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Panasonic Intros HD VCR Deck

Panasonic will test the waters for high-definition TV recording devices next month when it begins to sell its long-awaited HD-capable D-VHS VCR, the company announced last week.

Tom Hantson, Panasonic national product manager for VCRs and combo devices, said Panasonic would market the PV-HD1000 deck at a suggested retail price of $999.95. The deck will record conventional analog programming on standard VHS tapes and digital bitstreams from the Panasonic TU-DST50 digital television set-top decoder via an IEEE-1394 digital interface. The deck offers no internal decoding, meaning that the bitstream signals it records must be played back through a set-top box decoder in order to see a picture on a digital monitor.

The deck requires a special D-VHS tape to record digital bitstream sources. Panasonic will market the AY-DF300 tape ($14.95 suggested retail price), which is capable of recording 2.5 hours of programming in high-speed mode. Panasonic will bundle one cassette with each deck.

Hantson said the deck will be equipped with the Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP) system, which is informally known as 5C for its five developing companies of Hitachi, Intel, Matsushita, Sony and Toshiba.

This is one of five formats under review for adoption as part of the ATSC digital television standard. Eventually, the system selected by the Copy Protection Technical Working Group will be used to regulate home duplication of digital video sources delivered over the air, by cable or via satellite.

Hantson said Panasonic felt the market urgently needed a source for recording and playing back high-definition material, adding that programming offered through products such as Sencore hard-disk HD players is getting stale.

“We’ve held conversations with movie studios to understand their concerns, and we felt the technology would meet their requirements,” said a Panasonic spokesperson.

In addition to HD programming, the PV-HD1000 will record all standard definition TV (SDTV) formats, but again, the recorder requires the DTV set-top box to play back digital sources.