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Sony's XDCAM System Spends the Summer At Sundance Labs

Optical camcorders and disc media seen as "next generation" technology for moviemaking and scoring (August 26, 2005)

Sony XDCAM PDW-530 and Professional Disc used on "Roughin It"

Sony XDCAM PDW-530 and Professional Disc used on "Roughin It"

Sony's XDCAM Professional Disc system is spending the summer in Sundance, Utah as the main technology behind two of the Sundance Institute's annual workshops: the Filmmakers Lab and Composers Lab.

For the recently completed Filmmaker's Lab, several XDCAM optical disc camcorders "did all the heavy lifting" according to Ian Calderon, Director of Digital Initiatives for the Sundance Institute. "Using an optical disc format allowed the participants to make the most efficient use of their production time."

This is the second consecutive year that the Lab has used the XDCAM blue laser-based system, following a successful test run in 2004.

"Last year, I wanted to test the next-generation of acquisition technology," Calderon said. "We let the directors of photography (DPs) experiment with the camcorder in different environments, so they could become familiar with it."

This year, the DPs at the Lab used five XDCAM PDW-530 camcorders on a rotating basis, and their feedback was again positive. The characteristics of the camcorders that the Lab participants found most attractive were in-camera editing capabilities and the ability to review footage as thumbnails on the camcorder's LCD screen, which can eliminate the need for a separate playback monitor.

The XDCAM system's cache recording feature also allows the XDCAM camcorders to continuously record 10 seconds of video, audio and metadata in memory while in standby mode. Then, when the record button is pushed, these previous 10 seconds and all associated data are automatically recorded onto the Professional Disc media and the camcorder will continue recording in real time.

"In addition to redefining our workflows, the XDCAM camcorder achieves superior image quality and using the Sony Professional Disc media allows you to record and re-write to the media many times without any degradation," Calderon said. "That raises all kinds of positive implications for filmmakers. Additionally, the material that you've shot is instantly accessible, which further compresses the timetable for filmmakers, who are often under tight deadlines."

According to Sony tests, the Professional Disc media can achieve a minimum of 1,000 write/read/erase cycles, and up to 10,000 cycles under ideal conditions.

The Professional Disc's reusability is also playing a large role in the Sundance Composers Lab, where the use of disc instead of tape is proving to be a time-saver. The footage that was captured on the discs during the Filmmakers Lab is now being used by composers to attach music scores to the picture material.

"People who compose music for video need the best resolution video footage to give them the sense of the scene," Calderon said. "With the XDCAM discs, they have that quality, plus the added befits of instant random access."

Scott Johnson, technical director for the Composers Lab, added, "Being able to work in a random access digital world means you can spend more of your time writing music rather than rewinding or fast forwarding through tape to find the scene you want."

The XDCAM system's blue-laser technology based Professional Disc media offers unique benefits in terms of split-second random access to footage in the field or during the post process, and multi-format flexibility and flexible record times, DVCAM (approximately 85 min.) or MPEG IMX 50 Mbps (approximately 45 min.), without having to change media.

The goal of the Sundance Filmmakers Lab is to give directors and DPs a chance to put their screenplays "on their feet," as Calderon described it. Each year, eight to 10 filmmakers come to the lab to work out the most problematic scenes in their screenplays in a collaborative and creative environment.

The Composers Lab offers a similar environment of creativity and collaboration, awarding six fellowships each year to next-generation composers and allowing them to hone their scoring techniques and gain a broader understanding of the relationship between visual material and a soundtrack. Each Lab is also supported by creative advisors from the film industry.

For more detailed product information visit To find the nearest Sony authorized dealer or service location call 1-800-686-SONY. For additional information please visit Sony Electronics' web site at


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Related Keywords:Sony, XDCAM, camcorders, disc media, Sundance, Filmmakers Lab, Composers Lab, PDW-530, filmmakers, Professional Disc, composers, DVCAM, MPEG IMX,


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