Dissecting the AVC-Intra codec
The wait is now over now as the new Panasonic AVC-Intra codec (which was introduced as early as last year) surfaced in a number of new products recently, namely in cameras such as the new AJ-HPX2000 and HPX3000, as well as in the AJ-HPM100 edit and playback device.
Built into a new codec board (AJ-YBX200), the AVC-Intra codec is being pitched as a recording mode capable of quality that rivals the D-5, Panasonic’s popular HD mastering format. Based on the H.264 (Mpeg-4, part 10) standard, the Intra cuts storage requirements in half when compared to the DVCPRO HD compression scheme, without sacrificing any of the quality.
It can deliver full-sampling 4:2:2 10-bit at either 100mbps or 50mbps, and is intraframe instead of inter, which means that it is easily editable and more consistent.
Intra-frame compression schemes compresses each frame individually, unlike inter-frame schemes, which compresses with co-relation to frames before and after the current picture.
All of these new technology can be translated as this: When set at 50mbps and recording at 1080/24p, the Intra allows 80 minutes of footage to be stored on a single 32GB P2 card. Multiply this by the five slots you get in the new cameras and you have a whopping 400minutes of storage at any given time.
Compare this to the broadcast standard HD-D5 format, which uses 1.3 TERABYTES per hour of footage and you’ll understand why the Intra is ground-breaking.
While the solid-state memory is currently favoured by many news gatherers (ideal because of its ruggedness, and because there is seldom need for very large storage), the new codec, coupled with the new 32GB card, seems set to nudge its way into HD television production as well. However, as of now, there seems to be no support for the codec in either Final Cut Pro nor Avid, and the popular external harddisk recorder FireStore is also unable to record AVC-Intra footages. In my opinion, the wait should continue a little longer â€“ at least until there is more support from the NLEs.