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Sony's Stereo-heavy NAB Push

Mar 26, 2010 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

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Sony HDC-P1

Sony HDC-P1

Last week I surveyed the major manufacturers of videocameras as NAB approaches and reported that as yet, Sony hadn't announced anything brand-new in advance of the show. That's still true. But since then I've heard details from Sony, not just about the cameras it will be showcasing, but about the company's overall strategy for the show—including some brand-new gear (if not cameras).

First, Sony reps tell me that the company will not be joining Canon in making NAB (at least partially) a DSLR video party. This makes sense; Sony positions its Alpha line of DSLRs as consumer-level. At 720p, the HD video wouldn't seem to be enough to lure new pro-level users.

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Second, Sony will push stereo 3D very aggressively at the show. This shouldn't be too surprising; after all, the company supplied James Cameron with the HDC-1500 and HDC-F950 rigs he used to shoot Avatar, and those cameras remain the choice for many high-end S3D productions. Sony will be showing new 3D-related gear in many categories, from stereoscopic rig-ready cameras to 3D-friendly switchers to a brand-new class of product for Sony.

That last one is the MPE-200 3D Processor, which provides a variety of digital adjustments to stereo-imaging HD cameras to match up the two lenses in every aspect imaginable. This allows what Sony calls a "similar control experience to mechanical servos." It will be interesting to see how this new processor compares in features and price to existing choices such as 3ality Digital's SIP2100 stereo image processor. "MPE-controlled systems could augment higher end rigs in complicated 3D live productions," according to Sony's PR. According to Digital Media Net, MPE-200 processors will be in use in South Africa for the World Cup.

Sony's high-end CineAlta models have found spots in beam-splitter rigs in 3D productions worldwide; now at NAB 2010 Sony makes a play for side-by-side stereoscopic capture with the HDC-P1 camera, which was announced last fall and expected to ship early this month. (Band Pro currently lists the camera, which carries a list price of $29,900 per unit, on its website.) This is a 2/3in. model that's based on the much more expensive HDC line, but with the form factor of a point-of-view camera. According to Rob Willox, director of Sony's Content Creation group, "It's the first Sony camera to be designed from the ground up with 3D in mind." It makes sense for Sony's first such camera to be a POV model; those cameras are often remote-controlled in some of the same ways that cameras in stereo rigs need to be adjusted.

What Sony will not be bringing to NAB 2010, I've confirmed, is any form of the single-lens stereo 3D camera prototype that it showed at CEATEC 2009 in Japan, so you can cross that one off your list.

Outside of the realm of stereo 3D, Sony will also be showing a brand-new offering for the high-end post and broadcast world: a "multiformat ingest and transcoder platform," which we now know is called Ellcami. The form factor of this product is not clear, but it certainly sounds like a scalable render-farm-like set of workstations, which take up to 128 cores each. "Each system can simultaneously ingest content from up to four high-definition VTRs (four sampling 4:2:2, or two sampling 4:4:4 signals) in parallel," according to Sony's PR. "Depending on the target workflow, the systems are designed to allow users to choose to deliver content directly to their shared storage using many of today's popular file formats including MXF, DPX, J2K, and Avid DNxHD." The platform can also do the non-realtime work of transcoding either separately or in parallel to the ingest, splitting "intelligently" its resources between the two tasks. The system transcodes formats up to 4K resolution.

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