All About the Sony XDCA-FS7 Expansion Module

The Sony XDCA-FS7 is perhaps one of the most intriguing parts of the new FS7 camera. By building certain key features into an optional expansion dock Sony is able to offer the FS7 camera body at a lower price with out cannibalizing their other cameras. The FS7 camera sells for $7,999, the expansion module sells for $1,999. Together this puts the camera system at about $10,000, in between the $6000 FS700 and the $16,500 F5.

But what does the XDCA-FS7 module do? And, most importantly, do you need to buy one? The module is wonderfully designed fitting seamless onto the back of the camera, only adding a couple of inches and about a pound to the overall size of the camera. It attaches the the camera via a custom multi-pin connector that transfers all data and power. It is not some ungainly “rig” that needs another 4 pounds of rods and rails to hold it together.

The module enables several key features. It upgrades the cameras battery system from the BP-U series batteries to V-Lock brick batteries. This will allow you to use full size batteries capable of delivering true all-day runtimes. It also ads 4-pin DC power input and 4-pin Hirose power output for expanding the power options of the FS7 even further.

Probably the biggest feature that will draw most people to the XDCA-FS7 is the enabling of 12-bit RAW output of the camera. With out the module the camera can output uncompressed video via SDI but the module allows for 4K RAW to be output at 12-bit sampling up to 60fps. It also allows for 2K 12-bit output up to 240fps. When combined with the Odyssey 7Q recorder/monitor this becomes a very powerful acquisition tool. The FS700 can natively output 12-bit RAW to external recorders, the F5 can natively output 16-bit RAW to be recorded. By making the RAW output an optional module for the FS7 it allows people who won’t use it to skip it and save some money at the same time.

The XDCA-FS7 also contains a codec board for Apple ProRes 1080p encoding. By attaching the module to the back of the camera the camera now has the ability to record ProRes in-camera, natively, to the same XQD cards that you would normally record XAVC to. It’s very similar to what Sony has done with the F5 & F55, selling optional ProRes boards that, when installed, provide fully native ProRes recording in-camera.

Finally, the XDCA-FS7 provides studio-style connectivity for multi-camera live switching productions. This includes Gen-lock, Reference, & Timecode in and output. This completes the true “broadcast” feature set of the camera, putting it on par with larger, more expensive broadcast camera connectivity.

FS7 Expansion Module

Sony Adds Internal XAVC 4K Recording to F5

Several weeks a go an F5 owner discovered that it was fairly simple, from a technical standpoint, to reprogram the F5 to record internally in 4K, the same as the F55 can do strait out of the box. There were problems of course. Chiefly the camera couldn’t play back any of the 4K footage. And of course it voided the warranty.

The ease that this was accomplished lead many people to speculate that this was something Sony intended to unlock all along, it was just a matter of when. This theory does make sense. When the F5 was introduced 2+ years ago there was no high quality sub $20,000 4K cinema cameras. At this point though that is becoming more common. So Sony has decided to officially offer an XAVC 4K internal recording software key. This brings the F5 back to the front of the conversation of highest quality sub $20K cinema cameras.

Regardless of if you already own an F5 or if you plan on buying one new it will a $999 download key from Sony. This will be made available in December. The F5 body only sells for $16,490 so tacking on another $999 for the 4K still keeps the body well under $20K. There are several kits that package the F5 with viewfinder & shoulder pad options for right around $20k making this one of the highest quality bang-for-the-buck digital cinema cameras out there.

If you want to evaluate the Sony F5 contact us. We’ll put it in your hands. You can shoot some 4K XAVC and take the media back to your edit machine for a more detailed evaluation. And we GUARANTEE our price on the F5 will not be beat.

Sony F5 4K upgrade sheet

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Sony’s XDCA-FS7 Expansion Dock Explained

UPDATE: November 17th. We will be including a FREE Metabones Canon EF lens adapter with the purchase of the Sony FS7 cinema camera. Thats a $300 value, absolutely FREE.

Along with the exciting new FS7 cinema camera Sony has shown the XDCA-FS7 expansion module. This is a small box that mounts directly to the back of the camera. This box provides a few upgrades to the FS7. First, it changes the nature of the power supply of the camera from the Sony BP-U style compact batteries to full size V-Lock batteries. The dock also adds several industrial connections such as Timecode I/O, Genlock, and 4-pin XLR power. Additionally it is via this box that the camera gains the ability to output RAW 12-bit 4K up to 60fps or 2K up to 240fps. Finally the box contains a ProRes encoding board that gives the camera the ability to capture ProRes422 internally to the XQD card. The XDCA-FS7 will be selling for $1,999. It will be a must-have addition for many FS7 owners.

FS7 Expansion Module FS7 w/ Expansion Module

Odyssey 7Q Gains ProRes 422 at 4K Resolution

Earlier this year Convergent Design added the hotly requested ability to record 1080p in ProRes to their extremely popular Odyssey 7Q recorder. Previously it did RAW in 4K, 2K, or 1080p. But for people wanting 4K resolution full RAW was still the only option, resulting in massive file sizes. Now C.D. has officially announced they will be adding 4K ProRes capture to the Odyssey 7Q. This will provide a huge boost in flexibility to the Odyssey workflow. You’ll have the ability to have ready-to-edit 4K clips come strait off of the recorder and into your NLE.

The Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q has quickly become the go-to industry standard for portable high quality field recorder. We love to pair it with the Canon EOS C500 or the Sony FS700. Soon it will make a great companion for the forthcoming Sony FS7. Because its so light weight and double functions as a high quality LCD monitor it is very unobtrusive on the cameras footprint.

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NAB ’14 Camera Recap: What Did We Really Get

The annual NAB show has come and gone. It was a good year for cameras and it also saw the spreading of some interesting trends:

Dockable Cameras: What’s old is new again. The two piece camera concept, something big up through the late 90’s, is back. We saw two piece, head-dock combo cameras from Blackmagic Design with the URSA and from Panasonic with the new VariCam system. We’ll see if these dock systems catch on with more manufacturers and more models and if these docks actually pay off with the flexibility the makers claim 

High Speed: We’re starting to get to a point where 60p is just expected in a professional camera. But we’re also introducing the concept that to make a “high speed” camera you don’t have to be Phantom creating thousands of frames per second. Most users are very excited about 120 or 240. For a lot of camera makers frame rates in this range are now becoming very tangible specifications. AJA, Panasonic, Sony, and even JVC all showed cameras that could reach the 120 threshold.

ProRes & Other Beefy 10-Bit Codecs: ProRes is starting to become the closest thing the video industry has ever had to a high end “universal standard” codec. Blackmagic, AJA, and even Sony and Panasonic all showed ProRes recording cameras. And we have more options for ProRes external records then ever, thanks to AJA and Atomos. Beyond ProRes the theme was 10-bit. XAVC and AVC-Ultra where shown off on many new models, all recording in 10-bit. In some cases the compression schemes have become so good we can get a 10-bit signal out of a 25mbps package. RAW recording is starting to become more readily available, though i wouldn’t quite call it a “common” feature yet.

Super35mm: Large sensor “cinema” cameras have been the growing trend for the last 3-4 NAB shows. This year the ratio of cameras that specifically use the Super35mm standard compared to smaller sensors was the biggest it’s ever been. Panasonic, AJA, Blackmagic Design, JVC, and Sony all showed new cameras that make use of this format. There were very few cameras shown with smaller traditional broadcast 1/3” or 2/3” sensors.

Shoulder Mount/ Improved Ergonomics: Generally speaking there weren’t too many cameras that required kitting out shown this year. There was a very pleasant uptake in ready to go cameras. The Blackmagic URSA, The AJA CION, the new VariCams, and the new JVC all use shoulder mount designs. Sony’s even gone to the lengths of improving the F5 & F55 shoulder mount. Those cameras are already shoulder-mountable, and always have been. But now they’ve gone totally ENG with a new control layout and new features via a docking sled. JVC even showed an economically designed hand-held camera with a large Super35mm sensor. For some reason that’s a concept that hasn’t really been that prevalent before.

Post by Eric C. Petrie

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What is Panasonic’s AVC-Ultra

Panasonic has always been a leader in video formats and codecs. They were on the fore front of the DV native to edit revolution. They were the first to offer 4:2:2 50 and 100mbps versions of DV, called DVCPro. They introduced their next-generation format AVC-Ultra back in 2007, years ahead of Sony’s next-gen format, and even a little ahead of Apple and ProRes. AVC-Ultra has evolved a lot over the years. The most critical part of AVC-Ultra is that nearly all variations are at least 10-bit 4:2:2.

First, you have AVC-Intra. These are Intra-Frame formats, recording every single frame of video in full quality. These run at 50mbps, 100mbps, and 200mbps. The 200mbps variation is 4:4:4 12 bit. Next you have AVC-LongGOP. Still maintaining 10-bit 4:2:2 this LongGOP format runs at 25mbps, 36mbps, or 50mbps. As of this writing Panasonic has also announced AVC-4K. At this point specs are a little vague on what exactly that will look like. We know it will be at least 4:2:2 10b-bit. But it could also be 4:4:4 12-bit. At 4K resolution 4:2:2 10 bit would run about 400mbps in AVC-Intra. At 4K resolution 4:4:4 12-bit would be a whopping 800mbps in AVC-Intra. Post by Eric C. Petrie

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What is Sony’s XAVC?

Over the last 2 years Sony has slowly began to roll out a new format, XAVC. What began with the F5 & F55 cinema cameras is now a format that is used in multiple ENG cameras, DSLRs, broadcast decks, and more. It’s clear that Sony intends XAVC to be the do-it-all format for the next generation. But what is it?

The core technology of XAVC is h.264 mpeg-4 AVC, the same technology that is used in AVCHD cameras and DSLRs. But while AVCHD typically runs between 24 and 35mbps and is 8-bit 4:2:0 Long-GOP, XAVC aims much much higher. The reason XAVC was invented was Sony needed a next-generation format to be able to deliver 4K content with. It needed to be high quality in order to appeal to the commercial and cinema world. One important aspect was moving up to 10-bit recording. Sony’s also not a big fan of licensing existing codecs. So, in 2012 when they were getting ready to launch the F5 & F55 they wanted to have their own high quality deliverable native editable format that could encompass 4K workflow. Hence XAVC was born.

There are a few current flavors, or implementations, of XAVC. The first is full quality XAVC. This is a 1080p, 100mbps(at 30p, 200mbps at 60p), 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame format. It’s extremely robust. It can also be 4K, 300mbps(at 30p, 600mbps at 60p), 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame format.

There is another flavor that is very similar but it is Long-GOP. This is a 1080p, 50mbps(at 30p, 100mbps at 60p), 4:2:2, 10-bit, format. So you still retain much of the detail but you lose motion information. It can also be 4K, 150mbps(at 30p, 300mbps at 60p), 4:2:2, 10-bit. This flavor of XAVC hasn’t been put into use yet but it is expected to be made available as a firmware update to current XAVC hardware during 2014.

Lastly, Sony has began to ship cameras that use what they call XAVC-S. This is a 1080p, 50mbps(at 30p, 100mbps at 60p), 4:2:0, 8-bit, LongGOP format. It can also be 4K, 150mbps(at 30p, 300mbps at 60p), 4:2:0, 8-bit, LongGOP. It’s very interesting that this format offers no real data savings compared to XAVC-LongGOP, both run at 50mbps. This is probably a case of Sony using the lower end format as a tool to divide markets, consumer compared to broadcast. Another way to think of XAVC-S is it’s just a 50mbps of AVCHD. Both are 4:2:0, 8-bit, LongGOP. But AVCHD maxes out at 35mbps (under the new AVC2.0 guidelines).

A few interesting side notes on all of this. There is also an emerging 4K version of AVCHD. It doesn’t have an official name, some call it AVC4K. We’re seeing it on cameras like the Panasonic GH4, which can record 4K internally to SDHC cards at 100mbps, 4:2:0, 8-bit, LongGOP. Sony’s XAVC format technically has the capability of reaching up to 1200mbps, 4:4:4, 12-bit. But nothing uses this at the moment. After Sony held out for 2 years they’ve finally succumb to user wishes and have licensed ProRes (and DNx) recording for their F5 & F55 cameras. Post by Eric C. Petrie

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Sony xavc Codec

What is ProRes?

More and more we’re starting to see ProRes popping up as an acquisition format. The codec has had popularity from 3rd parties like AJA, Blackmagic Design, and Atomos for a few years now. But then we started seeing it natively in cameras from the likes of Arri and Blackmagic. Now even the big old digital camera brands, Sony and Panasonic, have started adding it into their cameras. So what exactly is ProRes and why is it in everything.

ProRes is a format that was invented by Apple. It debuted in 2007 with Final Cut Pro 6. At the time Final Cut was starting to gain some very serious headway into ultra high end post production. But there was one glaring issue: no mastering format of their own. The big intermediate codecs of the day were Avid DNx and CineForm. Apple decided they need to have their own solution. Hence ProRes was born. ProRes is an all Intra-Frame, minimum 10-bit, minimum 4:2:2 codec. But then a funny thing started happening. Camera manufacturers started using more internal compression to compensate for the large amounts of data that H.D. created. We started getting these really great cameras at very reasonable prices but they used low quality internal recording codecs. Companies like Panasonic and Sony wanted to protect their high-end cameras by reserving their best formats for the higher-end market.

Enter AJA with the Ki-Pro. The Ki-Pro recorded ProRes to SSDs from an HD-SDI input. The original Ki-Pro was designed more as a studio ProRes deck. Something to put into a rack or an edit desk. But AJA had the idea to market it as a mobile device as well. People loved the idea but weren’t thrilled about the form factor. Next came the Ki-Pro Mini. The Mini was perfectly designed to mount onto the back of a tape-based camera and instantly turn it into a non-linear tapeless ProRes camera. Then the products starting popping out more. Blackmagic Design, Atomos, and others began putting their own spin on mobile ProRes recording. Both Avid and Adobe began to support it natively. At this time  Atomos released their first recorder in 2011. Around the same time Arri began shipping the Alexa camera with internal ProRes recording. The Alexa set a new standard for 1080p digital cinema cameras. And it showed the benefits of recording in a ready-to-edit format as appose to RED and their everything-RAW approach. Soon ProRes was synonymous with high quality codec. Blackmagic Design released several cameras with internal ProRes recording. If you purchased a Canon Cinema EOS camera there was a good change you hooked an external ProRes recorder to it. And now we have Panasonic putting ProRes in their new 4K VairCam and Sony, after 2 years of pressure, putting ProRes into the F5 & F55 cinema cameras.

There are several flavors of ProRes. As previously mentioned all ProRes formats are Intra-Frame and all are a minimum of 10-bit 4:2:2. ProRes Proxy is 35mbps, 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame. ProRes LT is a 100mbps 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame format. ProRes is runs at 150mbps, 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame. ProRes HQ delivers 220mbps, 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame. Finally ProRes 4444 is a 330mbps, 4:4:4, 12-bit, Intra-Frame codec. All of these bit rates are based on 30 frame per second recording. If you were to record 60 frames per second you would need to double the mbps. ProRes HQ and ProRes 4444 are capable of recording 4K resolution. If you were to shoot in 4K you would multiply these data rates by a factor of 4x. There fore, at 4K ProRes HQ, 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame, would run around 900mbps. And PreRes 4444 at 4K,  4:4:4, 12-bit, Intra-Frame, would be over 1200mbps. These are crazy-high data rates that really just show that ProRes as near limitless. Between ProRes’ limitless nature, high image quality, and extremely consistent cross platform behavior it’s no wonder we’re seeing larger adoption then ever before. It’s the closest thing to a universal high-end video format there has ever been. Post by Eric C. Petrie

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