It’s common to get sore feet after a few days walking the show floor, but this year it was the eyestrain from all the giant monitors gushing spectacular 3D video. It was everywhere. In new camcorder lines, gaming video cards, laptops, projectors, monitors and, in many cases, at prices comparable to last year’s 2D products.
So what makes 3D a must-have technology for you – the video producer? It certainly can further immerse your audience into your story. But most producers we know are not getting many 3D requests from friends, family or clients, there are just not enough 3D viewing options in homes and businesses – yet. Chris Deutsch, JVC’s regional marketing manager, says that more than a million 3D monitors have already found their way into homes and institutions and he expects that number will grow rapidly. He adds that since there is such a relatively limited selection of professionally created 3D titles available, this may spark new a demand for consumer created content.
Anticipating this growing demand, nearly all of the major camcorder manufacturers have announced new consumer 3D camcorders.
Sony crams two consumer camcorders into one with its new HDR-TD10, describing it as the first “Double Full HD” 3D camcorder. It has two of each critical imaging component; two Sony G Lenses, two “Exmor R” CMOS sensors and two BIONZ image processors. The HDR-TD10 uses the new MVC codec (MultiView Video Coding, an extension of the h.264 AVC codec) to capture two streams of 1920x1080i video at 28Mbps. Like most other 3D newcomers, it also shoots stills and will easily shift gears into 2D, increasing the resolution to 1080p. Other features include optical image stabilization with Active Mode, 10x zoom and 64GB of internal flash memory. The HDR-TD10 will cost approximately $1,500 and will be out in April.
If you don’t need 3D but still want some wow-factor, the Sony Handycam lineup now has built-in video projectors. That’s right, little LED projectors throw an image up to 18 feet away and up to 60 diagonal inches in size. You’ll need a dark room to make the most of the image, but this is a novel way to instantly share your just-shot footage. The HDR-PJ50V records to a 220GB hard drive, will list for about $1,000 and will be out in April. The HDR-PJ30V and HDR-PJ10 use 32GB and 16GB of flash memory, cost $950 and $700 respectively and will be available in March.
Sony also debuted three new additions to its Bloggie lineup – the 3D Bloggie MHS-FS3, the Bloggie Duo MHS-FS2 and the Bloggie MHS-FS1. The 3D Bloggie is a pocket-sized 3D camera that uses two lenses and two sensors and shoots MP4 video in full 1920x1080p HD along with capturing 5MP stills. It will be available in April for $250. The Bloggie Duo features costs $170 and has a 2.7-inch LCD screen on the back and a 2-inch one on the front, comes with 4GB of memory and is perfect for capturing yourself and others. And the $150 Bloggie is a compact low-cost solution that captures full HD video but with fewer options. Both the Duo and Bloggie come out in March.
Panasonic introduced three new full HD camcorders, the HDC-TM900, HDC-HS900 and the HDC-SD800. The HDC-series captures 1920x1080p 60p/60i/24p HD video using Panasonic’s advanced 3MOS system that produces very low-noise images. In fact, Panasonic claims a full 45% reduction in noise over earlier models. The TM900 and HS900 feature a manual focus ring, a 20x zoom and a larger 3.5 inch touch screen. The SD800 touch screen is a tad smaller at 3 inches. All these models have three 2.53 megapixel sensors, record to SDXC/SDHC/SD Memory Cards, have Touch Zoom and Touch Shutter (for taking still photos). The TM900 can also record to its 32GB of internal memory and the HS900 uses an internal 220GB hard disk for storage. All models have 3D capability when strapped to the optional VW-CLT1 3D conversion lens that is expected to cost approximately $350 although we don’t have a shipping date yet. The HDC-TM900, HDC-HS900 and the HDC-SD800 will cost approximately $999, $1,399 and $899 respectively and will be available in March according to several dealers.
JVC rolled out its new GS-TD1 3D camcorder that simultaneously records two 1920x1080i HD video streams using a new high speed video processor. In addition to the “side-by-side” AVCHD codec for 3D, JVC uses the MVC format to process the higher bitrate streams up to 34Mbps. The GS-TG1 features extra low-dispersion glass in the new twin HG GT lens to guide photons onto two 3.32 megapixel 1/4-inch CMOS sensors. The lens has a 5x optical zoom in 3D mode but it increases to 10x in 2D mode. Some other camcorders in this class do not even have a 3D zoom option. Focus, exposure, shutter, white balance and other critical images settings can be set manually or automatically. Access to these is through the 3.5″ touch screen or control dials on the back. Like many of the new breed of 3D camcorders, you can view the 3D image on the built-in screen without glasses.
JVC also announced the new Everio GZ-HM960, a 2D camcorder that features 2D to 3D conversion viewable on the 3.5-inch touch screen monitor without glasses. This is a feature that sounds intriguing but one we were not able to try out. It records native 2D in full 1080p at 24Mbps using the AVCHD codec, has 16GB internal Flash memory and can sync with Bluetooth devices. The GS-TD1 will be available in March and will cost $2,000 and the Everio GZ-HM960 should be out in March for $950.
Canon is the only major manufacturer that seems to be holding off on an integrated 3D camcorder, instead focusing on other advancements in quality. The best example of this are the new XF100-series and XA10 camcorders that, while announced before CES, were finally on display for a larger audience. The XF100 and XF105 are beefy palm-sized units that feature high quality file-based full HD recording of video using MPEG-2 4:2:2 at 50Mbps. Other camcorders in this price category use 4:2:0 color sampling that yields only half of the color resolution of 4:2:2 (required for doing good chromakey). The extra color samples do come at a cost, as you get 1920×1080 at 60i /30p/24p, but if you want 60p/30p/24p, you’ll bump down to 1280×720. Both models include a 10x Canon HD lens, the Canon DIGIC DV III image processor, dual CF card slots, a 3.5 inch LCD display, XLR terminals and SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization with Dynamic and Powered modes. If you have two of the same model handy, Canon does provide in-camera features that make creating 3D images easier to setup.
The XA10 captures 1920x1080p video using an MPEG-4-AVC codec and records to an internal 64GB flash card. It includes many of the same professional features as the XF100 series but in a much more compact design. The units were a notable standout among mostly consumer-grade camcorders and their price goes along with their professional features; the XF100, XF105 and XA10 will list for $2,999, $3,999 and $1,999 respectively and should be available in March.
At the lower end of the price scale, Viewsonic introduced its ViewFun 3D line of products that includes the Snap pocket 3D digital camera, the PocketHD, Pocket and Palm 3D HD camcorders and a viewing device called the Show 3D. For approximately $150, the 3D Snap captures 2 and 3D video along with stills, features a dual 5-megapixel lens for video and can capture up to 12-megapixel photos. The Pocket HD and the 3D Pocket also capture both stills and video in 2 and 3D and record in 1080p and 720p respectively. At $250, the Palm 3D is a 1080p 2 and 3D camcorder capable of shooting 60fps and adds a bit more user control over the image. All of these camcorders playback 3D video on built-in LCD monitors without the need for glasses using an advanced parallax barrier technology.
Samsung came out with a novel feature in its new HMX-Q10 camcorder – you can shoot using your left or right hand. They call this ambidextrous feature, “Switch Grip,” and if you find yourself in positions where you simply can’t adjust your grip, it could be the perfect solution. You can even turn it upside down, and it will display the image correctly in the viewfinder, using a G-magnetic sensor they call a accelerometer. Like most others this year, it records full HD, but at 1080/60i or 720/60p. It should be available in February for $299.
There are obviously far too many small products and improvements in existing ones to list here, but there were a few worth nothing.
Laptops are even getting into the 3D act. Sony announced its new 16-inch VAIO F 3D that features a 3D transmitter connected to included active 3D glasses. Toshiba demonstrated an advanced head-tracking glasses-free technology incorporated into the new Qosmio that is still in prototype.
Sony introduced a new 5″ LCD monitor, a popular accessory for HDSLR shooters, that features basic controls including peaking. The CLM-V55 appears well built, has an integrated metal hood, will list for $399 and be available in March.
Intel announced its new QuickSync technology that makes processor-intensive operations, such as encoding h.264 video, happen up to twice as fast by essentially building a GPU engine into their 2nd generation Core processor. It appears, however, that if you already have a dedicated high performance video card, this acceleration is disabled.
Storage technology continues its More-for-Less march. Lexar announced its 64 and 128GB SDXC (extended capacity) memory cards with a 133x write speed that guarantees minimum write speeds of 20MB per second. They are priced at $400 and $700 respectively. If you need more throughput, SanDisk announced a 128GB CF card that will push data at up to 100MB per second. At an estimate $1,500 price tag, this is among the most expensive solutions.
If you need to keep your data safe from rough handling or extreme elements, ioSafe‘s Go-Anywhere Ultra Rugged Portable Hard Drive gives you 5,000 pounds of crush protection, safety from a 20-foot drop, immersion protection for up to three days at a 30-foot depth and a data recovery service up to $5,000 in case of actual data corruption. Buffalo Technology‘s new CloudStor is a network attached storage device that allows you to access your media from anywhere online. It is essentially your own personal standalone internet media server. The CloudStor uses Pogoplug as the local and remote application that grants secure access to your data via any device with an online connection. It lists for $170 for the 1TB version and $270 for the 2TB version and will be available in February.
Tiffen unveiled its new Steadicam Smoothie, a lightweight handheld motion stabilizer that is designed for Apple iPhone and Flip cameras. The unit comes pre-balanced but does have some fine tuning controls. Tiffen improved the Pilot vest and incorporated various user suggested improvements to the higher-end Scout and Zephyr vest-based systems.
Back on the Flat
Even if you flatten the 3rd dimension, there were still several notable general advancements. Most of the major camcorder brands now feature 1080p recording, replacing 1080i and 720p as a standard, and many have native 24p frame rates. More companies now include, or have improved, optical image stabilization in even lower priced camcorders. Monitor technology is also improving with faster response times, better dynamic range, higher resolutions and larger screen sizes all at reasonable prices. What was missing is also notable; we didn’t see any camcorders that used tape, and this is the first year some companies, such as JVC, no longer manufacture a standard definition camcorder.
Even as the show was winding down on Sunday afternoon, people were still standing two and three deep around the Canon HDSLR counter. Once we got some counter time with a Canon rep we were curious to know what percentage of people were primarily asking about the video capabilities. He said 50% or more. And those that were mostly interested in still photography usually asked if the camera also did that “HD video thing.”
It’s a Wrap
Although some 3D products were introduced at last year’s trade show, most were prototypes or priced way out of the average user’s range. CES 2011 will be known as the year 3D became available to the masses. The prospect of creating video content that is increasingly immersive at a price that is now affordable makes 3D awfully enticing. But will 3D add enough value to you, the producer and your audience, to compensate for the limitations and added complexity? We don’t have the answer yet, but you can bet we’ll stay on top of the story as it develops. In the meantime, features like 4:2:2 color sampling and high quality optical image stabilization, once limited to only high-end broadcast equipment, continue to filter into the consumer and prosumer arenas. If you have the resources, 2011 could be a great year to upgrade.
Brian Peterson is a video production consultant, trainer, and lecturer.