This year looks to be an interesting one for cameras. Especially if what we saw at this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas is any indication. Many camera manufacturers were intent on showing their cameras and accessories in various stages of refinement. In other words, while there wasn't necessarily breaking news, there were certainly some interesting updates. Here’s a look at the latest.
Never to be satisfied with the status quo, Arri (www.arri.com) celebrated 100 years of cinematography excellence at NAB. The Arri Alexa SXT W addresses the need for today’s modern cinematographers to be as mobile as possible. That means having the ability to go wireless. With the introduction of the Alexa SXT W, shooters are no longer bound by the constraints of cable lengths. With a range of 600 meters, the Arri Alexa SXT W can be deployed in a variety of rough terrains and challenging conditions.
“Our wireless video uses technology from market leader Amimon, with special hardware and software modifications to comply with Arri’s stringent performance and quality requirements,” says Marc Shipman-Mueller, Alexa product manager. “But that is not all; the wireless video system works harmoniously with Alexa SXT’s other radio-based offerings — the WiFi and our own proprietary camera and lens control system — avoiding time-consuming interference between the radios on the camera.”
The Arri Alexa SXT W is sure to be in hot demand by cinematographers who have always counted on the reputation Arri has earned, but now with the added advantage of going wireless.
It was a different kind of show for Panasonic (http://pro-av.panasonic.net) with some interesting twists. The VariCam line was certainly freshened up with the addition of several upgrades, including an announcement that the company plans to add 2K raw output up to 240fps in a free firmware update to the VariCam LT 4K cinema camcorder. With 2K raw, the VariCam LT will continue to provide 14-plus stops, dual 800/5000 ISO functionality with accurate colors and skin tones.
2K raw output is available while recording internally in 2K or HD. These new upgrades will allow for current VariCam owners to keep pace in this competitive market space. Additionally, at press time, Panasonic has done a fine job of hyping the camera that no one got to see at the show. Kept under wraps, the camera - now knows as the AU-EVA1 - has been promoted by Panasonic as a “cinematic” style camera, and scheduled to be introduced at CineGear (earlier this month). The mystery camera most likely will be a smaller mid-range version of the VariCam line up, but still retain many of the VariCam characteristics at a more affordable price.
Panasonic also talked about its new 4K camera, the AG-UMR20/AG-UCK20 compact camera combo. The camera head will be connected to a separate external recorder that could be an indication that it allows the user to acquire high-quality shots in a limited space.
Keeping with the trend for 2017, Blackmagic Design (www.blackmagicdesign.com) announced several enhancements to its popular Ursa Mini Pro 4.6K camera, including a new open protocol that will allow users to create their own remote control solutions via Bluetooth. The protocol was demonstrated at NAB, and the API and sample code should be released for free at some point this month.
Ursa Mini Pro cameras already have built-in Bluetooth, but it hasn’t been enabled until now. The built-in Bluetooth will allow users to send and receive commands from up to 30 feet away. A demonstration iPad app and sample code will be provided to those that want to use the feature, but they can also build their own app to add in more control features.
The Sony FS7ll was one of the shining stars in the Sony booth this year. Although not technically “new,” Sony has really stepped up to the plate with this model. It features a redesigned arm that does not require any tools for adjusting and reworked XQD card slots that mean the media cards stick out twice as far as on the original F7 — this allows the operator to swap out media cards without fumbling around, even with gloves. A new Lever Lock type E-Mount locking mechanism ensures the lens will stay secure when shooting.
This new and improved feature allows shooters to go with heavier cinema and ENG lenses. Also, a new eyepiece was designed to clip on over the very bright LCD monitor, reducing eye fatigue over extended shooting times. In addition to the improved mechanicals, such as a telescoping arm (no tools required), Sony has added all kinds of ND to the FS7ll. This includes four presets, electronic variable ND filtering and auto ND. These additional stops will give shooters a much wider choice when it comes to setting their own personal go-to ND preferences.
The Canon (www.usa.canon.com) booth was, as usual, quite busy with a number of broadcast, production and post options. The company’s flagship EOS C700 camera drew quite a bit of attention, with an impressive array of new features. Most notable would be the buyer’s option of ordering the camera with different sensors. The C700 offers the option of two different sensor designs. It offers a 4.5K CMOS sensor with 15 stops of dynamic range. The standard sensor will be offered in both PL and EF mounts. The EF mount version of the camera features Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology.
The EOS C700 GS PL features global shutter technology, which is helpful for sports, fast action, concerts and events where it eliminates “jello” and “flash band” artifacts. The image on a global shutter sensor is captured simultaneously by every pixel on the sensor. Standard CMOS sensors capture the image by scanning the scene from top to bottom. Depending on the speed of the scan, the time delay between the scan of the first line and the last sometimes results in a “jello” effect where straight lines appear curved or wobble as the camera or subject moves. By capturing the entire image at once, these artifacts are removed. The EOS C700 GS PL features 14 stops of dynamic range and does not offer Dual Pixel CMOS AF.
Additionally, the C700 models have a complete camera set up and assist screen on the side opposite the camera operator, allowing for adjustments without the camera operator ever having to move. In the DSLR world, there was also a lot of buzz about the addition of C-Log to the 5D — which can readily be thought of as the “B” camera on interviews or other shoots that require a second camera. Users have been asking for this and Canon listened. This upgrade must be performed by a Canon factory service center and will cost around a hundred dollars. Moving forward, users will be able to purchase new 5D cameras with Canon Log pre-installed. This update is sure to make C series users happy, as they can now integrate 5D footage alongside their C300 Mark II, or C100 Mark II clips.
Panavision (www.panavision.com), one of the motion picture industry’s most respected designers, manufacturers and providers of state-of-the-art cinema lenses and high-precision camera systems and innovative post production technologies, brought its new and much-acclaimed Millennium DXL 8K camera to the 2017 NAB Show. Tech leaders from Panavision and its subsidiary Light Iron also offered their insights and expertise during panel discussions and throughout the show.
Developed through a collaboration of three companies, the Millennium DXL brings together large-format optics and modular accessories from Panavision, an 8K sensor from Red Digital Cinema and new color science and optimized workflow from Light Iron. The DXL was on the floor at three different partner locations and was a big attraction at the Freefly, Vitec and Lee Filters booths. This made getting some hands-on time with the camera much easier than if it had been at only one booth. The DXL camera has been renting since January and the enthusiasm for this camera continues to trend upwards.
Although not officially exhibiting at NAB this year, Red (www.red.com) continued to have a strong presence at the show, on exhibit at many booths on the floor. The Red buzz was very interesting. Online before NAB, and certainly during, the talk was all about IPP2. Red announced a new image-processing pipeline (IPP2) that is available for immediate download. IPP2 offers a completely overhauled workflow experience, from image capture through post production. IPP2 enhancements include: better management of challenging colors, smoother highlight roll-off, improved shadow detail, more accurate mid-tone hues, an improved demosaicing algorithm to achieve higher detail at the same pixel resolution, a simpler and more intuitive workflow, a workflow designed for HDR from the ground up, industry-standard naming and standardized color space and gamma.
Red cameras with the Helium 8K S35 sensor can now monitor and control the new image pipeline in-camera, while all other camera owners will benefit from the new image pipeline in post through the latest beta Redcine-X Pro upgrade. Individuals who prefer Red’s original color science workflow have the option to toggle between IPP2 and the legacy workflow both in-camera as well as in Redcine-X Pro.
On another front, Red was making history with a collaboration with NASA. The US space agency presented two high-definition firsts, producing the first-ever live 4K video from orbit and returning one of the first ultra-high def cameras to be used on the International Space Station to the company behind it.
“What goes up must come down, except when what goes up goes into outer space,” said Sam Matheny, executive vice president and chief technology officer of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) during the show. “And that is what makes the first Red camera to go to the space station so special. This [Red Epic Dragon] camera was a vital tool to further our scientific studies and the interests of NASA [for] space exploration,” he said. “It recently returned to Earth, so it did successfully come down.”
In a brief ceremony preceding the first live 4K stream from the space station (using another Red camera launched to orbit), the first flown-in-space Epic Dragon was presented to Jarred Land, president at Red Digital Cinema.
“NASA and Red collaborated to fly a Red Epic Dragon to the International Space Station,” said Dylan Mathis, NASA space station communications manager. “This camera has served us very well and was returned to Earth after 437 days in space.”
According to NASA, the Red Epic Dragon camera is capable of filming at resolutions ranging from conventional HDTV up to 6K, and its frame rate and resolution were able to reveal more information when used to record investigations, giving researchers a valuable new tool on board the space station.
NASA used the Epic Dragon to capture views of Earth and its astronauts’ activities — including station crew members manipulating floating balls of water — which were posted to YouTube after being saved and sent down from space.
JVC Professional Video (http://pro.jvc.com), a division of JVCKenwood USA Corporation, announced its Version 4.0 firmware upgrade for its popular GY-LS300CH 4KCam Super 35 handheld camcorder. The new upgrade increases color resolution to 4:2:2 in 4K mode recording and expands Ultra HD (3840x2160) output to include 60/50p. Version 4.0 provides 4:2:2 (8-bit) 4K recording at 24/25/30p onboard to SDXC media cards. In addition, IP remote function will now allow remote control and image viewing in 4K. When using 4K 4:2:2 recording mode, the video output from the HDMI/SDI terminals is HD. The Version 4.0 firmware upgrade is free of charge for all current GY-LS300CH owners and became available in late May.
With the upgrade, the GY-LS300CH will also now have the capability to output Ultra HD at 60/50p via its HDMI 2.0b port. Through JVC’s partnership with Atomos, the GY-LS300CH will operate seamlessly with the new Ninja Inferno and Shogun Inferno monitor recorders, triggering recording from the camera’s start/stop operation. Plus, when the camera is set to J-Log1 gamma recording mode, the Atomos units will record the HDR footage and display it on their integrated, seven-inch monitors.
“The upgrades included in our Version 4.0 firmware provide performance enhancements for high raster recording and IP remote capability in 4K, adding even more content creation flexibility to the GY-LS300CH,” said Craig Yanagi, product marketing manager, JVCKenwood. “Seamless integration with the new Ninja Inferno will help deliver 60p to our customers and allow them to produce outstanding footage for a variety of 4K and UHD productions.”
Designed for cinematographers, documentarians and broadcast production departments, the GY-LS300CH features JVC’s 4K Super 35 CMOS sensor and an industry standard Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lens mount. With its unique Variable Scan Mapping technology, the GY-LS300CH adjusts the sensor to provide native support of MFT, PL, EF and other lenses, which connect to the camera via third-party adapters. Other features include prime zoom, which allows shooters using fixed-focal (prime) lenses to zoom in and out without loss of resolution or depth, and a built-in HD streaming engine with Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connectivity for live HD transmission directly to hardware decoders as well as JVCVideoCloud, Facebook Live and other CDNs.
THE VR EXPERIENCE
Z CAM & ASSIMILATE
Creators of VR experiences just got a big boost in ease-of-use from Z Cam (www.z-cam.com) and Assimilate (www.assimilateinc.com), who are also lowering the threshold to entry, making VR a viable media for all content creators. Z Cam and Assimilate have partnered to offer the first complete, integrated VR workflow with the Z Cam S1/Scratch VR Z Bundle: from image acquisition with Z Cam’s S1 professional VR camera, and stitching with its WonderStitch software, through to a streamlined VR post production workflow with Assimilate’s realtime Scratch VR Z tools. Stream live 360 from the Z Cam S1 through Scratch VR Z and easily use advanced, realtime features like inserting/composting graphics/text overlays, including animations, and keying for elements like green screen — all then streaming live to Facebook Live 360.
Users can switch back and forth between the S1 functions and the Scratch VR Z tools. Scratch VR Z can be used to do live camera preview, prior to shooting with the S1. During the shoot, Scratch VR Z is then used for dailies and data management, including metadata. Stitching of the imagery is done in Z Cam’s WonderStitch, now integrated into Scratch VR Z, then follow on with traditional editing, color grading and compositing with finishing and publishing to online or standalone 360 platforms.
In keeping with the rest of the camera segment, GoPro (https://gopro.com) announced a pilot program for GoPro Fusion, its 5.2K spherical camera, designed to be the ultimate capture device for both fully immersive virtual reality content, as well as conventional non-VR video and photo formats. Starting immediately, professional content creators can apply to participate in the pilot program, which is expected to roll-out this summer.
”Fusion is just that, the ability to capture every angle simultaneously…as though you had six GoPro cameras fused into one,” said GoPro founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman. “Whether filming for VR or traditional fixed-perspective content, Fusion represents the state-of-the-art in versatile spherical capture.”
In addition to high-performance spherical capture for fully immersive VR experiences, Fusion’s 5.2K resolution enables a new OverCapture creative solution that gives content creators the flexibility to produce conventional non-VR video and photos in HD-quality, “punched out” from the spherically captured angles. Not just a VR capture solution, Fusion ensures that traditional content creators will get the shot, while also capturing the unexpected. Fusion is compatible with a broad range of GoPro’s mounts and handheld accessories.
This summer, GoPro will be working closely with a selection of pilot partners — including brands, agencies and content professionals — to further refine the user experience and produce inspiring content that demonstrates the creative potential of Fusion.
GoPro plans a limited commercial release of Fusion by the end of 2017.
Nokia (www.nokia.com) was showing OZO+, and OZO Creator’s newest update with completely updated VR image processing and stereoscopic stitching software now including mixed reality enablement. Also demonstrated were enhancements to OZO Live, a scalable 3D 360-livestream solution with spatial audio mixing.
In addition, OZO Deliver was shown, serving as the backbone of the OZO Reality Platform, which enables real-world delivery of 360 video and mixed reality experiences.
Insta360 (www.insta360.com) offered attendees a look at its Pro, which features six 200-degree lenses with realtime 360 video stitching (4K at 30 fps with H.265/H.264 or 4K 3D at 25 fps with H.264). Professionals can use Insta360’s post-processing software or third-party tools (8K video at 30 fps, 4K slow-motion at 100 fps, 4K 3D at 30 fps), and the content can be stored on an SD card or external storage via USB 3.0 (Type-C port). On the audio side, the Pro packs four microphones, but you can also plug in an external mic. Stills can go up to 60 megapixels (7,680x7,680) in 3D with an optional timelapse mode.
The company’s Pro also comes with Wi-Fi, Ethernet plus HDMI connectivity to enable realtime 360 preview and even direct live-streaming — either 6K 3D or 4K 3D — to Facebook, YouTube, Insta360 server or others. Pro has an optional 4G network card, and a 5,000 mAh removable battery.