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NAB Notables: Serious Magic, Matrox Axio and HD on P2

Panasonic wows crowds with first solid-state HD camcorder By Charlie White

(4/18/05) Join Media Nets Charlie White as he picks notable products and demos from the show floor NAB 2005 in Las Vegas. In this installment, find out how Serious Magic tops itself with its remarkable Ultra 2 HD chromakeying software, and see how Panasonic brings the price of shooting DVCPro HD down to earth with the first solid state HD camcorder.

Serious Magic announced an update of its remarkable Ultra chromakey software, and this version 2 is able to support 16x9 HD and HDV footage in 1080i, 1080p and 720p. In a NAB demo that was drawing larger than average crowds, the company was also showing Ultras better quality keying, now complete with virtual shadows. But by far the most interesting and innovative idea included in this new version is what Serious Magic calls Plus90 mode. In this clever idea, the camera itself is rotated 90 when the chromakey subject is shot against a blue or green screen background. Then, in the software the image is rotated back 90 and masked on either side. In Ultra, it can then be composited with an HD background in full resolution, using, say, a 1280 by 720 still photograph keyed behind it. As CEO Mark Randall put it, ?Youve already paid for those 720 pixels, it doesnt matter that its in the horizontal rather than the vertical position. All you have to do is rotate the camera and you get what you paid for. Serious Magic also announced an add-on to its DV Rack application which adds HDV support to the tapeless capabilities of this first-rate laptop-based digital video recording and monitoring software package.

In an early morning press conference, Miranda announced the successor to its highly successful DV Bridge product, and this time its the HD Bridge. This under-$3000 devices sole purpose is to convert HDV footage into HD SDI in either 1080i or 720p flavors. In an NAB which seems to be emphasizing HDV at every turn, this box from one of the masters of black box manufacturing assures higher-end users that they can play the HDV game as well. When asked in the press conference if this new box was able to convert HD SDI footage into HDV, alas, Miranda officials told Digital Media Net that it was not possible to do that yet. Even so, this HDV to HD-SDI converter is another building block in the HDV story that emphasizes DV workflow for HD.


Continuing the DV workflow for HD story is stalwart digital video editing company Matrox, which again showed its Axio HD editing system. The big difference is, this time the system is almost ready to ship. In a super-clean demo where everything was working perfectly, the company showed Digital Media Net that Matrox Axio is set to walk the same footsteps its ancestor Matrox Digisuite did nearly a decade ago. Its bringing 10-bit pro quality HD editing into the realm of the possible, with down-to-earth pricing for the professional market space. Sure, theres a lot of talk of real-time HD in software, but when it comes down to it, none of the software-only applications are really, fully real time, particularly when its time to print to tape. But with Matrox Axio, this is the real deal. Set to sell for $11,495 in its HD trim, and $7,495 in it SD trim, the turnkey system is set to ship in June 2005. Matrox told Digital Media Net that produce this new 8-bit and 10-bit HD editing and effects package will give you guaranteed real-time full quality full resolution playback at 1080i. In the demo, the company showed how its new system is able to play back two layers of uncompressed 10-bit HD video along with two layers of graphics in real time, along with color correction on each layer. Unfortunately, it wasnt yet ready to handle HDV footage, and company officials said that HDV support is on its way. When its added to the system, it will be able to bring in HDV footage and convert it to 10-bit HD video so it can be used along with any other 10-bit HD video clips. Packing, SD-SDI and HD-SDI, and, of course 1394 input and output, Axio looks like its shaping up as the platform of choice for the new DVCPro HD platform.

Speaking of DVCPro HD, receiving considerable buzz on the show floor is the new Panasonic DVCPro HD camcorder that uses the P2 solid-state memory cards instead of tape. The most remarkable aspect of this new product is its price, $5,995, set to ship in the fall of this year. Enhancing its appeal to shooters of all stripes is the fact that its capable of both 1080i and 720p recording. Its also capable of a variety of frame rates including 1080/60i, 30p and 24p. Another big plus is the DVCPro HD format has been around for a while so a variety of editing systems already support it, including Final Cut Pro and Avid. With this new solid-state recording system, HD video is recorded on up to two 8GB P2 cards, and then can be edited from those P2 cards directly on a nonlinear editing system or server. Packing a Leica lens and three 1/3 CCDs, the camcorder can record eight minutes of 1080i/60 or 720p/60 HDTV footage on each 8GB P2 flash memory card. With two slots in the camcorder, users are able to record on one card and then the other, allowing hot swapping so that recording can be continuous. Overcoming another objection, at the same time Panasonic introduced its AJ- PCS060 DVCPro P2 Store Drive which gives users a place to dump all that footage theyve recorded onto their expensive P2 cards. If theyve managed to use up all 16 minutes worth of disk space on two of the P2 cards, the diminutive Store Drives 2.5 inch 60GB hard disk drive can hold the contents of about seven 8 GB P2 cards. Available in August for $1800, the 1.5 lb. unit will give peace of mind to many who are concerned about the short recording time of even the 8GB cards when shooting in HD. These new DVCPro camcorders along with their P2 flash memory cards resulted in a gasp-inducing demonstration, where Panasonic made good on last years NAB promise that by this year, 8GB cards would be available and would cost the same as 4-gigabyte P2 cards did last year at this time. The only problem with this entire equation is that these 8 GB P2 cards will cost about $4000 apiece, so to load the thing up with two of them, giving you 16 minutes worth of shooting, it will cost $2000 more than the camera itself. But Panasonic is right, this is IT?as in Information Technology, but its also IT as in this is really ?it. That is, if you can afford it.


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Related Keywords:NAB 2005, Charlie White, Panasonic DVCPro HD, P2, Serious Magic Ultra 2

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