaser to a substantial discount on an upgrade to Adobe Production Studio. For a limited time, owners of Matrox RT.X100 can upgrade to RT.X2 at a special price.

Details regarding all promotional offers can be found on the Matrox Web site. System selection guidelines and lists of validated computers, motherboards, and GPUs will be posted in the support section of the Matrox Web site. Complete RT.X2-based turnkey systems are also available from Matrox RT.X2 authorized dealers.

www.matrox.com/video

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DV Caddie Announces "Spring Offerings"

DV Caddie has introduced two new offerings for the spring of 2006. The DVCA-SR2 is the latest in their line of shoulder rests and features a unique split support that conforms naturally to the slope of the user's shoulder. It can be configured with dual handles for maximum control or with the right side handle removed for unrestricted access to the camera's own handle. The total weight of the SR2 is less than two pounds. Suggested retail price is $154.

The DVCA-CK1 combines the new DVCA-SR2 shoulder rest with the DVCA-JR1 stabilizer. The two working together effectively distribute the weight of the camera equally between both the right and left shoulder reducing fatigue. The contact points on the hip and shoulder provide increased stability while the handles allow greater control. Suggested retail price is $272.

For more information on any of the DV Caddie products you can visit www.dvcaddie.com.

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NVIDIA Introduces Six New Quadro FX Graphics Solutions

NVIDIA Corporation continues to improve workstation graphics performance with six new NVIDIA Quadro FX solutions for high-end, mid-range, and entry-level professionals.

The new NVIDIA Quadro product line-up includes the following:

  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 5500 graphics processing unit (GPU), offering 1GB of frame buffer memory for the most challenging professional 3D applications
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 3500 GPU, offering a new level of graphics performance and for major OEMs and enterprise customers
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 1500 GPU, a mid-range solution that offers high performance coupled with two dual-link DVI connectors, 256MB GDDR3 frame buffer memory, and HD video output
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 560 GPU, introducing dual-link DVI, fast DDR3 128MB graphics memory, and HD video output
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 550 GPU, featuring dual DVI with 128MB of graphics memory
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 350 GPU, an economical professional graphics option that incorporates a variety of architectural features found in the entire product line

Sun Microsystems is one of the first industry-leading workstation manufacturers to offer NVIDIA Quadro FX 5500-based solutions to professional 3D graphics customers.

NVIDIA Quadro FX GPU-based solutions are available widely through leading OEMs, including IBM, Sun, and FSC, leading workstation system integrators, including Alienware and BOXX Technologies, and NVIDIA channel partners PNY Technologies (US and EMEA), Leadtek (APAC) and Elsa (Japan).

For more information about the full lineup of NVIDIA professional solutions, please visit www.nvidia.com/quadro.

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CineBags Introduces DV Backpack at NAB 2006

CineBags has introduced the new DV Backpack to accommodate mid-sized DV/HDV/HD cameras such as the Panasonic AG-DVX100, Sony HVR-Z1U, Panasonic AG-HVX200, and others. Whether they are producing feature films, documentaries, event videos, or snowboard videos, cinematographers and other video producers know that a padded protection for their equipment is vital.

Customizable inner compartments provide safe gear storage and external storage pouches keep the most important items within quick reach. Key features of some of the DV Backpack include the following:

  • Padded customizable interior compartment
  • See-through compartments
  • Large padded shoulder harness
  • Waterproof material
  • Large zipped opening for easy access
  • Internal organizer pockets
  • Tripod strap
  • Exterior bottle holder

Color options include gray, black, and orange webbing.

www.cinebags.com

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Memberships Now Being Accepted for 4EVER Group Videographers Network

The Directors of The 4EVER Group are announcing today the formation of a new international association that will be run by videographers, for videographers. The 4EVER Group Videographers Network will begin taking "Founding Memberships" on Friday April 21, 2006.

According to Steve Wernick, director of development for the 4EVER Group, in the new association, "members will vote for an active Board of Directors." A committee, which included a dozen of the leading videographers from across North America, has contributed valuable ideas to this effort.

The 4EVER Group Videographers Network will be established as a non-profit association, and members will be called affiliates. During April 2006 appearances at the Jacksonville Videographers Association and the Michigan Independent Videographers Association, the Directors of The 4EVER Group laid out some of the basics of this new organization.

After being elected by the membership, the Board of Directors will be given the task of setting the association's agenda. Membership benefits, such as discounts for 4EVER Group workshops and voting rights, will be immediately available. More, including Property and Health Insurance, Credit Card Processing, and Product Discounts for members will be announced in the coming weeks.

The dues structure for The 4EVER Group Videographers Network has been set. "Founding Memberships" will be available for a limited time (until June 30, 2006) at only $99 for one year. Founding Members will also be able to sign up for two years at this special price, during this time. After June 30, the regular annual dues rate of $149/year will apply. Student memberships will be $99/year. Studio and Vendor memberships will also be available. Full membership details, including application forms, will be available here. For more information, contact Steve Wernick at SteveW@4EVERgroup.org or Tim Ryan at TimR@4EVERgroup.org.

The 4EVER Group also announced this week that new details on "Lagniappe on the Bayou," the special event in New Orleans being co-hosted by the 4EVER Group and Studio Vieux Carre, have become available. Registration and workshop details will be available shortly at the 4EVER Group web site.

The "Lagniappe on the Bayou" will begin on Wednesday, June 28 with a motorcoach tour of the Katrina-damaged New Orleans area. Immediately afterward, Studio Vieux Carre will host a banquet at Southern Oaks Plantation, one of the premier wedding destinations in Louisiana. The point of departure and return will be the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, 4EVER Group headquarters for the Lagniappe. This is a unique opportunity to see the damage and recovery first-hand, as more and more of New Orleans is rebuilt every day.

Three separate workshops will be featured on Thursday, June 29, with Mark & Trisha Von Lanken (Picture This Productions), Julie & Alex Hill (Elysium Productions), and all three PixelPops principals will host two-hour sessions. This is perhaps only the second time that all members of the Pixel Pops team--Lance Gray, Brian Gunn, and Russ Jolly--have appeared together in one workshop. The sessions will conclude at about 5pm, at which point there will be an optional, unofficial 4EVER Group Happy Hour/Dinner excursion into the French Quarter.

Space will be extremely limited for all of the events that are a part of the "Lagniappe on the Bayou", so early registration is strongly recommended. Workshop tickets are available for $55 (per workshop, per person) for members of any local videographers association, as well as for residents of Louisiana and Mississippi. Workshop pricing for everyone else is set at $75. Tickets for the tour and banquet are priced at $65 per person. Rooms at the Omni Royal Orleans are available for $99 per night, and that special 4EVER Group rate is valid for three nights before and after the "Lagniappe on the Bayou."

Full details on the "Lagniappe on the Bayou"--including registration information--are available at www.4EVERGroup.org.

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Microboards Announces Integrated CD/DVD Duplicator/Printer, Blu-ray Tower at NAB

Microboards will unveil two products at NAB 2006: an integrated CD/DVD publishing system and  a Blu-ray Tower featuring Pioneer's BDR-101A BD recording drive.

Microboards' GX-1 is a fully integrated CD/DVD publisher with combined printing and recording capability. As Microboards broadens its offering of equipment for producing discs in house, the GX-1 brings these efforts to a new range of users requiring short-run, on-demand disc duplication with professionally printed labels.

The GX-1 bears some similarities to previous offerings in that it incorporates Microboards' patented auto loading technology and HP's popular inkjet printing technology. But it is unique in that it utilizes Vivera, HP's latest ink technology, while having an entry-level cost and compact desktop footprint.

In addition to its low operating cost, the tiny footprint of 11½ inches wide is suitable for kiosks and SMB users. The GX-1 will begin shipping in May. More information is available on the Microboards Web site.

Microboards will also announce plans to deliver models of its Blu-Ray Duplicators using Pioneer Blu-Ray recorders later this year. Microboards will preview a version of its critically acclaimed tower, the CopyWriter Duplicator, with Hoei Sangyo based-duplication technology. During NAB, Microboards will also announce the availability of Blu-Ray Media, single-sided discs capable of recording at 2X speed on Blu-Ray recorders.

The Blu-Ray CopyWriter Tower will be available with 5 or 10 recorders in a single system through all Microboards Authorized Resellers. Its onboard high-capacity hard drive will support image storage, and the system will duplicate both Blu-Ray discs and DVD-Recordable discs. Systems come with a one-year warranty and unlimited phone support. Further information is available at www.microboards.com.

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FFV Launches NDT 200 DVR at NAB2006

FFV, a provider of digital video recorder (DVR) technology for broadcast, industrial video, presentation, and military applications, will launch its new NDT 200 portable DVR at NAB2006 in Las Vegas, April 24-27. The NDT 200 is a portable, handheld digital video recorder that features a standard removable 2.5-inch hard-disk drive and a large display panel and touchpad for ease of operation.

The NDT 200 has been designed as a drop-in replacement for tape-based recording devices, and it easily fits into the same area as a video walkman. The 2.5-inch removable hard drive provides a standard, convenient recording medium while saving space in remote applications. Intended for a wide variety of applications, the NDT 200 is engineered for high-quality video recording in remote locations and specifically designed to meet the unique needs of freelance producers, outside broadcasters, video-assist operators, surveillance and security organizations, video analysts, emergency "first-response" teams, law enforcement, government, and military agencies.

The touch-pad user interface and push-button controls make this DVR intuitive and uncomplicated to operate. All functions can be controlled via the touch pad, soft buttons, and LCD panel on top of the unit or from an external PC or VTR controller. Video clips can be recorded in QuickTime. format for playback on a PC or Mac or as FFV secure video files. They then can be downloaded to PC or Mac systems via the onboard USB 2.0 port or through the removal of the hard drive and the insertion of the drive into a suitably equipped PC or Mac.

The NDT 200's standard features include selectable compression ratios (from 4:1 to 30:1), dual-channel audio, time-dated stamp and character displays, time-lapse recording, loop and pre-event recording, and build and edit clip lists. External control is available through optional machine control software, and the recorder may be powered through an external low-DC-voltage input or by replaceable/rechargeable internal batteries.

Learn more about the NDT 200 and the company's complete range of digital video recording systems at www.ffv.com.

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