Panasonic AJ-SD930 DVCPRO50 VTR

Panasonic AJ-SD930 DVCPRO50 VTR

Byline: Steve Mullen

Panasonic’s highly versatile AJ-SDX900 has generated even stronger interest in DVCPRO50. The SDX900 can shoot in a variety of modes. You can choose between 4:3 and 16:9 – both captured with three 2/3in. native 16:9 CCDs. Recording can be made to either DVCPRO or DVCPRO50. The former offers the usual DV 4:1:1 sampling video with 5:1 compression. The latter offers a much higher quality 4:2:2 sampling video with 3.3:1 compression. To these four options, Panasonic added three frame rates: 24p, 30p, and 60i.

AJ-SD930 Features

The $14,995 (MSRP) AJ-SD930 can play and record DVCPRO and DVCPRO50, as well as play DV and DVCAM tapes. In DVCPRO50 mode, the SD930 can record up to 92 minutes on an AJ-5P92LP compact 1/4in. cassette tape. In DVCPRO mode, recording time is doubled to 184 minutes. When recording 50Mbps, the data stream passes through a pair of heads that simultaneously read/write two tracks. Because two tracks are used for each pass across the tape, the tape must be moved through the transport twice as fast.

Standard DV and DVCAM tapes can be played without an adaptor, whereas MiniDV tapes that are not recorded in LP mode or on 80- or 120-minute cassettes can be played using an AJ-CS455P adaptor. (For a reason I’ve never learned, recording on a MiniDV cassette with the adapter is not possible.)

When working with DVCPRO50, the AJ-SD930 features 4-channel, 48kHz/16-bit digital audio. A level meter for each channel provides a continuous display of the recording or playback level. A linear cue audio track adds convenience when searching for edit points. Of course, only two 48kHz/16-bit audio channels are available when working with DVCPRO.

The VTR offers variable slow motion (-0.43X to +0.43X in reverse and forward speed) playback. It has an illuminated jog & shuttle dial (Everyone who saw the deck in action was wowed by the gorgeous blue ring around the dial). Looking at it in the dark took me back to my Marantz stereo receivers in the ’70s.

The AJ-SD930 is equipped with an SDI (SMPTE 259M-C) and AES/EBU digital audio input/output. These connections enable the AJ-SD930 to work with Digital Betacam or in a D1 environment. Analog output (composite and component) is also standard, as is analog reference input. The deck has one XLR connector for analog timecode input and one XLR connector for analog timecode output. Analog video input (composite and component) is available by adding the optional AJ-YA931G board. Adding an optional AJ-YAC930G SDTI (Serial Data Transport Interface) board lets you transfer compressed audio and video data.

The AJ-SD930’s rear panel has multiple control connectors: two RS-422A (9-pin) jacks, one RS-232C (25-pin) jack, one parallel (25-pin), plus one 15-pin encoder (remote adjustment of video output) jack.

Although the AJ-SD930 comes standard with an SDI and AES/EBU digital audio in/out, it does not come with an internal IEEE 1394 port. That means you’ll have to spring for the $1195 (MSRP) for an AJ-YAD955G board that sports a 1394 port. This option seems a bit too expensive. Hopefully, the next generation of Panasonic DVCPRO50 decks will simply have a standard 1394 port. You must select either the YAC930G SDTI or the YAD955G IEEE 1394 board; the two boards cannot be mounted at the same time.

The AJ-YAD955G board has a 6-pin 1394 port so you’ll need a 6-pin-to-6-pin 1394 cable to connect the SD930 to a Mac. I tested the AJ-SD930 with both a 1GHz iMac and a Dual Processor 1.42GHz PowerMac. I didn’t notice any difference between the two Macs.

Working with 30p/60i Using FCP 4

I remember being a lurker on an NLE site where members were bashing Avid’s XDV solution because their work required 4:2:2 video that was best transferred by SDI – hence FireWire solutions had no role in their high-end world. Needless to say I got “beat about the ears” when I posted that within a year FireWire would transfer 4:2:2 to Final Cut Pro. Well, that was then, and this is now. Apple and Panasonic worked together to support DVCPRO50 in FCP version 4.

After connecting an AJ-SD930 to a Mac and opening Final Cut Pro, you must choose the correct capture setting. You have two possible capture options: 4:3 at 30p and 60i or 16:9 at 30p and 60i. (Note that 30p video is simply 60i video without interlace artifacts.) Select File > Log and Capture. Now choose the Capture Settings tab. First, set Device Control to FireWire NTSC. Then select the DV50 NTSC 48kHz setting for 4:3 video or the DV50 NTSC 48kHz Anamorphic setting for 16:9 video.

I captured DVCPRO50 with no problems. After capture, you’ll need to create a new sequence and then alter its settings. Click the Load Sequence Preset button. Again, select either DV50 NTSC 48kHz or DV50 NTSC 48kHz Anamorphic depending on the video’s aspect ratio.

Working with 24p Using FCP 4

When shooting with an AJ-SDX900 in 480p24 mode, as sequential progressive frames are read out from the CCDs, pulldown is added. In 24p mode, every four progressive video frames are converted to five interlaced video frames. Using the industry standard 2:3:2:3 pulldown, two judder frames are generated. Judder frames contain one field from one frame and one field from an adjacent frame. (See red text in Table 1.)

Over the period of one second, six sets of four progressive frames are converted to six sets of five interlaced frames. Thus, 24 frames are converted to 30 frames – with 60 fields.

The SDX900’s 24p Advanced mode is intended for use when you plan to transfer to film or HD. In most all cases, this is the mode you will use when shooting with an AJ-SDX900. And you will be shooting 16:9 anamorphic, widescreen video.

The 24p Advanced mode uses a 2:3:3:2 pulldown and is a designed for NLEs, such as Final Cut Pro 4 that can i.LINK capture 2:3:3:2 video and then edit at 23.98fps. (See Table 2.)

Before you can edit 24p footage, you must apply reverse 2:3:3:2 pulldown to eliminate the judder frame, as shown in Table 2. After connecting an SD930 to the Mac, the first step to capture video with 2:3:3:2 pulldown is to create the correct capture setting. After opening FCP, select Final Cut Pro > Audio/Video Settings, and then click the Capture Presets tab. Next, duplicate the DV NTSC 48kHz Advanced (2:3:3:2) Pulldown Removal setting. Rename it to DV50 NTSC 48kHz Anamorphic Advanced (2:3:3:2) Pulldown Removal and check the Anamorphic 16:9 box. Set the FPS to 23.98 because that will be the image rate of the video after removing the judder frame. Click OK, and then click the Sequence Presets tab. Duplicate the DV50 NTSC 48kHz – 23.98 setting. Now rename it to DV50 NTSC 48kHz Anamorphic – 23.98 and check the Anamorphic 16:9 box. Click OK.

Now it’s time to capture using the SD930. Select File > Log and Capture. Now choose the Capture Settings tab. First, set Device Control to FireWire NTSC. Then select the DV50 NTSC 48kHz Anamorphic Advanced (2:3:3:2) Pulldown Removal setting. I captured 480p24 DVCPRO50 with no problems.

After capture, you’ll need to create a new Sequence and then alter its Settings. Click the Load Sequence Preset button and then select the DV50 NTSC 48kHz Anamorphic – 23.98 setting. Now you are ready to edit.

You edit 24fps video just like 60i video. Final Cut Pro has the ability to add 2:2:2:4 (a cadence that uses less processing power, thus maximizing realtime effects potential) or 2:3:2:3 (for a smoother look) pulldown to video when you play from the Viewer and Composer to the Mac’s FireWire port.

To enable FireWire playback, choose Final Cut Pro > Systems Settings, then select the Playback Control tab. Choose the 2:2:2:4 pulldown as the Pulldown Pattern and click OK. You’ll also need to make two more settings. First, Final Cut Pro > Audio/Video Settings, and set Video Playback to Apple FireWire DVCPRO50 NTSC (720×480). In addition, set Audio Playback to FireWire DV (DV50) and click OK.

Connect the FireWire port to the AJ-SD930 to decompress the digital video to NTSC video. Now you can view video playback on your RGB monitor(s) and an NTSC monitor. I used the deck’s YPbPr connection to feed an NTSC projector for this review.

To record a 24p production to videotape you must add 2:3:2:3 pulldown to convert 24p to 60i. After connecting an AJ-SD930 to your Mac via FireWire, Final Cut Pro > Systems Settings then select the Playback Control tab. Choose the 2:3:2:3 pulldown as the Pulldown Pattern and click OK. Then use the File > Edit to tape command to execute the recording.

Unless you have a budget that supports working in HD, an AJ-SDX900 camcorder and an AJ-SD930 VTR make a great team. When used with Final Cut Pro you have a solution that supports all the capture options provided by the AJ-SDX900.

BOTTOM LINE

Company: Panasonic Los Angeles; (323) 436-3500 www.panasonic.com

Product: AJ-SD930 DVCPRO50 VTR

Assets:When used with Final Cut Pro, supports all capture options provided by the AJ-SDX900.

Caveats: Only two 48kHz/16-bit audio channels are available when working with DVCPRO. Does not come with an internal 1394 port.

Demographic: Those who want a flexible DVCPRO50 option but don’t have a budget that supports working in HD.

Price : $14,995

Table 1: 2:3:2:3 Pulldown (AABBBCCDDD cadence) for 24p Mode

Table 2: 2:3:3:2 Pulldown (AABBBCCCDD cadence) with 24p Advanced Mode

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