Sony's HDCamSR

Supply crunch hits TV production media

Sony tape used by most broadcasters on allocation as earthquake damage closes only factory.

Sony is restricting supplies of key storage media used in professional TV production following major damage to its Sendai plant in the Japanese earthquake.

Rob Kobring, of broadcast system integrator IMT, noted that one of the biggest worries is the availability of HDCamSR tape.

“It is the preferred format for high end programming and is still the basis of much of our current customers’ workflows,” he said. “I am guessing that there may be a three-month supply in inventory. In particular, high volume users who manage cash flow may have only a two-week supply on hand of HDCamSR tape.”

According to analyst Tom Coughlin, of Coughlin Associates, Sendai is fundamental to production of the tape as well as the SxS flash cards used in professional cameras.

“The Sendai plant was the only facility in the world capable of manufacturing them. Sony has not licensed these technologies to any other manufacturer,” he said. “The SR technology is particularly precise and it may be some period of time before manufacturing can begin at some other facility.

“As a result of the loss of the Sendai manufacturing facility Sony has placed these products under allocation to prevent hoarding.”

Other widely used Sony professional products impacted by the earthquake include HDCAM, DVCam, Betacam SP, Digital Betacam, Betacam IMX, Betacam SX, XDCam, DV and HDV.

HDCamSR cassettes had recently been priced from $50 for a 40-minute cassette to $220 for a 130-minute cassette.

“These prices will likely rise as a result of product availability,” Coughlin said. Some producers are already looking at how to recycle existing tape supplies or move to other storage formats, such as those that use hard-disk drive arrays.

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