Monday, April 18, 2011

TVNewsCheck: Special ENG Gear Report

Panasonic Ships Low-Cost AG-AF100 Camera

Advanced, custom-designed 4/3" sensor delivers depth of field and field of view similar to a 35 mm movie camera. The camcorder uses low-cost still camera and film-style lenses. Panasonic Solutions Co. today begins deliveries of the AG-AF100, a professional micro 4/3-inch video camcorder optimized for high-definition video recording.

Available at a suggested list price of $4,995, the AF100 offers a new level of affordability for HD motion image quality.

Targeted at the film and video production communities, the AF100 delivers film-like shallow depth of field and the wider field of view of a large imager, with a growing line of professional quality, industry-standard micro 4/3-inch lenses, filters and adapters. The full HD 1080/720 production camera offers native 1080/24p recording, variable frame rates, professional audio capabilities and compatibility with SDHC and SDXC media.

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By Frank Beacham TVNewsCheck

In the modern TV operation, manufacturers of end-to-end systems are now focusing on a process that involves all aspects of the story. The portable tools of the multimedia reporter working in the field are integral to that process. All the story elements — including video, audio, text, graphics, Web links and metadata — are brought together in the field and sent back to the station via an expanding range of options, including microwave, satellite, aircards, Wi-Fi and even 3G smartphones. Television news editing has quickly moved from the TV station to the field. Now, more than ever, stories are being edited on laptops from where the news is happening or in nearby coffee shops or even at a reporter’s home.

This shift, over the past two years, comes as a tough economy has caused news operations to downsize staff and do more stories with fewer producers and reporters who are busier than ever. In addition to newscasts, they now must feed websites and mobile devices in a never-ending 24/7 news cycle.

“Traditional news roles are disappearing. There used to be writers, reporters, editors and producers. Now one person is being asked to do all of these things,” says Jeff Broderick, product manager for Grass Valley’s Aurora news editing system. “This has caused vendors of news production equipment to create simpler user interfaces and much tighter integration that allows a single operator to move from one task to another.”

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With TV stations more concerned than ever with their bottom lines at the same time their news needs have expanded to include 24/7 Web coverage, the demand for low-cost camcorders is skyrocketing. Canon is the latest equipment maker to take on incumbents Sony, Panasonic and JVC with two new ENG camcorders. The XF305 and XF300 (right) are now available for less than $8,000. Thorpe said an advantage of Canon's new camcorders is that both models use an MPEG-2 4:2:2 50 Mbps codec for capturing and recording native 1920x1080 video onto standard Compact Flash cards. The XF305 at $7,999 includes an HD-SDI output, genlock and SMPTE time code (in/out) terminals for multi-camera or 3D productions. The XF300, minus those features, is priced at $6,799.

Most competing camcorders still record at 35 Mbps, 4:2:0, which offers half the color resolution, he said. "Currently, we are a little ahead on those specs, plus we have a CMOS sensor that's pretty impressive for a camcorder of this price."

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New Cameras Make Multimedia Easy

By Frank Beacham

With all video moving toward the Web, there is demand for new hybrid video camera designs. Canon, Sony and RED Camera are all introducing units that offer the ability to simultaneously record both full-motion video and high-resolution still images. This flexibility, it's hoped, will appeal to journalists shooting for TV, newspapers, magazines, websites and mobile applications.  Not only do camera prices keep falling, but the new models are hybrids that can simultaneously record both full-motion video and high-resolution still images.

"At TV stations, the old news model is pretty much dead. The producer, the cameraman and the editor have all merged into one person. Stations are now ditching their Betacams," said Dirck Halstead, a veteran photographer who, for 29 years, covered the White House for Time.

Halstead teaches new techniques to photojournalists throughout the nation with his Platypus Workshops. The 37 workshops so far have trained more than 400 students. He recently returned from the National Press Photographers Association meeting in Charleston, S.C., where he said "Topic A" was discussion of the new generation of cameras for journalism.

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