AVC-LongG Encoding is Standard, with 200 Mbps AVC-Intra Recording an Option
Panasonic finally inaugurated its AVC Ultra codec family this week by announcing the AJ-PX5000G, a sub-$28,000 shoulder-mounted camcorder slated for release this fall. The 2/3-inch 3-MOS camera is the first P2 camcorder to record full-res 10-bit 1080/60p video using the AVC-Intra100 codec as well as 10-bit 4:2:2 AVC-LongG, a long-GOP variant offering bit-rate options of 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps. For an unspecified price, Panasonic will offer an optional upgrade that enables recording in AVC-Intra200, which the company described as "a master-quality codec." The PX5000 is slated to ship this fall.
"[The PX5000] is the best camera we have ever made," boasted P2 HD product marketing manager Steve Cooperman at a press briefing introducing the camera. It's geared toward a variety of markets, including news, documentary, high-end corporate video, sports production, and camera rentals. In those contexts, Cooperman suggested that AVC-Intra200 is an appropriate codec for "archive masters." Senior Business Development Manager Michael Bergeron noted that the 200 Mbps codec is likely to hold up better in post when the image is rigorously manipulated in processes that can eventually bring to light artifacts in otherwise "visually lossless" compression schemes, such as upresing to higher-resolution (i.e. 4K).
Meanwhile, Cooperman said lower-bit-rate AVC-LongG recording would "open up additional opportunities" in markets like reality TV, where the ability to shoot enormous quantities of footage can take precedence over quality considerations.
AVC-Proxy will also be offered as an option, enabling offline editing of footage compressed to anywhere between 800 kbps and 3.5 Mbps. Offline workflows will be the same no matter what class of AVC-Intra footage is being relinked at the end of the process.
Another first is the PX5000's status as the only Panasonic camera to date to use its 3-MOS sensor system in a 2/3-inch configuration, allowing users to employ existing collections of 2/3-inch glass. Panasonic said the three 2.2-megapixel sensors deliver 1000 TV lines of horizontal resolution with a rated sensitivity of F12 when shooting 60i. It's also the first camcorder with slots for the new microP2 card format, which takes a standard SD-card form factor but supports data transfer at up to 2.0 Gbps and starts shipping next month in 32 GB ($250) and 64 GB ($380) capacities. And it has a raft of functions that have become more or less de rigeur at this price point — chromatic aberration compensation, dynamic range stretch, and flash-band compensation.
Speaking of microP2, Panasonic also announced the AJ-PD500 MicroP2 recorder. It's a half-rack recorder with AVC-LongG and AVC-Proxy as standard and AVC-Intra200 and AVCHD as options. It has two microP2 slots as well as two regular P2 slots along with a USB 3.0 interface. It weighs under 4.5 pounds, making it surprisingly portable. It's also slated to ship this fall at a suggested list price of less than $14,000.
What was missing from Panasonic's announcement was anything concrete about 4K acquisition. AVC-Ultra has a "class 4:4:4" specification for a high-bandwidth format supporting 12-bit 4:4:4 1080p, 2K, and 4K footage, but if there's going to be a "4K VariCam" announcement this year, it won't be made until NAB at the earliest. For now, Panasonic is talking up what you can do at HD resolution with the new AVC-Ultra codecs. For example, to underscore the flexibility of AVC-LongG, the Panasonic NAB booth will include a display that shows 16 channels of 25 Mbps 4:2:2 10-bit AVC-LongG footage being sent over one CAT-6 Ethernet cable simultaneously for display on 16 tablet PCs.
Bergeron did describe the evolving ecosystem for AVC Ultra, mentioning that Adobe, Apple and Avid are among the AVC-Ultra partners who are committed to developing AVC-Ultra support. The big announcement here is a suite of AVC-Ultra plug-ins for Avid Media Composer 6.5 (Mac and Windows) enabling AVC-Proxy import and editing (June, $199), AVC-Intra 100/50 export (June, $149), AVC-LongG export (October, $149) and AVC-LongG import (October, $99). The plug-ins will be downloadable from the Panasonic website, and will be usable for a free 30-day trial period.
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