Sony and Panasonic develop AVCHD format for HD camcorders

By Matthew Henry

TOKYO, JAPAN: Sony and Panasonic have jointly-developed a new video compression technology for digital video cameras which will enable manufacturers to produce compact DVD and flash memory-based camcorders with full high definition (HD) video recording.

The Japanese consumers electronics rivals united late yesterday to announce the development of the AVCHD video recording format, which enables HD resolution video (1080i or 720p) to be recorded to an 8cm DVD disc like those used in the current crop of DVD camcorders.

AVCHD is a type of MPEG-4 audio visual compression technology twice as efficient as the MPEG-2 codec used in conventional DVD players and DVD camcorders.

High definition video requires up to four times the storage space of standard definition video, and until now the only media capable of recording a significant clip of HD video was MiniDV tape.

Reports quoting a Sony spokesperson in Japan have suggested 20 minutes of HD video recorded with the new codec could fit on a single-layer 8cm DVD disc. The current generation of DVD camcorders, using the less efficient MPEG-2 codec, can record 30 minutes of standard definition footage on an 8cm DVD disc.

DVD camcorders are becoming a popular alternative among consumers to tape-based models, capturing 40 per cent of the worldwide camcorder market in 2005.

“Coupled with the emerging growth of HD broadcasting across the world, penetration of HD-capable TV sets is gaining unprecedented momentum. This sets the stage for enjoying HD images more easily at home,” the two companies said in a statement

Although no AVCHD camcorder models have been announced, Sony and Panasonic have started preparations to licence the technology to other manufacturers.

“Panasonic and Sony will extensively promote this format throughout the industry as the new HD digital video camera recorder format best suited for the HD era,” said the statement.

Panasonic intends on using the new format for a range of high definition SD card camcorders, which the company has said is its preferred media for future HD video cameras.

"Panasonic’s efforts to develop the technology to record HD images onto SD memory cards and construct a new playback and editing environment, in addition to its establishing the AVCHD standard for 8cm DVDs, will serve to further stimulate development of products that take advantage of the characteristics of both media," said Panasonic AVC Networks director of video cameras, Akihiro Nakatani.

Sony Australia and Panasonic Australia both declined to comment further on the announcement today.

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