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Sony at NAB 2005: Debriefing with Alec Shapiro, Part 1

Sony intros new products, see big sales in March 05 By Charlie White

Senior Vice President of Sony Electronics Broadcast and Production Systems Division Alec Shapiro (5/12/05) In this exclusive two-part interview, Senior Vice President of Sony Electronics Broadcast and Production Systems Division Alec Shapiro talks with Digital Media Net’s Charlie White about Sony’s new products announced at NAB 2005. Shapiro and Sony are currently on a roll, with the company enjoying an unusually profitable time in its history. In this part 1, Shapiro talks about the HDV camcorders and other products that contributed to that success, and next week in part 2, he makes news with tantalizing comments about the possibly intertwined future of Sony’s editing system XPRI and its software cousin, Vegas.

DMN: Tell us, what was the big story at NAB for Sony? Which product made the biggest impression on the attendees?

Shapiro: I don’t think it was any one product. I think certainly the whole HD category made the biggest impression. Everything HD from our new 1080/60P studio cameras that were eagerly embraced by many of the truck companies to the great input and reception of our HD XDCAM technology demo.

DMN: That was interesting. I saw that. Tell us about that.

Shapiro: We’ve been very successful at establishing XDCAM optical disk in the US broadcast market. Standard-definition units are being used primarily for ENG and reality television show production. The interest in HD, I think, is growing very rapidly. We’ve had a lot of discussion with a lot of different customers, both from the indy producer side as well as the broadcast side in terms of what they would like to see in an HD optical camcorder. And so, we put this unit on the floor to get impressions about price point, delivery time, when they think they’re going to really go HD—we still have some work to do on it. We’ll probably have something available towards the latter end of ’06.

DMN: How much footage can you fit on one disk?

Shapiro: Well, it all depends at what bit rate you record. Currently the plans for XDCAM HD, on a single-layer disc, include the following capacities: approximately 90 minutes at 18 Mbps, approximately 85 minutes at 25 Mbps and approximately 60 minutes at 35 Mbps. Not shown on the floor of NAB was our direction for the optical disk media. So, the current optical disk media holds a little over 23GB of data. The next generation will hold 50GB.

DMN: Any idea when we might see that next generation?

Shapiro: Probably sometime in ’06. 

DMN: I was interested in another product on the show floor, the SRW-5500. That was the next step in your HDCAM SR machines. It’s a versatile machine, isn’t it?

Shapiro: The great thing about the 5500 is that it takes the place of both an HDCAM and an HDCAM SRW deck.

DMN: What is the price of that?

Shapiro:  The suggested list price is $98,000. SRW is also very hot. There’s lots of standardization. Lost in the NBC announcement that we made on XDCAM was the fact that NBC is going to standardize on SRW as their master programming format.

DMN: You can play back DigiBeta as well as HDCAM and HDCAM SR, right? And you can record on those, too?

Shapiro: Correct. That will come in handy for many TV stations right now because a lot of them are on the fence between SD and HD.

DMN: You showed us a remarkable projector at your press event. Can you tell us about that?

Shapiro: That’s our 4K SXRD projector. We’re going to begin delivering that in July. We’ve been working on it for some time. Certainly, the key application is digital cinema. The projector itself is four times the resolution of the 2K DLP projector. Besides digital cinema, it actually does a lot of cool things. One of the things you can do with the projector is display four simultaneous video inputs. So you can do a quad-split, and what happens on a big screen is, you get the equivalent of having four high-def 2K projectors on one screen.

DMN: So you could use that for, say, a videoconference?

Shapiro: Yes, but also applications like Las Vegas sports areas that use all those projectors. So there are many applications for the 4K SXRD beyond digital cinema, into government and corporate environments, education environments. We think we’re going to get a lot of interest in the 4K projector from teaching hospitals. One of the demos we did at the press event was showing some HD footage from New York University Medical Center. Again, HD is a phenomenal tool for teaching hospitals because of the color accuracy you get in HD, and of course the increased resolution. The 4K SXRD projector is just a natural fit for that.

DMN: There was a lot of buzz on the show floor about HDV.

Shapiro: HDV has just had a phenomenal start for Sony. We’ve actually now delivered 8000 units.

DMN: Is that of both your HDV models, or just the Z1?

Shapiro: The Z1 and the VTR. That’s not including the consumer model.

DMN: Have you seen a lot of pickup with broadcasters on this? Do you think they’re going to be using it for newscasts?

Shapiro: It certainly can be used for news—not unlike our DVCAM PD150 and PD170 cameras.  From the standpoint of field reporting, they are probably the best-selling cameras for that application. I’m really talking about the cameras that are used in the Middle East. There are literally several thousands of them out there used by news organizations. I think in that same way, HDV will pick up on that marketplace. Whether or not a television station actually builds their entire ENG operation around HDV—at this point it’s difficult with the relatively limited product offerings. 

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Related Keywords:interview, Senior Vice President of Sony Electronics Broadcast and Production Systems Division Alec Shapiro, Digital Media Net, Charlie White, Sony’s new products, NAB 2005, profitable, HDV camcorders, editing system, XPRI, Vegas

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