Panasonic Plans NAB in 3D

Panasonic AG-3DA1

Today Panasonic hosted a group of journalists in a New York office to announce its NAB plans. Apparently half the company''s booth in Las Vegas will be devoted to 3D in some way, and it was no surprise that the dual-lensed prototype camcorder sitting on the conference-room table dominated the discussion. The six-CMOS, dual-stream SD-recording camcorder now has a name: the AG-3DA1. Bob Harris, VP of marketing and product develpment for Panasonic, announced that the company is now taking pre-orders for the camcorder - provided you''re willing to pony up a $1,000 non-refundable deposit for the $21,000 3DA1, which will be built to order starting in the fall. Joe Facchini, vice president, sales and product management for Panasonic, says that since CES, the company''s received literally thousands of calls about the camcorder.

The AG-3DA1 has integrated dual lenses, as previously was announced at CES, but Panasonic was not ready to give details such as the supplier of the glass, or even the zoom ratio. Nor was the convergence range divulged, or any details about the possibility of automatic convergence adjustments (which might be tied to the focus, for instance) or auto image stabilization. The fixed interocular distance (from lens center to lens center) looked to be between 2in. and 2.5in.

Panasonic AG-3DA1

We do know that the roughly 6lb. AG-3DA1 has two sets of three 1/4in. CMOS imagers and records dual streams of AVCHD (up to 24Mbps) to SD/SDHC cards. Outputs are dual HD-SDI and HDMI 1.4, which supports dual channels of 1080i. (The prototype that we saw is able to capture images, Panasonic strategic technical liaison Michael Bergeron assured us, but the recording unit wasn''t operational today.)

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With its 1/4in. imagers and fixed lenses and their fixed interocular distance, 3DA1 is not positioned to challenge beam-splitter rigs, Panasonic admitted. They warned wanna be stereographers that due to the limited interocular distance, wide vistas will flatten out. Even the pitcher in a baseball game would likely stand too far from the camera for there to be a noticeable stereo effect. The company reps were frank in expressing their uncertainty about the camcorder''s precise marketing position: This is a completely new product. Panasonic did mention that the interested parties contacting them about the 3DA1 included professionals looking to capture stereoscopic images for dental and medical applications. Military contractors are also interested, they said.

Apart from the dual lenses and dual-stream recording, the 3DA1 sounds a bit like the existing HMC40 of Panasonic''s AVCCAM line. From today''s press release on the 3DA1:

“At less than 6.6lbs., the AG-3DA1 is equipped with dual lenses and two full 1920x1080 2.07 megapixel 3-MOS imagers to record 1080/60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, and 24p (native) and 720/60p and 50p in AVCHD. It can record for up to 180 minutes on dual 32GB SD cards in Panasonic''s professional AVCHD PH mode, and offers professional interfaces including dual HD-SDI out, HDMI (version 1.4), two XLR connectors, built-in stereo microphone, and twin-lens camera remotes.”

Panasonic BT-3DL2550
Monitoring 3D

Continuing the theme of end-to-end 3D systems that the company established at CES, Panasonic also announced today a new 25.5in. 3D LCD production monitor that''s based on the BT-LH2550. The new BT-3DL2550 3D monitor has a 1920x1200 resolution and dual HD-SDI inputs (for simultaneous left-eye/right-eye display) and a DVI-D input for line-by-line or side-by-side display. The $9,900 monitor (available in September) works with cross-polarized glasses. Panasonic explained that the expectation is that production facilities will likely employ several screens, so passive glasses made more sense than active-shutter glasses that would have to be synched to a single IR transmitter.