Wednesday 3 February 2010

Canon to adopt MPEG-2 for forthcoming pro HD video camera

Canon announced yesterday that their forthcoming professional video camera would record to file. Possibly on flash memory like SD or CF cards, but using an MPEG-2 codec. This would be MPEG-2 full HD (MPEG-2 4:2:2P@HL), 1920x1080 full raster at 50 Mbps.

So Canon has decided to go with MPEG-2 as opposed to AVCHD. And this MPEG-2 is not your 4:2:0 HDV kind of sub-sampling but 4:2:2 just like Pro HD formats. And its full raster 1920x1080, not 1440x1080 as in HDV. This new format will compete directly with XDCamEx which is also full raster, but at 35 Mbps.

MPEG-2 4:2:2P@HL is similar to the one used by broadcasters on Betacam SX and IMX. So its a known quantity in post. And is gorgeous to look at.

The announcement also states that Canon is working closely with Avid, Apple, and Adobe, and Grass Valley. So, expect Media Composer, FCP, Premiere, and Edius to be able to edit Canon movies natively, and not via a log and transfer process. Or a CPU hungry decompression-on-the-fly.

The file format will be MXF based, so that's straight away SMPTE approved. 

This new camera is likely to be the same or similar to the mockup shown at InterBee some months ago. And covered by DVInfo.net. It looks like a replacement for the cult camera series - XL-1, XL-1s, XL-H1 and variants. It also signals the possible end of tape-based cameras from Canon.

Sony's XDCam HD camcorder PDW-F800 also uses the same compression scheme, but it records to Sony's encased Blu-ray disks. That camera costs upwards of US$ 45000 (over Rs 25 lakhs). I think Canon's MPEG-2HD camera series will come in the $4000 to $8000 range.

It will attract documentary, short film, and experimental film makers. It is a natural upgrade for XL series camera owners of which Canon knows it can cound on tens if not hundreds of thousands. Canon has tasted success with their DSLRs that do video - a market they practically created and which could touch 100,000 by this year end.

And for Canon, each camera sold is several lenses sold too. So maybe this new MPEG HD camera will have interchangeable lenses. Maybe even an APS-C sensor so existing DSLR lenses could be used.

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