Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

It’s ironic that small independent production companies these days are streets ahead of local broadcasters when it comes to just about any part of video production. In the central belt of Scotland we have two main broadcasters…the BBC and Scottish Television (STV).

Both broadcasters are still using outdated SD camcorders for news output, STV are still supplying a cameraman with his trusty 10 year old Panasonic DVC-PRO camcorder and a reporter while BBC Scotland are sending out Video Journalists or VJs as they are technically called with Sony HVR-Z5s recording in DVCAM mode. The word is that good old STV are looking to hit rock bottom by training up VJs and “doing away” with fully trained cameramen for news…BAD MOVE !!!

Nothing being recorded for news so far this year is future proof …as the future is HD…so what’s the problem ? One guess…money ! News does not in practice make a broadcaster any money in fact it’s a large drain in resources. If they could they would drop local news programming altogether and feed us with generic news from London but their is a law that decrees a certain amount of local output including news must be produced by local broadcasters.

This lack of finance spreads throughout the broadcasters like a bad smell hampering any commitment to HD let alone solid state…Panasonic do not make tape based camcorders any more and Sony will soon be the same…tape is officially dead ! Solid state is now so good and getting cheaper there is no excuse to stay with tape.

The technical boys at the BBC state that 50Mb/s is the least the BBC will accept when at least 15% of HD programmes are being made with Sony EX-3s running at 35Mb/s so who’s kidding who. The problem is easily solved with the introduction of a NanoFlash, the HD-SDI out of an EX-3 or the far superior PMW-350 is 4:2:2. This means you can output 4:2:2 into a NanoFlash running at 50Mb/s or higher complying to any broadcasters HD needs.

Sadly if you ask around STV most people have not heard of a NanoFlash nor can 50% of their outdated Avids accept HD or Quicktime files…it’s a joke. The BBC are more “HD conscious” because they were built as an HD digital HUB but their news is still SD which makes it no better than the History Channel when it comes to local event SD archiving. The BBC are using EX-3s with NanoFlash recorders piggy backed, recording high quality HD programming though I do hope they swap the EX-3 for the PMW-350 which would give them 2/3″ lenses, lower noise and lower light filming.

One other point …local independent cameramen don’t know which way to go, they too are stuck with outdated DSR-450 SD camcorders and mainly hire HD camcorders as once again everyone is specifying different camcorders from Panasonic HPX-3700 P2 to Sony HDW-650s using a digital tape. The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, formats don’t help the situation, P2, SxS, XDCAM, HDCAM, SDHC, CF the list goes on though out of the six I have named P2, XDCAM and HDCAM are the only formats that need special dedicated card reader/disc reader/tape player.

If the broadcasters want some friendly free advice don’t nail your HD flag to a “dedicated” format…SDHC and CF cards are available world wide so you won’t be stuck if you run out of cards in the middle of China. Lets not forget the new HD Canon XF305 camcorder running at 50Mb/s…4:2:2…no interchangeable lens but more than a match for anyone producing medium to low end HD programming and better still running onto CF cards.

The future will not thank the short sightedness of todays broadcasters for continuing to produce SD news footage when a fairly cost effective solution exists today in the shape of a NanoFlash and lets not kid ourselves 35Mb/s SxS HD footage is more than acceptable for HD news output.

Conclusion…We have two local broadcasters with two entirely different objectives the BBC are firmly committed to producing programming, more and more towards HD…then we have STV who are committed to produce programming at the lowest common denominator. The BBC are guaranteed a budget…STV are loosing advertising revenue. My solution for STV is to employ someone who can produce local adverts and programmes that are worth watching !


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

2 thoughts on “Broadcasters “Sit on the fence when it comes to Solid State HD”

  1. I guess broadcasters have another problem. The need to archive hundrets of minutes every day. Tape used to be a good and cost-effective solution.
    Scaleable serversystems with huge harddiscarrays for storage are expensive to buy and expensive to run – and within two years they are outdated. And they are unsafe. Broadcasters are still waiting for a system to be invented. At the moment it’s sony’s professional disc, but they have a lack of disc space, no one really knows how long the’ll last (think of the CD in 1990…)
    however… harddiscs still seem to be the solution for longterm accessible data storage.
    Maybe there is just NO futureproof system and we need to invest in systems that can be updated once a year without spending much money… Not a central server-system, but a decentral network that works like the internet. The data is everywhere, but nowhere… ????

  2. Kurteee makes a good point. A news archive is valuable. However, until a better medium comes along, why do broadcasters not shoot solid state, then archive to tape? They could pension off their old decks – and use the archiving operation as a training exercise for new recruits. Oh, sorry, perhaps training is no longer offered by broadcasters?

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