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Sony's XDCAM Professional Disc System Takes Centerstage

Professional Disc media and camcorder used on production of "Rock Star: INXS" reality show (September 16, 2005)

The premise of the newest reality show from Mark Burnett Productions may be a rock band's search for a lead singer, but the program's production team has already found the future of television production: Sony's XDCAM Professional Disc system.

"Rock Star: INXS" brings together 15 undiscovered talents from around the world who perform for the chance to be the new lead singer of the band INXS. The series airs on three nights each week. The Sunday night show is an unscripted program and follows the competitors through a series of rock-and-roll clinics where they learn various aspects of performing live and also choose the songs they'll perform on Tuesday night's live performance competition. The Wednesday broadcast is a live performance elimination round and results show.

The Sunday night "unscripted broadcast" is shot with the Sony XDCAM system. According to the show's supervising producer and director of photography Tony Croll, the fast turnaround time afforded by the optical disc technology, in terms of accessing scenes quickly by their clips, was a primary reason for choosing the Sony technology.

Croll was also impressed with the camcorders' cache recording feature, which allows them to continuously record 10 seconds of video, audio and metadata in memory while in standby mode. Then, when the record button is pushed, those previous 10 seconds and all associated data are automatically recorded onto the Professional Disc media and the camcorder can immediately continue recording in real time.

"I could have my crews standing by listening to conversations and still be ready to cover something immediately because of the 10 seconds in the cache," Croll said. "That's a very nice feature to have."

The camcorders' in-camera editing capabilities have also come in handy for Croll and his team, especially the ability to review footage immediately as thumbnails on the camcorder's LCD screen.

"To be able to view something on-the-fly during a shoot and then immediately punch record and know that you're not going to be recording over anything is a great comfort," Croll said. "Also, since you know that you're always going to be jumping to the next clean spot on the disc, it actually makes you more inclined to go back and review your footage more often."

Croll noted that for less experienced camera operators, the camcorder's LCD screen is useful for quickly reviewing color temperatures during a shoot.

A veteran of reality TV production, where the MPEG IMX tape format had been a longtime staple, Croll welcomes the fact that the XDCAM system allows him to still record in the format, giving him a familiar shooting style from his tape experience combined with the new benefits of optical disc technology.

"The look we wanted for `Rock Star: INXS' was something a little more edgy that hadn't been seen as much in reality shows," he said, adding that for this show he specified having XDCAM camcorders with inter-volometers to assist with creating true time-lapse. This is a feature that is not often created in the camera for tape-based shows, but usually created in post.

"With the inter-volometers we could shoot a time lapse as a normal sequence and not have to speed up a 29.97 shot in post," Croll said. "Again, our turnaround time was so tight that being able to create those time lapses in the cameras was a big time and storage savings. We were also able to create a more staggered `fast look' and be more aggressive with our time lapses."

The show's post-production team is finding the optical workflow attractive as well. According to Croll, they can scan through discs much faster than with tape; "Especially since every time you hit roll, you create a new scene break," he said. "That makes it much easier to get to the scenes or sequences we're trying to find in order to essentially cut a show in four days."

The XDCAM system's Professional Disc media also works well for Croll. "The discs are smaller and lighter, take up less space and really lighten the load," he said.

"Rock Star: INXS" is produced by Mark Burnett Productions in conjunction with INXS, and is broadcast on CBS and VH1.

For further information visit Sony Electronics' web site at


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