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At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual technology exhibition – held from April 14 to19 in Las Vegas this year— manufacturers typically demonstrate their concepts that will soon be released into the market. Digital acquisition in 4K resolution (or more) was definitely prevalent with many traditional video brands, and seems to be the format base for future evolution.
Certainly, ARRI ALEXA and RED One/Epic/Scarlet maintained their dominance in RAW professional systems for cinematographers. The ARRI presentations of significant ALEXA projects were conducted in the open, and were so popular that aisles around their exhibit were always crowded, even when the rest of the huge exhibit halls seemed empty. RED continued its populist approach, with a regular lineup of "millennial" enthusiasts waiting to come inside their private theatre for a demonstration/discussion of advanced RED technology for cost-sensitive productions.
The use of these two systems on high-profile productions has evidently come to the attention of traditionally video manufacturers, who also highlighted 4K digital platforms at NAB. In addition to its existing F65 system (with RAW), Sony introduced an affordable 1080p camera (the NEX-FS700), teasing that it is 4K-ready with an intended firmware update. Panasonic displayed its 4K Varicam Cinema concept camera, apparently gathering user feedback on its prototype while staying in the game.
Broad excitement over a new imaging system was centred on Canon, for its introduction of the Cinema EOS C500 platforms (one for EF lenses and one for PL), to be released later this year at attractive prices. The camera is intended for advanced cinematographic applications, so it is a non-obsoleting system distinct from last November's release of the C300 for HD. Full workflows have already been designed and integrated in consultation with major Hollywood rental and post facilities.
Canon's Cinema EOS C500 will support 4K-resolution capture with a new 8.8-megapixel CMOS sensor (approximately Super 35 mm-equivalent), and also outputs it as a 10-bit uncompressed RAW data stream with no de-Bayering. Additional versatility allows output of quad full-HD (3840 x 2160), 2K (2048 x 1080), full HD (1920 x 1080), and other imaging options, fully conforming to established SMPTE production standards. All 4K formats can be selected to operate from one to 60 frames per second. A 50-Mbps HD proxy is simultaneously recorded in camera to a CF card that is immediately available to support offline editing.
The prevalence of all these 4K offerings indicate that manufacturers find value in the quality demanded by professional cinematographers, and that their technology has evolved to catch up with our demands.
Joe Sunday has pioneered advanced imaging technologies with prestigious cinematographers for more than two decades. He currently consults for major media companies throughout North America.