Sony XDCAM HD Takes On Iditarod

When Sony first introduced its XDCAM disc-based recording system one of the claims from competitors was that it couldn’t handle cold conditions. Sony put those concerns to rest with some cold-weather demonstrations but now Mark Falstad, a two-time national Emmy award winning documentary film maker has taken it to new extremes while shooting Alaska’s famous Iditarod sled dog race XXXIV which concluded on March 21 when musher Glen Lockwood finally crossed the finish line (Jeff King won the event).

“We shot a news piece covering the ceremonial start in Anchorage and an eight-to-10 minute documentary on the real athletes of the Iditarod: the sled dogs,” says Falstad. Using the new PDW-F350 XDCAM HD camcorder let Falstad work in two different aspect ratios and versions of HD: 1080/60i in 4:3 for the news story and 1080/24p 16:9 for the documentary portion.

“We looked at the race from the dogs’ perspective: what it means for the dogs to run, what it takes to keep them fed and in good shape,” says Falstad. “We plan to take advantage of the camcorder’s full toolkit, including variable frame rate, slow shutter and time lapse. I can’t wait to get overcranked footage of the dogs running.”

The PDW-F330 XDCAM HD camcorder has a suggested list price of $16,800 and shoots at 24P, 25P and 30P in addition to 50i and 60i. The camcorder records in either MPEG Long GOP high definition or the DVCAM standard definition codec. The companion PDW-F350 is Sony’s first with slow and quick motion and has a suggested list price of $25,800. It shoots at any rate from four frames per second to 60 fps in 1 fps increments. Both camcorders are designated Sony CineAlta products.
While the Iditarod was cold it wasn t the coldest shoot Falstad has ever done. “The coldest I’ve ever shot in for any length of time was 44 below, all day long,” says Falstad. “We were in West Yellowstone, Montana doing a story on grizzly bears.”

While Falstad is always concerned with the gear when shooting in such extreme temperatures he says the first consideration is always to keep ones self warm and safe. “If the weather closes in, you’ve got to be ready to make it overnight or a few nights,” he says. “After you get all that done you’re looking at gear.”

Falstad has already used Sony standard definition XDCAM camcorders to shoot Dateline NBC and The Tom Brokaw Farewell Special. “The whole disc-based thing changes the way that you handle your pictures,” he says. “You can play back more easily. You can check more of your takes without worrying about re-cueing a tape. It goes back to the days when you’re sitting there, happy with your VHS, and you first get DVD. That’s exactly the feeling you get with the XDCAM gear.”

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