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A Centillion number of formats and standards

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Paul King
A Centillion number of formats and standards
on Jan 19, 2008 at 4:29:26 pm

I have a question.

I beta test for a couple of different companies in the NLE area. I keep hearing complaints about support for this format and what about that new camera?

Why are we putting up with Sony and Pana developing their own standards instead of settling on one? What if hard drive makers each had their own version of SATA or SCSI, there would be a huge outcry.

But Sony and Panasonic seem to get away with it. And it's not like their camera products are really that good, most of them are a series of compromises in a metal and plastic box.

So can anyone help me understand why this is so?



Thanks




Paul


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David Jones
Re: A Centillion number of formats and standards
on Jan 19, 2008 at 6:26:46 pm

The truth is, there hasn't been a standard format since the days of 3/4"! After Sony came out with Batacam in '84, and Panasonic came out with M-II (remember that?), it bacame "format-of-the-month" time with those two and everybody else. As I'm sure others will point out on here, there will never be another single format again. As to the why, I leave that question to those better informed that me. It probably has to do with the whole VHS vs. Batamax debacle, though...lol.


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Craig Seeman
Re: A Centillion number of formats and standards
on Jan 19, 2008 at 7:23:10 pm

At least it's a lot easier and cheaper to install a new codec in an NLE than buying yet another deck.

The interesting thing is that Sony is modifying their own. In addition to 1440x1080 .mxf there's now 1920x1080 .mfx although both are XDCAM 35mbps VBR Long GOP.


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Paul King
Re: A Centillion number of formats and standards
on Jan 20, 2008 at 3:56:52 am

Hi Craig

It's actually cheaper to have Sony and Pana conform to a standard that everyone can adhere to.

As my example stated, imagine if the PC industry worked this way, it would be unworkable. That's getting to where we are in the production industry.



Thanks





Paul



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Ron Shook
Re: A Centillion number of formats and standards
on Jan 19, 2008 at 9:47:15 pm

Paul,

[Paul King] "So can anyone help me understand why this is so?"

Sure! It's so obvious that you'll kick yourself for not seeing it. In one word, "VTRs." As in "soon" there will be little need for them except for archival purposes and these babies along with their associated consumable media were a huge, huge source of product and income for Pany, Sony and JVC. First, NLEs made it possible to go from 3 or more VTRs for post-production to only 1. Now file based production using inexpensive solid state, optical and hard drives is moving us along to a tapesless world.

There will always be some need for VTR like substitutes that can be operated by dummies, but for the most part these expensive stand alone devices will be cut back very drastically, and thus the product and profits of the big boys unless they can find substitutes. They are all scrambling for these substitutes. Proprietary formats and media are part of that scramble and it ain't probably gonna end soon.

I say "probably" because the pace of technology is real hard to predict and coupled with software smarts, things can change almost overnight. Look at how long it took for the On2 codec in Flash to decimate the use of WMV and QT for WEB delivery. Not everything is that "one year" volitile, but most things in our biz are now 2-5 years volitile.

[Paul King] "I beta test for a couple of different companies in the NLE area. I keep hearing complaints about support for this format and what about that new camera?"

NLE Manufacturers will just have to keep scrambling to accomodate to the world they are given. It's a tough slog. 10 years ago in the Pro NLE world there was Avid and a dozen contenders. Now when you talk about encompassing general purpose NLEs there are 4: Avid, Apple, Adobe and Vegas. IMO, there wouldn't be Avid without Unity, nor Apple, Adobe and Vegas without their bundled integrated applications.

[Paul King] "Why are we putting up with Sony and Pana developing their own standards instead of settling on one? What if hard drive makers each had their own version of SATA or SCSI, there would be a huge outcry."

Pany and Sony are in the same boat of protecting their place and profits, and trying to perpetuate the proprietary in an increasingly open, non-proprietary, commodity computer world. They not only have to watch and repond to each other, but they have to keep looking behind because every piece of proprietary hardware and media in their warehouses can be essentially obsoleted in a twinkling by the march of technology.

They're good at proprietary pro codecs, but have a significant failure history when it comes to broad based software. So they perpetuate what they are the best at to stave off each other and possible contenders. The Red and Dulca cameras which are essentially commodity computers with glass wouldn't have been possible 10 years ago. Although they don't threaten Pany and Sony significantly now, as commodity computer elements shrink in size and power draw they likely could in another 5 years.

[Paul King] "But Sony and Panasonic seem to get away with it. And it's not like their camera products are really that good, most of them are a series of compromises in a metal and plastic box."

So's my automile. (g) As long as Sony and Pany present us with products of real and/or perceived usefullness that are on balance better than the competition, they'll be able to stay where they are. If they can't, they'll either adapt or die. "A centillion number of formats and standards" is enabling them to adapt for the time being. It may not always be so, and will call for other strategies.

That's enough. I feel an article coming on. (g)

Ron Shook
Shoulder-High Eye Productions
CreativeCOW Forum Host for Discreet edit*


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Paul King
Re: A Centillion number of formats and standards
on Jan 20, 2008 at 4:13:55 am

Hi Ron

[Ron} Sure! It's so obvious that you'll kick yourself for not seeing it. In one word, "VTRs."

Actually I would have said greed (VTR is three words).

[Ron] NLE Manufacturers will just have to keep scrambling to accomodate to the world they are given.

This is not good enough. My question still stands, why are Sony and Pana dictating the terms of reference?

[Ron] Pany and Sony are in the same boat of protecting their place and profits

Again greed is the answer. The PC industry is less proprietary than video, at least I can copy files from a Mac to a PC and play them back.

Ron the gist of what I am saying is why are Sony and Pana dictating what the industry will do? Every new generation of camera they bring out isn't even backwards compatible with their previous product range.

If I buy a film camera, I can buy and use stock from a number of vendors and they all work. Even the film digital formats are compatible, they have a standard that is not dictated by 1 or 2 vendors.

Actually I am doing Sony and Pana favour. This path they are on will probably be self-destructive anyway. When you sit back and watch them, you get a strong sense of the motivation being self preservation rather than providing their customers with great products.


Thanks




Paul






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David Jones
Re: A Centillion number of formats and standards
on Jan 20, 2008 at 6:00:34 am

Hi Paul-

I actually agree with most of what you say. I would even take it one step further and ask the question, why do we need so many versions of a product within a given format? For example, Sony had the BVW line of Batacam SP. Then they came out with the PVW line for those who couldn't afford the BVW stuff. Then, they came out with the UVW line. In fact, they also did this with their Umatic stuff as well. And let's not forget High 8 (what were they thing, there?!). Then, we had Digital Batacam. But wait, there's more: Batcam SX, the Hybrid BVW D-600, and DV CAM (presumably to compete with DVC-Pro). Yes, I know...they did all this to get as much of the various (perceived) markets as possible. But it seems to me that a more cost-effective way to do this would be to make one model and offer various (addible) options to it.

There are other vendors out there making their own cameras/formats but they seem to be tanking: the Ikegami Editcam, GVG's camera (not sure if it ever came out), and I think the jury is still out on JVC's stuff though, some stations have adopted it. I do think it just goes to show that consumers (even professional ones) want a single format. If only the vendors would get it!


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Ron Shook
Re: A Centillion number of formats and standards
on Jan 20, 2008 at 11:20:05 pm

Paul,

First, let me say that I share your sentiments about the proliferation of formats and codecs. It's a PITA in multiple ways. I'm not an apologist for the Big Fish of the industry, by a long shot. I'm just saying "Look where they're coming from and how the march of technology has threatened to decimate them, for an understanding of how they are behaving, and why to a considerable degree they have to or feel they have to behave in this manner." Your's is only the most recent in a long stream of similar feelings and it won't be the last by a long shot. The pendulum is swinging inexorably towards some of the openness that you and I desire, but it will never happen to the degree that we desire and perhaps it shouldn't (more about that later).

[Paul King] "Actually I am doing Sony and Pana favour. This path they are on will probably be self-destructive anyway."

Just as they probably won't listen with more than an irritating scratch at we little mosquitos, they will surely be aware of the broadcast predators nipping at their heels and have to respond to them to everyone's benefit.

[Paul King] "greed is the answer. ....you get a strong sense of the motivation being self preservation rather than providing their customers with great products."

Exactly! Greed is not the only answer because self preservation is not greed. Nor is their desire to keep their hundreds of thousands of employees emplyed and their millions of investors satisfied. Customers are 3rd or 4th on the list of corporate motivations and that's not going to change anytime soon.

[Paul King] "why are Sony and Pana dictating the terms of reference?"

Because they can and they have to. Going back to my original thesis, the march of technology has given them terrible hits over the last 10 years, the not so gradual demise of VTRs being only the most graphic. If they are going to continue to deliver tools for us to use, they have to replace those lost traditional profits in other ways. Some ways have worked out for them, some haven't.

Technology brings along with it opportunities for everyone, not just Sony and Pany, but those opportunities have to translate into products and profits if they are going to deliver. The products that we employ make use of highly varied technologies. Every year brings more than one significant advancement that threatens to shove the whole camcorder, NLE, Server, or Codec equation into a cocked hat and in the meantime these uber companies must always be guessing and pushing development cycles ever harder. Standardization has a heck of a time working in this environment. Can anyone honestly say that they would stick with a "standard codec" if someone delivered a clearly superior codec to their competitors? Probably not, I'd guess.

And what happens when someone delivers a camcorder with a completely programmable codec subsection and it becomes ever more difficult for Sony or Pany to dictate compression codecs to the industry. How will they finagle their profits then, assuming you will allow them some?

Or what happens to codec's themselves when someone delivers cheap, reliable, huge, powerlite, molecular or atomic based digital storage that makes compression unnecessary? This will surely happen, probably sooner than we think. Would you deny Sony and Panasonic their profits (greed) so that they are unable to respond to such a drastic change in possibilities and capabilites? Perhaps someone else will be more nimble in adapting and one or both of these companies will disappear from our industry. That might be good in the long run, but will make our lives even more difficult in the interim.

Sorry, but the NLE companies will have to keep scrambling to support new codecs because no one puts up with second best too long. The saving grace is that the NLE companies are getting better at this with each new necessity and the response cycle keeps dropping.

It ain't as simple as "greed."

Ron Shook
Shoulder-High Eye Productions
CreativeCOW Forum Host for Discreet edit*


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Kyle Self
Re: A Centillion number of formats and standards
on Jan 22, 2008 at 12:30:27 am

Sigh, the good old days, lol. I could call a free lancer 4 states away and of course he had a betacam. He would shoot, send the tape back, I would pop the tape into my old trusty BVW, and it played back. No worries, just happiness. Then of course I could always pop a 1" master out the door and virtually any station, dub house, or decent sized post house could play it.

Now, who gets the D5 and who gets the HDCam? I can't play that back because it came from a JVC, I can play the cannon, ahh but no its in progressive mode. The list is endless.

It does make for an interesting trip.

K



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