This annual report from the Sundance Digital Center, at Park City’s Main Street Mall, was a little tougher this year. As usual, there wasn’t a lot of stuff to see. After all, Sundance is for mostly above-the-liners producers, directors, actors and the requisite marketing people—plus of course, the buyers, distributors and some true film buffs—not the type that generally interests the manufacturers. Only occasionally do the DPs or editors (who would be buying this stuff) come along. This year Sony, Avid, Adobe, Hewlett Packard, Canon and Panasonic were all there again, but no one else, and there was little that was new or newsworthy.Sony again showed its HD cameras, starting with the XDCam PDW-F350L. Also there was the HVR-Z1U and what seemed to be the only new thing at the entire show—the HVR-V1U. It is the successor to the workhorse the PD-170 camera, but with 24p HD; it’s also lighter and the side hand grip is a little further forward for better balance. Plus the iris wheel is now just behind the focus ring, with the auto/manual push button just above and the momentary focus button just below it. All are nice improvements. Tape controls are now on the viewfinder, and beneath the viewfinder, a panel flips down to reveal HDMI, USB connectors and a memory stick slot. Since the handgrip moved forward, the analog I/O connectors are gone. You can no longer get analogue out without the special breakout cable and there is no analogue in anymore. A special D ring for the breakout cable and Firewire connectors are just to the right of the battery in back. Speaking of Firewire, the new DR60, 60 GB hard disc recorder provides 4.5 hours of HDV recording and special features in the viewfinder like connection, rec status and battery level. It uses the same battery as the camcorder, which is the same as the PD-170. The V1’s image comes from three 1/4-inch CMOS sensors that draw less power than the more common 1/3-inch, albeit with the loss of some sensitivity (4 lux as opposed to 3 lux on the Z1). But their diagonal architecture allows for some interesting tricks and the 14-bit enhanced imaging processor can output a 1920 X 1080/60p 4:2:2 video signal. Sony reps said the 24P is the first “true 24 fps mode” that evenly samples 24 frames per second, not the quasi-24P Cineframe mode from earlier Sony HDV Cameras. It’s a great follow-up to the legendary PD-170 and priced right at $4,890—about $1,500 more than the HVR-A1U and $1,000 less than the HVR-Z1. I asked if anything had been shot on the new cameras that was playing at Sundance or even Slamdance (the lower-budget, underdog festival running concurrently with Sundance) and they replied yes, but could not tell me which ones. C’mon guys, isn’t that your job?Adobe showed software, but the company won’t be releasing anything new until this summer. Avid showed its latest software as well. If I had my druthers, I’d have Avid, Adobe and Apple Final Cut Pro. Canon showed its line of HDTV lenses. Hewlett Packard showed the same computers as last year, but they are a little faster of course. Panavision was showing its Genesis digital camera alongside its 35mm cameras.There was no buzzword this year. Well, that’s not entirely true—”refined” came to mind when I checked out some of the presentations. The HD workflow has definitely been improved and a lot of bugs have been worked out.Podcasting was last years’ buzzword but the novelty of watching postage-stamp-sized, lower-than-VHS-quality video in the palm of your hand has worn off.
Written by Bob Bayless