Anybody can have a camcorder. But you have to be a broadcast professional (or be able to fake it) to even be allowed to spend $60,000 on a Panasonic DVCPRO-HD camcorder. That's because this is a camcorder that produces high-definition (HD) television images. It can capture up to 46 minutes' worth of HD signal on a special tape cassette. And even though it is supposed to be sold only to professionals, it has some consumer-like attributes, like being compact and weighing only 15 pounds. This is about the same as a standard-definition camcorder, so the handling characteristics are basically the same. Without getting into the technical details, which will make all but the eyes of broadcast professionals glaze over, suffice it to say that the reason you want one of these (or perhaps, more realistically, want your production company to have one) is that it will shoot high-quality images under almost any lighting conditions, while also recording in digital stereo. It has also been pretty thoroughly idiot-proofed. For example, it comes with a little doohickey that helps the camera operator keep images in focus — an issue when you're talking HD performance. It even has a way to shoot computer screens so they don't flutter on playback. And, of course, the images it produces can be re-purposed for webcasting or CD-ROM with no further manipulation.

So — the next time you need the very highest-quality video for recording an event or preparing a presentation for an event, ask your favorite broadcast professional about the Panasonic DVCPRO-HD. Better still, go to www.wral.com/info, the Web page of WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C. You'll see exactly how detailed an image can be when delivered over the Web, never mind over a high-definition television. You can also learn more about the camcorder by visiting Panasonic's professional site at www.panasonic.com/PBDS/broadcast.html.