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.
Fuji has announced that they will introduce the Super35mm Fujinon Premier 20-120mm Cabrio XK powered servo motor zoom lens at NAB. The new lens features a constant T3.5 aperture throughout the entire zoom range and, like other Cabrio lenses, comes with a detachable servo drive unit similar to those seen on traditional ENG broadcast lenses. It also has a 200 degree focus rotation, 9 iris blades and a minimum focus distance of 1.1 m, 3′ 7″. The 20-120mm weighs in at 6.39lb. Fujinon are aiming the lens squarely at the growing number of owner/operators who are making the transition from ENG 2/3″ sensor based cameras to Super 35mm digital cinema cameras such as the Sony F5/55, Canon C300 Mark II, Panasonic Varicam LT and the ARRI Amira. With a lot of broadcast television series making the move to digital cinema cameras there has been a growing need for ENG style Super 35mm lenses that feel more familiar to operators making the transition and are quick to operate. LDS and /i Tech metadata compatibility are very useful when you need to record the position information of zoom, iris, and focus for computer animation and similar post production operations. The digital servo on this lens has 16-bit encoding, so operators can be assured that the lens data outputs are extremely accurate. The lens is set to start shipping in June of this year.
From March 1st through June 30th Canon is offering a slew of instant rebates on their pro video camcorders- specifically in the XF and XA families. The instant rebates range from $200 to $1,000 which makes it a great time to pick one of these up and save a couple bucks.
$1,000 Instant Rebate on XF305- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $3,999
$500 Instant Rebate on XF300- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $3,499
$500 Instant Rebate on XF205- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $3,499
$500 Instant Rebate on XF200- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $2,999
$500 Instant Rebate on XF105- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $2,499
$500 Instant Rebate on XF100- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $1,999
$300 Instant Rebate on XA25- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $2,199
$300 Instant Rebate on XA20- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $1,699
$200 Instant Rebate on XA35- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $2,299
$200 Instant Rebate on XA30- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $1,799
$200 Instant Rebate on XA10- Final Price after Instant Rebate- $1,299
By this stage in Sony’s camera evolution they have made it clear that XAVC is the way of their future. Sony has spend the last two years or more slowly remaking their whole professional and broadcast lineup to unify on XAVC. Everything above the AVCHD/NXCam products has transitioned this direction. With these two cameras Sony’s XAVC line has grown to 9 professional cameras. The traditional XDCam, MPEG2 422, camera line is now down to 5 in-production models.
Sony has now introduced two more ENG cameras to the XAVC camera family. The first is a full-size shoulder mount ENG camera called the PXW-X500. This directly replaces the PMW-500 in the XDCam lineup. The PXW-X500 features a full 1080p 2/3″ PowerHAD 3CCD sensor block. It combines state-of-the art wireless technologies, utilizing wi-fi control, FTP file upload, and LTE proxy transmission. It also features up to 120fps 1080p recording and has options for ProRes and DNxHD.
The second camera Sony has shown is the XAVC version of the PMW-200. You guessed it, the camera is called the PXW-X200. Although for the moment the PMW-200 will remain in the line the X200 is the obvious replacement. Built on the same body and using the same 1/2″ 3CMOS block the camera now records XAVC up to 60fps 1080p. It adds the wireless connectivity that has started to become standard including wireless streaming. It also ups the zoom ratio to a 17x zoom lens.
As a side note Sony is shifting the use of the term “XDCam” once again. XDCam started off as their term for tapeless acquisition. Then it became a video codec that could be recorded to optical media or solid state media. Then it became a family of similarly designed MPEG2 codecs. Now Sony is using it to simply refer to their broadcast level cameras, the category above the “pro-sumer” AVCHD/NXCam cameras and adjacent to the CineAlta cameras. In all the Sony literature they’ve now started to refer to the older MPEG2 recording codec as simply “MPEG2 422 50mbps”, with out any catchy moniker. Sony XDCam could be a broadcast-level XAVC camera or it could be a broadcast level MPEG2 camera. Additionally all of the newly announced XAVC cameras have legacy support for MPEG2 recording formats.
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.
JVC has long been known for making quality and affordable ENG cameras. They have long been a solid alternative to Panasonic or Sony in broadcast situations. JVC is gearing up to become the affordable alternative in the cinema world. JVC has shown 3 prototype cameras, all 4K, all using a Super35mm sensor. JVC Kenwood company recently acquired a semi-conductor firm that now allows them to build their own imaging sensors. Two of the cameras are traditional single-piece cameras, the third is a camera head that can be used in remote situations such as in a fly rig (think NFL zip-line camera). Even though all the models are being deemed “prototypes” and thus not guaranteed to come to market, they do all have official model numbers.
The first camera is a very small hand held ENG camera body that is a very similar to the JVC HM150. This is the first time we’ve seen a “cinema” camera take a form factor that is much more similar to a compact ENG camera. JVC is clearly, and admittedly, aiming this camera at broadcast news and live coverage. JVC claims that the ENG market is very interested in the “cinema look” that is generated by the current crop of cinema cameras but does not want to depart from the familiar form factor and body style that ENG users have grown accustom to. Thus the GY-LSX2 lets operators use the camera essentially as they would an HM150, but with interchangeable lenses and a Super35 sensor. The rest of the camera runs down like this. The lens mount is an active Micro Four Thirds. This is an interesting choice because most hot Micro Four Thirds lenses don’t have an imaging area large enough to cover Super35mm. Some Olympus lenses apparently do. As do some from third party Micro Four Thirds companies like Zeiss and Sigma. Another benefit of using the Micro Four Thirds mount is that it is very easily adapted to other systems. It can be adapted to F mount or PL mount with a simple metal tube adapter. The camera also does support Micro Four Thirds under scanned cropping of the sensor if you should want to use standard MFT lenses that don’t cover Super35mm. The camera records to AVC-4K h.264 codec. This could be a 100mbps 4:2:0 8-bit Long-GOP format, JVC said final specs haven’t been locked in. If so this would be a highly compressed 4K format, which would have it’s own pros and cons. JVC also mentioned 240 frame per second recording in H.D. resolution. They said there target price point for this piece will be under $6K
The second camera, the GY-LSX1, is a shoulder mount ENG style camera body that has a PL mount. They mention using converters for 2/3” B4 mount ENG lenses but whether they intend on building these themselves or rely on 3rd parties was unclear. Such converters do exist though typically there is loss of both light and optical resolution due to taking a lens designed with a 2/3” image circle and blowing it up to a 1.7” image circle. This camera would record in the same codec as the handheld camera, 100mbps, 4:2:0, 8-bit, Long-GOP (subject to possible change).The camera would also feature the same 240 frame per second H.D. recording but would offer 60p 4K recording as oppose to being limited to 30p like the hand held camera. JVC says the target price is under $20K but i would have to believe that it would be much lower due to cameras with similar specs being announced at this NAB for below $10k. JVC claims they will have 4K Super35mm cinema cameras on the market before the end of the year. Post by Eric C. Petrie
Movie and television producers are beginning to shoot more shows in 4K, helping to grow the stock of ultra-HD content that could help spur the market for the latest and greatest television technology.
At a panel session entitled “4K: Path to Ultra-HD,” Sony Professional Solutions of America president Alec Shapiro said that TV shows like The Blacklist, The Michael J. Fox Show and movies like the Tom Cruise space drama Oblivion were all shot in 4K and more importantly archived in the technology. By archiving content in 4K, it makes it available for syndication, which could also help spur its acceptance. “Syndication is where a lot of the money is made,” Shapiro said on the panel.
While 4K has obvious advantages – its clear sound and sharp images put HD to shame – it has some that are less obvious. At the panel session, moderated by Multichannel News technology editor Jeff Baumgartner, The Weather Channel Network president David Clark said the technology’s ability to allow shooting video from a greater distance from the subject is especially valuable in filming dangerous weather events like tornadoes.
But high prices for sets and a dearth of content have stymied widespread deployment of 4K, but the panelists likened it to the learning curve for HD sets and technology. The panelists, however, chafed at any comparisons of the technology to a recent “latest and greatest” technology, 3-D TV.
The panelists were also skeptical that Netflix’s recent announcement that it would launch a 4K product in the future would serve as a catalyst for cable, satellite and telco operators to accelerate their adoption of the technology.
Clark guessed that if an over-the-top provider could provide a better TV experience than a cable or satellite operator with 4K, it would create some concern on the part of those distributors, which in the past have prided themselves on the superior quality of their service. Shapiro, however, was unmoved. “It’s just another distribution vehicle,” Shapiro said of Netflix.
SMPTE’s recent symposium on UltraHD (4K TV) had experts weighing in with some hard-hitting facts about adoption of the new format. Said ESPN’s Bryan Burns, ““I know what it took to get ESPN to high definition and somewhat to 3D. My take is 4K will be the next 1080p. How many services are transmitted to your home in 1080p? None. That’s how it will be with 1080p. 4K will be a lot of television sets sold… but that doesn’t mean there’ll be a wholesale changeover in program services.” Read the rest here. Post by Eric C. Petrie
Generally speaking 4K has been thought of as something relegated to the cinema world. 4K camcorders such as the Blackmagic Production camera, the Canon C500, and the Sony F5 are all geared around a cinematic style of shooting, whether that be for feature film, commercial, or documentary purposes. But what about traditional ENG production? Sports, news, live event, education, corporate and other styles of shooting havn’t really had a fleshed out 4K solution.
Sony has just introducted the PXW-Z100. It appears to be very closely related to the HXR-NX5. It has a very similarly styled body and the same 20x zoom lens. It shoots in Sony’s XAVC format, a high quality 4:2:2 I-frame compression system. It can shoot 4K up to 60 frames per second progressive scan. It will use an 8 million pixel 1/2″ back-lit CMOS sensor. The back-light ensures that even with that many pixels is such a small surface area it will maintain good low light performance. It will record to “consumer” XQD memory cards. XQD is the format that some thing will take the place of Compact Flash for the highest quality, fastest, large-capacity memory cards. XQD has been very slowly adopted. The camera will also feature 3G HD-SDI output and HDMI that will output 4K at 60fps.
Just as the NX5 has a consumer counterpart, the HDR-AX2000, the Z100 will also have a consumer counterpart, the FDR-AX1. The consumer camera is said to have a list price of around $4,500 and the Z100 will carry a price tag around $6,500. The cameras are expected to start shipping before the end of this year. Post by Eric C. Petrie
For our customers who work in broadcast and post production this should be a bit of interesting equipment news. Sony has announced the PMW-1000 XDCam SxS deck. The compact, affordable PMW-1000 SxS memory recording deck has two SxSExpressCard memory card slots providing a wide variety of HD and SD recordings and playback, including 50 Mbps XDCAM HD422. The half-rack size recorder has SD / HD-SDI interfaces and Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T) interfaces for non-linear network operations, as well as an RS-422 interface and jog/shuttle control to allow “linear like” ingest and editing.
Non-linear production has gradually taken over most of the industry, and the role of a recording deck has less emphasis in non-linear environments. However, “linear-like” operation is still required especially by the broadcasters. The PMW-1000 drives enhanced XDCAM HD422 workflow with tape-like operation including linear ingest with RS-422 control and linear editing (as player) with jog/shuttle control. This similar operability to tape-based devices brings familiarity to operators accustomed to them. The VTR-like jog/shuttle dial and RS-422 control also come into play when ingesting is done in baseband through an ingest controller at broadcast stations where a content server may be in operation. The PMW-1000 also provides outstanding MPEG HD422 picture quality as well as high quality eight channel (HD-SDI) 24-bit audio recording capability, all packed in a compact sized deck.
The PMW-1000 also supports 100 Mbps XAVC (1080/29.97p/25p/23.98p/59.94i/50i)* recordings on SxS media and allows easy XAVC HD playback and monitoring, making it an ideal recorder/player to work with the PMW-F55 and PMW-F5 CineAlta cameras. It also allows high-speed recorded content from both cameras to be played back in slow motion. However, 4K is not supported. The PMW-1000 is scheduled to ship this summer. Post by Eric C. Petrie