Outdoor Channel airs several hundred hours of original programming each year, with content covering traditional outdoor sports like hunting, fishing, motorsports, and shooting. According to Gene Brookhart, senior vice president of operations and engineering for Outdoor Channel, the network’s experience with the XDCAM system over the past three years – as well as the technology’s durability, performance and versatile features – were the main reasons for choosing the Sony optical technology.
“We take our time evaluating a new technology, especially an acquisition or submission format,” he said. “We have a history with the XDCAM system. We’ve seen it perform in conditions you wouldn’t normally risk taking a camera: heat, cold, humidity, the wild, you name it. The nature of what we do occurs in the great outdoors. We’ve put these cameras and decks through the most extreme conditions and they’ve consistently worked.”
Brookhart noted that Outdoor Channel is requiring all its third-party producers to fully convert to HD for field production and content delivery by the third quarter of 2010, and the XDCAM HD technology provides a great cost-effective option for these producers.
Outdoor Channel is also rolling out several of Sony’s XDCAM EX™ ExpressCard-based compact memory camcorders, a combination of models PMW-EX1 and PMW-EX3 that, for now, are used for acquisition only. “The EX footage matches up so well with XDCAM HD content and fits seamlessly into a tapeless production,” he said.
The network also has several PDW-HD1500 optical decks used for program editing and mastering.
Among the PDW-700 camcorder’s benefits that Brookhart noted is its cache memory capability. This feature allows XDCAM camcorders to continuously record up to 30 seconds of video, audio and metadata in memory while in standby mode. Then, when the record button is pushed, those 30 seconds and all associated data are automatically recorded onto the Professional Disc™ media and the camcorder will continue recording in real time.
“You don’t know when an animal might pop out from the middle of nowhere, a fish might bite or something might happen that you need to grab,” he said. “You want to make sure you don’t miss that shot, but you also don’t want to sit there burning up tape, waiting for it to happen either.”
Other features the network finds useful are the ability to view footage as thumbnails on the camcorder’s LCD screen, then switch instantly back to recording live action; as well as its low-light capabilities, time-lapse and the low cost and archival nature of the media.
“We believe HD is the future,” he said. “Having a system that can handle more than 1,000 rewrites with a shelf life of up to 50 years is a tremendous value for us. Our crews are going to encounter every type of weather and environment, from deep cold to extreme heat. We needed a system that could withstand these environments.”