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Sony Professional HDV Camcorder Reaches New Heights On Expedition To Mt. Kilimanjaro


CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 12, 2006 - A group of 12 mountain climbers recently set out on an ambitious project: reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet and the tallest freestanding mountain on earth.

On one level, the challenge appealed to their adventurous spirits. But as cinematographers, the climb was an opportunity to make a documentary from a unique perspective, and the tool they chose was Sony’s HVR-A1U HDV™ compact camcorder.

“We were out hiking in Charlotte, it was a beautiful day and the topic of Kilimanjaro came up,” said Heidi Dove, a creative producer and developmental director at Emulsion Arts, an independent production company in Charlotte, N.C. “We all agreed that we should do it, and then we also had the idea that this would make an extraordinary documentary. So we decided to record our journey.”

Trekking up nearly 20,000 feet is no small feat, and the conditions and the altitude require climbers to not only be physically prepared but also to carry just the essentials. According to Dove, the Sony professional HDV camcorder met that criterion.

“This was a height that was more than any of us had climbed collectively,” she said. “We didn’t know what to expect, but one thing we did know was that if we were going to document this, we’d need a camera that was compact and lightweight.”

In addition to producing high-resolution video images, the high-definition camcorder can also function as a high-quality still camera. Although the camera’s still image capabilities were not used on this climb, the potential for using it in this dual-mode is a something that Dove and her team believe will come in handy on similar expeditions.

“At these types of elevations, you can’t always afford to carry a still and a video camera,” she said. “The A1U’s ability to do double duty as a high-quality still camera will be important to us in on future climbs, when every ounce saved can mean the difference between continuing on or having to stop.”

Dove and the team also found the camera to be extremely intuitive and easy to learn.

“The on-screen menus were extremely convenient,” she said, “The ability to use touch-screen pre-sets was a big time-saver. It was very easy to just pull it out, quickly check and adjust the settings, get the shot you want, put it back in your pocket and continue climbing.”

She noted that the HVR-A1U’s powerful lens allowed her to get shots that she wouldn’t have been able to capture with other cameras, and the bottom tape loading feature came in especially handy in some precarious positions on the mountain.

The team chose to use Sony’s DigitalMaster™ professional videotape, designed specifically for demanding HDV applications.

“Once we reached the summit, we knew we wouldn’t be able to stay there for long, in fact, we were only at the peak five or 10 minutes,” Dove said. “So we knew that we wouldn’t have any time for re-shoots. Whatever we shot, we shot. But this tape performed beautifully, the camera mechanism is rugged and, as a result, we got the footage we wanted.”

The Sony camcorder and DigitalMaster tape were also subjected to a range of conditions during the expedition and Dove noted that they both handled anything that was thrown at them.

“Part of this expedition was a safari through an African jungle and rainforest, so in addition to cold and wind on the mountain, we were also in humidity, dust and rain,” she said. “We were on one bus journey through Kenya, on roads that were nowhere close to being paved. Everything, including us, was covered in dust. The HVR-A1U and the DigitalMaster tapes performed great. We were carrying everything in a non-insulated bag, in all types of weather conditions, and they still played back great and looked great.”

Sony’s DigitalMaster videotape is able to cut dropouts by 60 percent and errors rates by 95 percent, compared to Mini DV. The tape’s unique videotape features a dual layer of magnetic material and tighter tolerances during manufacturing. This provides shooters and directors of photography with peace of mind when capturing critical footage, in nearly any environmental condition.

The team is currently in discussions with PBS for a broadcast deal. But in addition to the stunning footage, another more intangible result was realized.

“Twelve of us started on this trip, but nine made it to the summit,” Dove said. “One became very ill even before we reached base camp. That’s not uncommon; many climbers attempting to scale this mountain became very ill and many have died. But after this, nothing is too challenging. Especially after what we saw in the villages of Tanzania where many people have nothing and are just struggling to live. It’s given us a fresh perspective on life.”


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