Thomson announced that it has shipped its first Grass Valley Infinity Digital Media Camcorders, almost two-and- a-half years after the company first unveiled the camera at IBC 2005.
The camera, originally scheduled to ship in early 2006, has seen a number of engineering delays, but Las Vegas-based NBC affiliate KVBC recently took delivery of 18 cameras–the first shipped in North America.
According to Mark Chiolis, senior marketing manager of Thomson Grass Valley’s Strategic Marketing and Business Development Group, “I think because this was the first attempt that anyone had made at a fully IT-based open product for the broadcast market, we had to take some extra steps and those took us a bit longer than we anticipated, but we didn’t want to bring anything to market before it was ready.”
“One of the other reasons that it was delayed is that, originally, we had three 2/3-inch imaging sensors that we purchased from somebody else, but we weren’t able to get the quality of the picture to where we were happy with it,” he added. “We had also started our own development a number of years ago on CMOS sensors and it just so happened that the camera development was running late, but the sensor development was running ahead of schedule, so we took the CMOS sensors and put those in the camera and we were very pleased with the images that we were getting.”
Hence the camera relies on three newly designed 2/3-inch Xensium-based CMOS imagers, and takes standard B4-mount lenses.
KVBC is using its new cameras for HD news broadcasts, but according to Chiolis, the camera is ideal for owner/ operators shooting documentaries, high-end news magazine shows, or independent productions. Chiolis also expects to sell them into the rental market.
Cinematographer Scott Billups used a prototype of the camera to shoot green-screen shots for a recent episode of the series Bone Detective.
“It’s almost in the realm from a production standpoint of replacing or augmenting somebody’s 16mm camera,” said Chiolis. “This is going to be attractive because it allows me to go out and control my own projects, bid on my own projects and then make money with the camera at the same time.”
Chiolis said that, “demand looks pretty good. We took a number of pre-orders on this and so we’re starting to ship the backlog now. I think we’re expected to clear the backlog in April or May. And so anybody who is ordering one now could expect delivery in the April/May timeframe.”
The camera, which sells for about $27,000, including the viewfinder, can record to 35 GB REV PRO removable drives (built by Iomega) or CompactFlash cards. It records HD or SD, DV25, 10-bit 4:2:2 JPEG2000 and has an option for 8-bit 4:2:0 MPEG-2 as well.
One limitation for production applications is the fact the currently, the camera doesn’t offer 24P, 25P or 30P, but according to Chiolis a software/firmware update could be added in the not-too-distant future.
“Once we have that, we think that we’re going to move very quickly into that market because we believe that between the quality of the camera and the features its really going to kick some butt,” he said.