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Sony shows variety of new gear

By Randi Altman
March 25, 2011
Sony shows variety of new gear

LAS VEGAS — This year at NAB, Sony’s aim is for users to “believe beyond HD.” How are they doing this? With a number of new product additions that touch just about everyone working in production and post, regardless of size or type of production.

Some of those products include a new CineAlta camera, the recently announced F3 camera, 3D stereo camcorders (including a shoulder mount), a new SRMaster platform using SRMemory solid-state media (offering sustained 5Gbps transfer speeds and capacities from 256GB to 1TB), and a new SR workflow, with native, direct-to-edit access to the SR codec. The SRMaster platform includes an SRMemory deck, transfer station and various portable field recorders for on-camera mounting and location recording. 

During an exclusive press event that took place in Tokyo in late February/early March — just one week prior to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that the company is still assessing the damage from — Sony execs said the company will be leveraging its consumer and professional technology to create products that provide even better workflows for users. And that will ripple through the company’s entire product line, from acquisition (2D and 3D stereoscopic) to delivery and viewing. 

Shoji Nemoto, SVP/co-president of Sony’s professional solutions group, said that content creation is Sony’s core business model, and by working together with the consumer group they can capture that customer segment more broadly. “We want to deliver platforms to put out products from acquisition to editing to creation to distribution and viewing,” he said. “And we want to be open and get support from external parties.” 

Nemoto pointed to Sony’s SR support from the industry, including nonlinear editing companies, such as Avid and Apple. In fact, Avid recently announced support for the SR codec in its newest version (5.5) of Media Composer via its AMA architecture, offering direct access to the SR files without baseband capture or transcoding. Sony is  also providing a codec plug-in for Apple’s current version of Final Cut Pro that will achieve the same thing.

“We can’t do everything,” he acknowledged, “so we need to focus. We remain strong in broadcast but need to capture the content creation customer segment more broadly.” Nemoto went on to offer a recent example of this marriage — new products that take advantage of the company’s consumer OLED display technology, specifically the recently announced reference-grade BVM-E series (15- and 25-inch) and an upcoming but still embargoed line. Both sets of displays, part of the Trimaster EL line, promise to offer post people what they have long been searching for — a replacement for the highly accurate but no longer in production CRT. The monitors offer accurate signal processing across all signal levels and “superb” uniformity control and long-lasting stability control. 

Sony will continue to produce its LCD (LUMA) displays but acknowledge that OLED takes them to a new level in terms of critical evaluation monitors. 

CAMERAS

Another example of how the company is combining consumer and professional technology is with its sensor technology, specifically its CMOS imager technology.

In January, Sony announced the PMW-F3, which features the new Exmor Super 35mm single CMOS image sensor, designed specifically for digital motion picture production, with the ability to support up to 1080/60p. This imager provides shallow depth of field, provides a deeper perspective, very low noise and high sensitivity, giving it a film-like look. 

While the lightweight F3 is likely to be embraced by dramatic television series, the new and sure to be pricey CineAlta 4K camera, featuring Sony’s new 20.4Megapixel CMOS imager   (that will offer super-sampled HD, 2K and 4K), is aimed directly at the motion picture market and will arrive later this year. 

Sony says that in terms of color reproduction, the new imager allows more dynamic range, a much wider color space and higher resolution than other cameras. A portable SRMemory 4K recorder can be docked to the camera and is capable of capturing 16-bit 4K RAW data for high-end acquisition and post production workflows.

On the other end of the spectrum is Sony’s NXCAM line of cameras (pictured). The higher end of the line also features the Exmor Super 35mm sensor. It has an E-mount interchangeable lens, AVCHD full HD recording and costs under $7K. It will likely interest current Canon 5D/7D users. The next in the line is the compact-in-size NXCAM, which is dust and rain proof (although not waterproof) and offers 96GB of internal memory. It costs under $3.5K.

The third NXCAM camcorder is for 3D shooting. This lightweight 3D camera shoots 1080 60i/50i/24p with double full HD. It too costs below $3.5K. All NXCAMs ship in the first half of 2011.

Sony’s shoulder-mount 3D camera, which can shoot 2D as well, is based on the company’s highly successful XDCAM camera technology and can be used for live sports programming, studio shows, docs and stock footage shooting, just to name a few apps. This fully integrated camcorder offers dual 1/2-inch 3x CMOS sensors. Sony says the short distance between the two lenses — the IAD (45mm) — helps create a proper 3D image easily, even when shooting close to an object. They say the minimum convergence is 1.2m. The left and right images are saved on an SxS card separately, and the camera offers four card slots.

To go along with its 3D cameras, Sony is offering a 3D QC product that features a realtime display of the 3D parameters and provides analysis of the image. Sony is also offering a 3D virtual camera solution that features three HD cameras and stitches the images together to create a 3D image.

SR WORKFLOW

Sony also introduced a new solid-state SRMaster platform using SRMemory, a multi-stream workflow that includes on-board solid-state recorders, a transfer unit and a standalone digital recorder. The SRMaster platform generates files using the SR codec at 220Mbps, 440Mbps and 880Mbps wrapped in MXF. Sony also supports uncompressed DPX and 16-bit 4K RAW data. The portable on-board memory recorders (HD-SDI single link and dual link, or 3G-SDI dual link) can be hooked up into a studio’s workflow, or users can get the data off the solid-state memory cards, which have storage capacity from 256GB to 1TB. The SRMemory deck, which has four configurable I/O ports (HD, 3D, 4K) comes with a GUI and viewer software and up to 12TB of internal memory storage. The SRMemory deck can ingest HD data from four cards at the same time and from one card, 4K 16-bit RAW can be transferred into the unit in under 30 minutes. 

Another product under the SRMaster platform is a 1RU transfer station. You can use this as a log/transfer station and connect it to a network using the 10 GigaBit Ethernet port. For playback, the SRMemory deck offers eight streams of HD video and two channels of 4K video, and handles two streams of 2K in realtime — it has four slots. It also supports 96k/24-bit audio. The 1RU transfer station can also interface with the SR-5800/2 tape deck for back up, cloning to the HDCAM SR digital tape format, at up to twice realtime. It also supports NFS and CIFS to mount a shared directory or folder to NLEs or servers.

MEDIA BACKBONE

Changing directions for a bit, Sony is leveraging its IT technology with Media Backbone, which was introduced about a year ago. Media Backbone’s first product is called Conductor, which is a scalable and open solution for production and broadcast facilities. The product essentially takes people working on “digital islands” using their existing technology and connects them. Big VFX entities working on large film projects could immediately benefit from Conductor, but the system is scalable, so smaller studios can take advantage as well.

Sony really is focusing on addressing needs throughout the entire process, and there are more products to discuss, but space doesn’t allow. Keep an eye on our Website and in future issues for more details.