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Digital Video Goes Prime Time: Big Apple Plays Host to DV Expo East



Canon pulled out all the stops to announce its new XL2 digital camcorder last month. (photo by Dan Havlik)

Digital video took center stage in New York City last month as DV Expo East rolled into the Big Apple for four days of seminars, press conferences and product releases. With acclaimed director John Waters as the keynote speaker and a focus that included such diverse topics as High Definition (HD), digital photography, extreme video, independent filmmaking, lighting, visual effects and related segments, the three-year-old Expo has broadened its scope.

If the substantial crowds that jockeyed for a look-see at the Canon, Panasonic and Sony booths were any indication, that wider scope appeared to pay off. All of which could mean good things for photo specialty dealers.

A burgeoning segment for the photo specialty market, digital video camcorders have dropped in price and become easier to use, making them an appealing category for a range of users.

While DV Expo, which filled most of a downstairs hall at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York in mid-July, emphasized the higher end in digital camcorders, that didn't seem to bother the photo dealers who turned out to court customers and check out the latest DV gear.

"The bottom line-it's clearly crossing over to the mainstream," said Michael Green, vice president of Marketing at New Jersey's Unique Photo, which had a booth at the show. "And this is a great product we can offer the mainstream because we can give them more knowledge than a regular store. We don't just give them a box. We tell them everything that fits the niche of that particular customer. And with digital video camcorders, there's a lot to talk about."

Green noted that the mainstreaming of digital video camcorders has coincided with the rise of more user-friendly video software such as Adobe After Effects, creating "turnkey systems in digital video for the first time."

"For the last four years, we've been dealing with the crossover from traditional to digital photography. Now with the crossover of digital video, everything is converging into everything else."

The biggest product news at the show was undoubtedly the press announcement of Canon's new 3CCD Mini-DV camcorder, the XL2. Perhaps the biggest surprise about the XL2 though was not what it was, but what it was not.

At a press breakfast before the announcement, reporters compared predictions about what Canon would be unveiling. While quibbling on specifics, most seemed to expect Canon to release an HD camcorder to compete alongside HD offerings from the likes of JVC, Panasonic and Sony. In his remarks at the press conference though, Yukiaki Hashimoto, senior vice president and general manager of the Consumer Imaging Group at Canon USA, quickly quashed those expectations.

Panasonic was showing off the AG-DVC60 (above); "Hairspray" director John Waters had them rolling in the aisles at the DV Expo keynote (below). (photo by Dan Havlik)

"Everyone keeps asking: 'When is Canon going to launch a 3CCD HD or HDV camcorder?'" Hashimoto said, before adding that an HD camcorder from Canon would not be forthcoming until Canon felt the market could support it. When that would be, he did not say.

Instead, Hashimoto unveiled the XL2 which features a choice of 60i, 24p or 30p frame rates, 4:3 or high resolution 16:9 aspect ratio, and new 680,000 pixel progressive scan CCDs as well as other customizable controls to produce results designed to mimic a classic cine look. The XL2-which replaces the XL1S, Canon's previous top-of-the-line model-also comes with a new 20x zoom interchangeable lens and continues in the XL1 and XL1S tradition of "open architecture," allowing the user to customize the camcorder depending on the look they want for their footage.

"It is our goal to provide an affordable, high-performance Mini-DV camcorder for the professional and serious amateur," Hashimoto said. "By intentionally 'over-engineering' this product, Canon expects the XL2 camcorder to be immediately popular with movie makers, documentary, corporate, electronic news gathering, wedding and event videographers, because it gives them the features, control and versatility they need."

Other features of the XL2 include the ability to customize video recordings using 11 different "cine" settings: Gamma, Knee, Black, Color Matrix, Vertical Detail, Sharpness, Coring, Noise Reduction, Color Gain, Color Phase, and Film Grain. To emphasize the XL2's ability to record in different styles, Canon showed a video of short films created with the XL2 in 60i (a wedding video), 30p (a car commercial), 24p (2:3), (a police drama) and 24p (2:3:32), (a sitcom).

"Our intention is to help filmmakers at every level become better videographers," said Michael Zorich, director of Marketing for Canon's Video Division.

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