Sony-Panasonic HD camcorder format gains support

A new video format for camcorders that allows high-definition images to be stored on DVDs is gaining support, the technology's backers said Thursday.

A new video format for camcorders that allows high-definition images to be stored on DVDs is gaining support, the technology's backers said Thursday.

The AVCHD format was developed by Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) to get around a problem facing digital video camcorder makers: the absence of a low-cost optical disc storage medium for high-definition video.

Several HD camcorders already exist and use DV cassettes or a hard-disk drive for video storage. Both systems are more troublesome for many consumers than DVDs, which can be ejected from the camcorder and immediately played by a DVD player or computer. However, the DVD standard doesn't support HD content. The new HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats have been developed for that purpose, but the technology they use isn't yet small enough or cheap enough for camcorders.

The answer Sony and Panasonic have come up with is AVCHD, which stores a high-definition MPEG4 AVC/H.264-coded video signal on an 8-centimeter DVD. The disc is compatible with existing DVD drives and should play with the correct software, either installed on a computer or as part of the firmware in a DVD player.

In finalizing version 1.0 of the format, the two companies have expanded it to include SD and Memory Stick memory card formats in addition to DVD. Licensing of the format is now starting.

Several companies have already expressed support including rival camcorder makers, and video playback and editing software makers.

Sony and Panasonic said support has already come from Canon, Pioneer, Samsung Electronics and Sharp on the hardware side. Among software companies Adobe Systems, CyberLink, InterVideo, Nero, Sonic Solutions and Ulead Systems have expressed support, they said.

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