Every year the Hollywood Post Alliance’s annual Technology Retreat in Rancho Mirage, Calif. attracts a who’s who of the Hollywood tech community. They gather to discuss technical and business issues facing the postproduction sector. Marketing hype is frowned upon and manufacturers have to show something that is truly new in order to get a demo table. In years past, the event has served as a launch pad for such technologies as Panasonic’s Varicam and Sony’s HDCAM SR.This year’s hot topics included HDV and electronic cinematography, content protection and rights management, as well as display technologies.Arri’s Stephan Ukas-Bradley presented the results of camera tests on the D20. The camera, which boasts a custom-designed 35mm CMOS image sensor that enables cinematographers to use traditional cine-style lenses and accessories, is already available for rental at CSC in New York, as well as Arri facilities in London and Germany. It offers at least 10 stops of latitude, operating at the equivalent of ISO 100, 200 or 400, giving a resolution of 2880×2160 pixels in its raw data mode.But Ukas-Bradley admitted that the camera is still a work in progress on some key fronts. Challenges the company is still facing include the availability of FlashMag onboard hard drives (being built by Thomson), fiber interfaces, LUT creation, color management and metadata handling as well as a workflow for the raw-data mode.NHK Japan Broadcasting Corp.’s Science and Technology Research Lab and Stanford University’s Center for Image Engineering presented a paper on a new 8K camera they’ve developed called Super Hi-Vision. It captures 7680×4320 progressive images at 60 fps. Still more science project than a product, the camera has been used as a technical test bed for NHK.Olympus, a manufacturer of medical imaging equipment and digital still cameras, gave the first US demo of its Octavision Quad HD 8 Megapixel motion picture camera. The camera uses four 2/3-inch image sensors to deliver a resolution of 3840×2160 as a 4:2:2 Quicktime file. It features selectable gamma curves with seven 2D LUTs on board. The company has also built a field recorder that can store 480 GB for approximately an hour of recording. One camera that generated buzz wasn’t even at the show. Red Digital Cinema is claiming that it will be able to skip several generations of evolution and build a 4K, 4:4:4 camera that can run at speeds of up to 60 fps in a package just bigger than an HDV camera. The company claims that it has developed a 35mm image sensor (coyly dubbed Mysterium) that can accommodate that kind of throughput. It was the topic of much discussion, and a healthy degree of skepticism. The company is planning to announce details at NAB.One of the key challenges of electronic cinematography remains the field recording technology. Codex Digital introduced its high-resolution media recorder—a stylized, ruggedized field recorder for high-end electronic cinematography cameras like Dalsa’s Origin, Thomson’s Viper, Arri’s D20 or Panavision’s Genesis. The recorder, which uses removable disc packs that can store up to 50 minutes of 4K data, is expected to ship this spring, and will be distributed in the US by LA-based Armadillo, which also represents postproduction networking company Sohonet.Sohonet managing director Dave Scammel explained that the two companies have a natural synergy: “We’re picking up some of the commercial aspects of bringing the product to market. Codex is a field-recording device for digital cameras and Sohonet is a networking company. If you’re going to record all this data on set, your going to have to work out how to deal with all of that data, and so it’s a great relationship between the two companies.”A big topic of discussion was new environmental legislation that restricts the use of lead in electronics products, meaning that the lead solder that has served as the cartilage of the electronics industry for decades has to be phased out, and the lead in CRT monitors will be considered hazardous waste.That means a lot of manufacturers have had to rethink and re-engineer their products.“There are extreme penalties,” said SGI’s director of production, media industries, Louise Ledeen. “Some companies are putting in warehousing in some countries so they can have a buffer. It’s a lot of work. We’ve had to go back to suppliers and make sure they’re compliant—everything from fiber channel cards supplies and Ethernet cards—all of the stuff that you take for granted.”There was a half-day seminar and a full morning session devoted to the question: “If we’re verging on the demise of picture tubes, both in consumer and postproduction facility displays, can we make a liquid crystal, plasma, or DLP screen look as good?” That question will become more acute for colorists as their beloved CRT monitors are phased out.Sony has already phased out most of its high-end CRT grade-one monitors (the de facto standard in color suites around the world). But contrary to persistent rumors, the company asserted that it will continue to sell its high-end BVM-A series monitors until an LCD monitor for color correction applications can be developed.People are looking to LCD manufacturers like E-Cinema Systems and Cine-Tal to make that leap.Although many still doubt that LCD is up to the demanding specs of a grade-one monitor (particularly in terms of contrast ratio), Cine-Tal has built in a set of features that make its monitor production-friendly, including the ability to plug in an LUT via a USB drive and apply a look to the monitor display while passing the unaltered signal through the display to the recorder. This gives productions the ability to preview their footage on set, with a look already applied, while giving the colorist an image that hasn’t been futzed with, with a temp look mistakenly baked in.
Written by Scott Lehane