by Alan Sheckter, Videomaker news editor
The Associated Press called the 2002 International Consumer Electronics Show a cornucopia of gadgetry, the Sacramento Bee dubbed it a glitzy gizmo fest and the USA Today said Christmas stretched into January for true gadget lovers.
Whatever the moniker, more than 100,000 people, including a large segment of the Videomaker staff, took part in the annual electronics pilgrimage to Las Vegas, Nev.
The most extravagant exhibits were full of dancers, entertainment personalities and even a team of synchronized swimmers who dazzled the crowd in a giant water tank. While Videomaker editors ogled the endless aisles of high-tech gear with the rest of the attendees, we brushed aside the grandiose glitter to get to the heart of the matter — new videography-friendly products. New camcorders, with lower-than-ever prices abounded at CES. And forward-looking companies showed off prototypes of what’s to come.
Hitachi made a bold statement at CES. It announced that it would no longer manufacture tape-based camcorders, abandoning its RAM-CAM line. It announced three new disc-based camcorders that build on the innovative DVD units the company released last year. Starting at $899 and expected this spring, the cams are designed to record to 8cm DVD discs, either DVD-RAM or DVD-R, and should allow consumers to record DVDs, eject them from the unit and immediately play them back in a stand-alone living room DVD player.
Canon announced two new Hi8 camcorders. The ES75 will come with an astounding $229 price tag, and the ES8400, which will sport a 2.5-inch flip-screen and image stabilizer, is set for a cost of $299.
JVC also unveiled a slew of camcorders at CES. Its two new vertical Mini DV camcorders, expected in May, include the GR-DVM76U ($1,099) and the GR-DVM96U ($1,299). Both models will include enhanced still image capabilities, and the GR-DVM96U will allow video footage to be encoded into a moving, MPEG-4 video format for Internet and e-mail use. The company also announced seven new GR-DVL Mini DV models, available in February, ranging from a consumer-friendly $599 to $1,099.
JVC, like Canon (and others), showed that it was not ready to abandon the analog format. Four new sleeker, slimmer-bodied S-VHS-C camcorders, available in February, range in price from $349 to $499.
Sharp’s Not only is Sharp committed to embracing analog customers, but the new VL-A111U represents the industry’s only remaining 8mm camcorder. Sharp’s line of viewcams includes four Hi8 and three new Mini DV camcorders. The top model, the VL-NZ150U, comes with a $799 price tag.
Panasonic unveiled a line of Mini DV cams. They range from the PV-DV52 ($599), which comes with a 2.5-inch viewscreen, to the 3-CCD PV-DV952 ($2,199), which sports a 3.5-inch LCD screen and can record 1,600 x 1,200 still images.
Sony also had a presence at CES, unveiling its MICROMV format camcorders, first reported in Zoom In pages back in December. In addition, Sony announced three new Hi8 camcorders priced from $300 to $400 and five Digital8 models that will range from $500 to $900.
In addition to its camcorders, Sony announced the nifty GV-D1000 Mini DV Video Walkman VCR. Similar to a standard VCR, the unit is a fully functional playback and recording deck. The GV-D1000 has a 4-inch, 123,000-pixel LCD display and a Memory Stick removable media slot. It will come $1,299 price tag.
Plus RW or Dash RW?
Writeable DVD was a huge part of CES this year, with the two major camps (DVD-R and DVD+R) both introducing new products and technology and both claiming the highest level of compatibility with current technology.
The newer DVD+RW Alliance, with members such as Philips, which showed its freestanding DVDR985 on the show floor, is quickly ramping up production of hardware and media.
The rival DVD-R Council (RDVDC) (with such members as Pioneer, which showed its freestanding DVR-7000 and a prototype of its budget-priced DVR-3000), is consolidating its alphabet soup of formats under the DVD Multi logo.
Hitachi-LG announced the first PC DVD drive (GMA-4020B), which will record and play back all of the various RDVDC formats, in addition to CD-R and CD-RW. Many companies also rolled out living room DVD recording devices, one of the more interesting of which came from Toshiba, which plans to introduce the RD-2000, a standalone DVD-R device with both a DVD-RAM drive an internal hard disk recorder of a yet-to-be-determined size.
The Future: Blue Laser?
As the public at large settles into the DVD format, research teams are already at work on the next generation of DVD recorders. Aimed at recording high definition TV signals, Toshiba, Panasonic, Sony and others are working on blue laser optical discs with data capacities of 30GB to 50GB per side. At CES, Toshiba detailed the key elements of its Land & Groove Weave format track structure, which, in addition to a 30GB-per-side-capacity, allows for a faster user bit rate and thinner cover layer than current DVD media.