Panasonic has just announced the new HPM200, which is an upgraded version of the previous model P2 Mobile (HPM110). This new version has all the features of the HPM110 and a host of new features that add a great deal of functionality. The new unit will be available in October with a list price of $16,000. Here are 10 new features that I like about the HPM200 and how they improve P2 field production and post production.
1) eSATA – Up to now most P2 cameras & devices were able to download P2 content to a hard drive or connect directly to a computer, but they were all limited to USB 2.0 and/or FireWire 400 connectivity. USB and FW400 are fast but when we are talking 64GB cards they can be quite insufficient. The HPM200 now has a eSATA connection, which has maximum speeds of 1.5 Gbit/s – well over three times as fast as USB or FW400. This will allow for computer or direct hard disk transfer at amazing speeds, cheers to Panasonic for that one.
2) Giga-bit Ethernet & FTP – Along with the new eSATA port comes a Giga-bit Ethernet port. This will allow for network access to P2 cards and fast downloads as well. When on a network the HPM200 will be able to connect to a FTP site and upload files. I’m not sure exactly how this will work, but the possibilities seem great.
3) Full-frame rate playback from disk – For me this is the holy grail of P2 and the last piece of the puzzle in making the P2 work in post. Up to now the only P2 device that could play footage from a hard disk was the P2 Portable (HPG20), and that was limited to reduced rate playback in AVC-Intra and DVCPRO HD. The HPM200 will be able to playback P2 content from a hard disk just as it would a P2 card. Of course you’ll need a fast drive and some minimum requirements will have to be determined. But this means that you can download all of your content to a hard disk in the field, and then come back and use the HPM200 to play it out over HD-SDI. Anyone who wants a tape dub of a P2 card will really appreciate this. In the past you would need to copy material from a hard disk back to the P2 card in order to accomplish this, so this is a big step for P2 for sure.
4) AVCHD Recording – The HPM200 has a new option board – AJ-YCX250G – which adds full AVCHD support. With this board you can capture material in both P2 and AVCHD at the same time. This will give you an instant low bit rate version of your footage recorded directly to SDHC cards. The files are small enough to distributed over a network (even using FTP on the HPM200), and the material will be directly playable on many Blu-ray players.
5) AVCHD Transcoding – Not only can it record in AVCHD but it can also transcode footage on a P2 card to AVCHD. This is a great way to hand off content for dailies viewing. And, if you are mixing P2 cameras and AVCHD cameras, you can convert AVCHD material on a SDHC card to P2. Many people will love this option because of the difficulties of editing AVCHD on some NLEs.
6) Live Up-conversion – Every original Varicam owner has asked me about this in the past, and now we have it. The HPM200 will be able to scale up footage before recording. So if you have SD or 720P camera and want to deliver in 1080 then the HPM200 can scale your footage up before recording.
7) Improved Editing – You may or may not have known this but the HPM110 could do some simple editing in the field. Now the HPM200 has improved the operation with enhanced cuts editing and separate source and record windows. So you can edit directly off P2 cards or (hopefully) P2 material on a hard disk. I’ll have to give this a try when I get a demo unit.
8 ) 24P Timecode Input – The HPM200 now supports 24P timecode. This is important when working with film dailies and other 24p sources.
9) Waveform / Vectorscope – Panasonic has been putting these on many devices now. It’s a must for post production and guys like me that just love their scopes.
10) AES/EBU Audio Input – The HPM200 now has input/output of AES/EBU audio. This is very important for many post houses with various decks.