Independent filmmakers, executives from post-production houses, and even news gathering organizations have embraced the operational efficiencies and flexibility realized by the combination of Sony’s DVCAM and Apple’s PowerBook G4 with Final Cut Pro software in creating content that’s distributed via TV/cable, seen in conference rooms in corporations throughout America or viewed in theaters nationwide.
In fact, CNN’s Gordon Castle, the senior vice president of strategic digital systems research and development, has said, “there are no stories that can’t be covered with DVCAM,” adding that DVCAM and hardware and software from Apple “change the whole paradigm of power requirements, size, weight and everything about what is required in the field.”
Digital video originated in 1993 by a consortium of 10 consumer electronics manufacturers. It was originally intended to replace the VHS format for home video recording. But Sony and Panasonic soon recognized its application for pro users, as well.
The result, in Sony’s case, was the Sony DVCAM, a professional workhorse that offered pristine picture quality, all-digital acquisition and ingestion, unlimited copies with little or no degradation, and ease of re-purposing video, according to Craig Yanagi, Sony’s national marketing manager, Content Creation Marketing Division, Broadcast & Professional Company.
The DVCAM is a quarter-inch format that offers cross-compatibility with the DV format. In developing DVCAM, Yanagi told MacCentral that Sony tried not only to use the same tape format, but also offer FireWire connectivity, which has offered a wide application base and been one of the main reasons for the success of DVCAM.
“We wanted to take the positives of the new DV format and also apply characteristics and a foundation for the physical attributes of broadcast,” Yanagi said.
Although picture quality between DV and DVCAM is similar, what makes the DVCAM different from the DV format itself is the equipment, format characteristics, and the service foundation behind each product. High-end DVCAM equipment has been designed by engineers involved with broadcast formats, from Umatic to Digital Betacam.
It’s used by consumers, prosumers, and professionals, he added. Introduced in 1996, approximately 100,000 DVCAMs were sold by 1999 and 200,000 units are expected to have been sold by the end of the year. Worldwide sales doubled in 15 month, Yanagi said. Ten new models were introduced last year alone. Prices range from US $2,600 to $19,700.
“With the price range and different model types, we have a DVCAM system for just about anyone and everything,” he said. “It’s the fastest growing professional format in Sony history.”
Apple is one of Sony’s DVCAM worldwide partners. Others include Media 100, Avid, Matrox, Pinnacle Systems, Ikegami, FAST, Dayang, Imagine, Canopus, and Leitch.
“As a third party liaison, we’ve been working with Apple a lot in the last year and a half,” Yanagi said.
Before a new DVCAM model is publicly introduced, it’s sent to Apple for certification with Final Cut Pro. A bonus of the DVCAM technology is that new systems are Apple and Final Cut Pro certified upon introduction to the market.
“DVCPRO, Panasonic’s pro format, isn’t the same, and they can’t say the same thing because the protocols are different,” Yanagi said. “DVCAM can unify formats. It offers digital bridges for all of the different quarter-inch digital formats. It can bridge into broadcast applications, bridge into the MPEG-2 world and bridge into the broadband world.”
DVCAMs offer two main interface types: FireWire and SDI (serial digital interface). Yanagi said that the DVCAM technology has probably helped bring FireWire into the professional realm more than any other thing.
“No other DV format can compensate for a worst case scenario involving a total RF level drop [-9.5dB],” Yanagi. “And we have the industry’s best track record for professional service and support. After all, what people are creating with the pro format is their livelihood. That’s a factor that should be taken into consideration when choosing a format because it’s what puts food on the table. You want the best possible format that’s reliable and has a company that ensures its performance.”
Yanagi said that Sony is optimistic about DVCAM’s future. In fact, the company is committed to establishing it as a DTV broadcast format since “it already is to some degree.” Designed for broadcast and professional applications, DVCAM features: native SMPTE time code; plus-minus0 frame editing capability; editing playback capability of all 25 Mbps formats, including DV (SP & LP) and DVCPRO; and pre-read/double-scan playback.
DVCAM applications are already in use by BBC-London (in broadcast), Magic Film and Video Works (off-line editing of 35mm/16mm films), and Warner Brothers, Liberty Media and Sony Pictures (dailies distribution). Magic Film and Video Works pioneered the DVCAM-Apple-FilmLogic off-line editing concept at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in 2000.
“DVCAM brings the best of quarter-inch video formats together with Sony technology,” Yanagi said. “The format will continue to grow and expand due to the synergy with third market parties such as Apple.”