For the most part 4K acquisition has been relegated towards cinematic style production. The majority of professional 4K cameras on the market are “cinema” cameras that utilize interchangeable lenses and have Super35mm (or similar) sized sensors. There has been very little traction in implementing 4K in traditional television production with classic acquisition tools like studio cameras, ENG-style cameras, or hand-held integrated lens camcorders. Sony is aiming to start the shift towards 4K in all forms of video production.
Before NAB Sony already had several good options including the X70, the Z150, and the Z100. All include an integrated powered zoom lens. All of these camcorders have a single sensor image system. The X70 & Z150 use a 1″ sensor and the Z100, the oldest of the group, a 1/2″ sensor. At NAB this year Sony is debuting several new cameras including the new PXW-Z450. The Z450 is based off of the same body as the PXW-X400. This gives users the first Sony traditional ENG shoulder mount form factor camera that offers 4K acquisition. Sony has intentionally stuck with a 2/3″ sensor design for the Z450 so that it will be fully compatible with all of the existing 2/3″ B4 broadcast ENG servo powered zoom lenses that are already in the field. Interestingly it appears that the Z450 uses a single 2/3″ sensor. Additionally, there is an upgrade kit for owners of the 1080p X400 camera. If you currently have an X400, or buy an X400 in the future, and decide you need 4K, you can send your camera to Sony and the camera will be converted to a Z450 for a fee.
Finally, in the studio space, Sony is introducing the HDC4800 studio camera. This is very interesting as this will have a newly designed single Super35mm 4K sensor. The sensor can generate up to 480fps in 4K. Yes, thats 8x slow motion in 4K. This is incredible. The camera has a native PL lens mount meaning that you will need some of the hig-end cine servo glass, like a Fujinon Cabrio, to use the camera in 4K. The HDC4800 has another trick up its sleeve. In the promo video for the camera Sony shows it’s PL lens mount being adapted to a B4 2/3″ mount. When the camera is in 1080p mode it can utilize a 2/3″ crop of the sensor, thus allowing it to be fully compatible with stadium or large studio style box lenses. Also, when in 1080p the maximum frame rate jumps to 16x normal, or 960fps for 60p countries. Imagine a sports game where a couple of these cameras are mounted onto large box lenses with 40x zoom magnifications as your primary cameras and the 4K super slow-mo camera is on the sidelines for close-ups using a 4.5x Fujinon Cabrio 19-90. The HDC4800 is also designed to integrate well with the 4K studio camera Sony introduced last NAB, the HDC4300. The HDC4300 uses 3x 2/3″ 4K image sensors and has a maximum frame rate of 60p in 4K or 480p in 1080p. Both cameras have matched colorimetry for ideal compatibility.
As they always do Blackmagic Design has announced a whole bunch of new products at NAB. Over 16 new models to be exact. I’ll touch on a few here.
FROM BLACKMAGIC: URSA Studio Viewfinder: The Blackmagic Studio Viewfinder completely transforms the URSA into a professional studio camera. It looks amazing and it simply plugs into where the normal viewfinder would connect on the front of the camera. The ergonomics of the viewfinder were designed for maximum comfort which is vital when working on shoots where the camera team can be standing for hours at a time. When we designed this viewfinder the number 1 feature we worked on was to make the best articulated mounting we had seen on any viewfinder at any cost. These joints have an amazing range of tension adjustment so you can set them to the perfect resistance you need. So what this means is you can pan and tilt the viewfinder to the position you need, which is vital when the camera is high up and you need to tilt it down. There are knobs for controlling brightness and contrast and also a knob for focus peaking so you can set the level you need. There’s a menu dial for navigating viewfinder settings, plus 3 assignable function buttons. There is a sun shield included and a tally indicator under the sun shield as well as above the sun shield for the camera operator.
FROM BLACKMAGIC: Video Assist 4K: This new model Video Assist 4K lets you add a bright 7 inch monitor and broadcast quality recorder to any SDI or HDMI camera. By adding a Video Assist to a DLSR camera you can get a nice large screen that ensures you get perfect focus every time. Video Assist has built in focus aids such as focus peaking and focus zoom. You can also use the histogram to help set exposure. Because Video Assist has built in recorders, you can bypass the low quality video files or even tape based recorders in many cameras. The Video Assist uses high quality ProRes and DNx recording, so you get great quality and full compatibility with all editing software. You also get much longer recording times because Video Assist 4K features 2 SD card slots, so you can change cards while recording.
FROM BLACKMAGIC: URSA Mini Full Operating System User Interface 2: Next we are going to be demonstrating a whole new user interface for our URSA Mini cameras. The most visible part of the new URSA Mini operating system is the user interface of the camera and it’s now much faster to use and has also been totally redesigned. Now touching any setting on the LCD lets you directly adjust that setting without going into menus. A good example is lens control. Now you can just select iris and step though the F stops, or just slide the iris open and closed with your finger on the LCD. If you want to adjust audio level then just touch the audio meters and now you can change levels and if you rotate the audio knob, the adjustments are also displayed automatically. This new operating system adds a lot of intelligence to the camera as well. A good example of this is shutter angles. Setting shutter angles to eliminate flicker from lighting can be tricky, but now settings are recommended to eliminate flicker from lighting. You can still set any angle you want, but there are also recommendations that calculated for you. It recommends angles when you over or under crank the frame rates.
All of these great new things from Blackmagic Design are coming soon!
Blackmagic always has a very interesting and unique take on industry standard technology. They already make most of the equipment you would need to assemble a small studio, now they’ve got the cameras too. The Blackmagic Studio Cameras are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The camera is available in two flavors, 1080p and 4K. They have a 10” LCD screen on the backside, the same one found on the URSA. At it’s thickest point it is 4.5” thick, at it’s slimmest it’s about 1.75” thin. It’s just barely big enough to put on the necessary ports and a lens mount. The body has a remote port, headset & mic ports, 2 XLR audio in, optical fiber, SDI out and in, reference, and finally 4-pin 12v power. The lens mount is Micro Four Thirds. The sensor is an interesting similar 12.6x7mm (16mm film?) to that of the Pocket. So it’s smaller then a true Micro Four Thirds but it’s bigger then a 2/3” broadcast sensor. It’s about 1” diagonal. The 1080p model is only $1995 and the 4K model is $2995. The 1080p is shipping in less then 2 weeks and the 4K is shipping in about 8 weeks.
At first glance these seem like miraculous achievements and a perfect fit for any small studio, school, church, government, or community system. There is one big glaring issue that jumps out at me. Almost by definition a studio camera must have a very smooth fluid powered zoom lens. It would be incredibly difficult to run a studio camera with out the ability to smoothly zoom in and out from the handles of the tripod. The same is true of focus. Not being able to control the focus from a servo focus control would be very challenging. The nature of this cameras Micro Four Thirds mounts means that it’s most natively designed to take still photo lenses which have absolutely no such servo control. There are a few exceptions, photo lenses that have small built in servos. But the servo mechanism is a very poor excuse when compared to a real servo lens. So what are you to do? Adapting Micro Four Thirds to a B4 lens is possible with an adapter that is about $1,500. It’s expensive because there is a lot of optical correction that has to take place. You also lose light using the adapters. Then you have to rig external power for the lens because the powered servo zoom motors won’t be taking the power off the camera like a traditional studio camera. So there’s another $1,000 in a power solution for the servo lens. Now what about the lens itself? You’re not going to get into a powered zoom lens for less then $5000, average price is probably going to be closer to $10,000. So now you’ve taken your $2k BMD 1080p camera and added at least $8,000 of gear to the front of it in order to get proper zoom, focus, iris control, like someone would expect from a studio camera. Post by Eric C. Petrie.