Is 4K the New 3D....? With NAB announcements from Canon with theC500, Canon EOS-1D C, Sony's NEX-FS700 and the highly affordable and compact JVC GY-HMQ10, 4K seems to have been the new mainstream buzz at this years NAB show.
There was little talk or demos of 3D - it was all about 4K.
I'm quite excited about 4K. I was fortunate to attend the Timescapes screening , Tom Lowe's 4K film and it is stunning to see beautiful cinematography in 4K on the big screen. It's more immersive than 3D in my opinion (and you don't need to wear daft glasses). It feels like an IMAX experience but less intense. I found myself scanning the image and becoming immersed in the beautiful Cinematography as the full resolution and fine detail of 4K projection was displayed in front of me.
Affordable 4K So at the lower (and decidedly affordable end) JVC have the GY-HMQ10 4K handheld camcorder.
I have to confess that this actually impressed me more than I was expecting. The images are pretty good given it's deriving the 4K from a ½" 8.3 million pixel CMOS sensor. I'm looking forward to putting it into a real shoot as it's difficult to judge image performance only from the test footage that I viewed on the JVC booth. But colour was rich and there was plenty of detail as you'd expect. And it can be used as a 1080P HD camcorder as well. As I say I was pleasantly surprised by the images I saw.
From their launch press release:
JVC's exclusive Falconbrid LSI processing takes raw image data from the camera's CMOS device and dematrixes (deBayers) it in real time. Unlike many high end 4K cameras, the GY-HMQ10 is able to output 4K images to a monitor or projection system in real time with virtually no latency. This capability opens up applications in cinematography, medical microscopy, telepresence, specialised observation / surveillance, and live wide-view event coverage.
Using MPEG-4 technology and a variable bit rate H.264 codec operating at up to 144 Mbps, the GY-HMQ10 records up to two hours of 4K video to economical SDHC or SDXC memory cards.
In addition to 4K imaging, the GY-HMQ10 also captures and records astonishing 1080i or 1080/50p full HD, with extraordinary detail provided by its 8.3 megapixel imager and superior lens. HD is recorded on a single memory card in a format compatible with most editing systems, along with the ability to crop an HD image from a 4K frame. This can be accomplished in post production, or in real time during camera playback. The “trimming” feature makes HD cropping easy using the camera's touch panel LCD monitor.
Similar in size to JVC’s popular GY-HM150 ProHD camcorder, the GY-HMQ10 includes a build-in F2.8 10x zoom lens with optical image stabiliser, as well as a colour viewfinder and 3.5-inch touch LCD monitor with a new, intuitive user interface. The GY-HMQ10 is built in a familiar, comfortable and lightweight form factor for hours of field production with minimum fatigue.
The GY-HMQ10 is equipped with manual level controls for audio, with audio metering in the LCD and viewfinder displays. A microphone holder and two balanced XLR connectors with phantom power are located on the handle. The camera is equipped with a built-in stereo mic for ambient sound pickup.
Other features include JVC’s patented Focus Assist, as well as manual and auto control of focus, iris, gain, shutter, gamma, colour matrix and white balance. Plus, the camera has the unusual capability of live 4K output via four HDMI terminals.
The camera splits the frame into 4 quadrants and records each ¼ separately onto an SD XC card (4 in total) and then you simply ingest each card using their interface software. I managed to figure it out on the JVC stand and shot a video which I'll upload in a few days
Medium sized budgets The Canon EOS 1DC is the long anticipated 4K DSLR. At $15k this is a pricey DSLR. However as a cinema camera this will record 4K internally (unlike its substantially more expensive C500). Shane Hurlbut ASC created the launch film "The Ticket" I didn't get a chance to see it personally but my good friend Bruce Logan ASC, was very impressed and in his opinion it was an extremely viable 4K cinema acquisition tool.
Suddenly the Sony NEX FS700 is looking like great value and a worthy contender for 4K acquisition. The big question we have for Sony now is - when will 4K be enabled and will there be a costs, not to mention what do we record on to? - I do hope it's non proprietary and then we can use devices from Convergent Design and CODEX .
Stephen Goldblatt ASC commented to me that while he didn't think the the build of the FS700 would be up to the rigours of a Hollywood film set (bear in mind this guy shoots mega features 'The Help' The Pelican Brief… so I wouldn't expect him to use a camcorder like the FS700 on a feature)
But it still caught his attention and he did day 'It just goes to show that the technology is very advanced and imagine if Sony put those features in a more durable chassis'…
Getting into bigger budget territory
Sadly I missed the screenings of the launch film shot on the C500.
But I did manage to view some footage that was being played on some prototype 4K LCD screens that Canon were showing and I have to say I was blown away… But this is looking like a $35,000 camcorder and you still have to record your 4K stream externally onto a 4K capable recorder.
I had conversations with Steven Poster ASC
Both gentlemen separately shared with me that they were very impressed by the images from the Canon C500. I seemed to share a lot of Cab's with ASC cinematographers this year at the show…which was nice, and a huge personal honour. The really significant observation I made was that these guys are at the top of their game, with a body of work we can only dream about they and don't have an ego between them.... refreshing.
Sony do of course have the F65 which is their Cine Camera shooting 4K
and Red have the Epic and their range that have been shooting 4K for a while.
But for the majority of aspiring film makers, these tools are potentially out of reach.
So why do I think you should at least be paying attention to 4K?
I hear some ridiculously naive statements like '4K transmission and delivery is years off' so it's not relevant but I disagree. Remember when HD first hit the technology shows, nobody had HD ready TV's, but what HD gave us was the ability to acquire 5 x the information of Standard definition. This served 2 key functions; Future proofing your archive and then you could lay your HD footage on an SD timeline and pan and scan around a bigger image, using digital moves and have more options in post. If we only ever worked with what was 'the standard' today then we'd be swell saying yep we're happy with what we have - let's stick with this and new technology would have no place…
Well to put this into some perspective - if you acquire in 4K and post in 1080P the you have the same options as you did when you shot HD and posted in SD. The difference is that you are building a 4K archive and in the short term the you have the ability to edit HD with a much bigger pallet of information in the image…
There's no downside (as far as I can determine but it is early days) Apart from needing extra storage but with highly affordable and fast thunderbolt raid storage now available from Promise or G-Tech this is not really a big problem.
I'll be coming back to 4K in the coming weeks with more views and videos exploring the significance of 4K and what it means to you the film maker and your business.