Panasonic brings AVC-I to P2 HD camcorder

By Ken Kerschbaumer

The MPEG-4 h.264 AVC format has been embraced widely by cable, telco and satellite distributors as a means to cut down on the amount of bandwidth it takes to transmit SD and HD channels to subscribers but now the format, which can deliver the equivalent picture quality in half the bits of DVCPRO HD, is making its move into the production realm thanks to Panasonic.

Next summer Panasonic will introduce a new AVC-Intra processing board for its soon-to-be-released AJ-HPX2000 2/3-inch camcorder. With the camcorder AVC-I enabled users will be able to record HD images at 50 Mbps or 100 Mbps that will deliver unprecedented quality at those bit rates.

Steve Cooperman, Panasonic product line business manager, says the 50 Mbps image quality will be the equivalent of DVCPRO HD while the 100 Mbps will look as good as material recorded on D5 tape.

In addition it will deliver that video quality in half the bits of DVCPRO compression, doubling the capacity of P2 cards. For example, the 16 GB cards that will be introduced in the spring will be able to store 32 minutes of HD material at 50 Mbps, allowing a fully loaded camera with five cards to record 160 minutes of HD material without swapping cards.

The new AVC-I option is just one strength of the AJ-HPX2000. The shoulder-mounted camcorder can also record multiple formats and frame rates on one card. “A local station can shoot on SD widescreen during the week and then record at HD rates for a magazine show or football game on the weekend,” says Cooperman. “That’s one of the really big advantages of solid-state recording.”

Of course, recording in AVC-I doesn’t mean anything if you can’t edit it. Both Apple and Avid have said they will support the new codec and Panasonic’s own AJ-HPM100 P2 HD mobile recorder can output AVC-I material out over HD-SDI, FireWire, or USB 2.0. “It’s a bridge product to the P2 HD world,” says Cooperman of the mobile recorder.

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