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IBC Wrapup-Trendspotting

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This was a pivotal year for the International Broadcasting Convention, Amsterdam’s annual broadcast, production and postproduction trade show.
The big topics this year were data-centric workflows and stereoscopic 3D. From Dalsa and Red at 4K resolution, down to the Sony XDCAM EX, there is a recognition that data acquisition is an idea whose time has come.
A few days before IBC, Red shipped its first 25 cameras – a major accomplishment for a scrappy, 18-month old company that aims to take on the world with a $17,500 4K camera. Just after IBC, it shipped another 25, but shipments have since been put on hold, while the company deals with some technical bugs.
Silicon Imaging, makers of an uncompressed 2K camera, called the SI-2K (as well as the SI-2K Mini), introduced synchronization tools for frame-accurate recording of stereo-3D and multicamera shoots. Using a new multicamera control, up to nine SI-2Ks can be synched for use in stereo 3D and 360-degree configurations.
The company also introduced an optional optical viewfinder for the SI-2K Mini, as well as a new SVGA OLED electronic viewfinder. Plus, SI can now record the CineForm RAW codec in a QuickTime file format.
German company, GS Vitec showed up at IBC with its new uncompressed 2K data camera – the noX Camera. The company has been developing noX for over four years. The noX camera offers more than 12 f-stops of dynamic range and its single 1.2-inch CCD chip with 14-bit A/D converter allows users to shoot 2K resolution at up to 24/25P with a 35mm depth of field.
“Our aim was to create a camera that was very close to 35mm in workflow, handling and in image,” said Frank Gabler, managing director of GS Vitec.
Frames are stored in uncompressed RAW format directly on the internal noX 2K datapack. Recordings can be immediately reviewed using the built-in clip browser.
The company is also offering an on-set recorder called noXboX, which offers 180 minutes of recording time at uncompressed 2K 4:4:4 RAW data rates.
Arri, meanwhile, has added a unique “hand crank” mechanism to its digital camera – the D-20.
“I think I can safely say that we’re the first and only digital production camera that can be hand cranked,” said Arri’s Bill Lowell. “This is 100-year-old technology applied to a 1-year-old camera to emulate the effects of the old fashioned hand-cranked film cameras … it’s more fun than anything else, but we do it because we can.”
Thomson announced that it plans to start shipping its long-awaited (and long overdue) Infinity Camcorder in January. The company first announced that it was working on Infinity at IBC in 2005, but the camera has been held up by numerous engineering delays.
Infinity relies on new Xensium CMOS image sensors (made by Thomson) instead of traditional CCD image sensors, and it records to either REV PRO media (a technology developed by Iomega) or standard CompactFlash cards.
With over 23,000 XDCAM units shipped worldwide, Sony is now taking its first foray into the world of solid state recording with its new XDCAM EX – a camera that targets everything from high-end prosumers, to ENG applications and indie filmmakers. The camera is scheduled to ship in November.
“We’re actively targeting the prosumer market now,” said Naomi Cliner, VP Sony Europe. “It’s more than 10 times the volume of sales that we get from broadcast, so the good news for the broadcast industry is that they’ll benefit from the economies of scale that we can achieve in the prosumer market.”
Recording
There’s also a lot going on in terms of recording technologies. Although they didn’t exhibit at IBC, Panasonic took the opportunity to announce that its new 32 GB P2 memory card will ship by December. The 32 GB P2 card quadruples the capacity of P2 cards available just a year ago.
S.two announced that it is ready to ship its DFR4K uncompressed 4K digital field recorder. The company exhibited the DFR4K at the Dalsa booth
The DFR4K is a portable, DC and battery operated uncompressed 4K recorder. It uses a single compact DMAG4 disk magazine with more than 32 minutes capacity and offers optical infiniband support for Dalsa’s Digital Cinema line of 4K cameras.
Codex Digital announced that its HD, 2K, and 4K recording systems now support the Arri D-20 in data-mode. Codex captures and stores the raw, unprocessed data from the camera’s 4:3 sensor, making maximum use of its 2880 x 2160 resolution and 12-bit bit-depth, with real time unsqueezed playback of anamorphic material.
Codex also has the ability to demosaic and downsample the Arri D-20’s Bayer pattern images in real time. This feature, (also used when recording from the Dalsa Origin 4K data-mode camera), means that material captured with the D-20 can be viewed and passed onto editorial without the need for lengthy de-Bayering and downconversion.
Codex already works with such digital cinematography cameras as the Sony F23, Panavision Genesis and Thomson Viper FilmStream and the company plans to support data-mode recording from cameras such as Vision Research’s high-speed Phantom cameras as well as Red’s RED ONE, when data-mode outputs become available from those cameras.
Color Space was exhibiting its Icon uncompressed 4:4:4 4K field recorder – a rugged portable recorder capable of storing up to 20 minutes of striped or bayered 4K on hard drives. The company, which is represented by Armadillo in the U.S., expects to have beta units out in December.
Postproduction
Autodesk introduced a number of interoperability enhancements between its products (and third parties’) at the show. The company has added Standard File System Support, to give users more options in terms of worklows.
“Typically we have worked with direct attached storage like a stone, and now there’s an opportunity for our customers to attach to a volume system like a NAS or a SAN,” said Marcus Schioler, product marketing manager for Autodesk’s Media and Entertainment division. “What we’ve tried to do with Standard File System is open it up, so that our systems can work natively now with open, industry-standard file formats like DPX.
“Lustre has always been doing this, but now you can create a centralized environment like a SAN or a NAS so that you can collaborate off of central storage,” he said. “Now, you can be purely centralized, if that’s the way you want to do it.”
The company has also gone through a major effort to standardize the toolsets in smoke and flame, starting with a new 16 x 9 user interface.
“Smoke got better compositing tools and flame got better editorial capabilities,” said Schioler. That includes things like smoke’s multilayered timeline in Flame, (and Lustre), and some of Flame’s compositing tools ported to smoke.
“Whatever smoke sends to Flame, Flame can use, and whatever Flame sends back, Smoke can manipulate,” said Schioler. “It makes it a lot easier for them to collaborate, especially now that they’ve got this SAN environment in which they can be working without even having to pass the media across the network.”
Stereoscopic 3D was another huge topic at IBC.
Quantel launched a range of Stereoscopic 3D postproduction systems to deal with some of the challenges of real-time 3D post processes. The new Quantel 3D systems are designed to handle issues like colorimetry, sync, editorial and imaging errors in context. Other special 3D features include a comparison mode (50/50 mix, left/right eye, difference map) and the ability to see when left/right eye link is broken. All of these are designed to deliver a WYSIWYG experience for the operator and the client.
The new Stereo 3D toolset is available as an option on all new Pablo 4K, iQ4 and Max 4K systems. Additionally all existing Pablo 4K or iQ systems can upgrade to stereoscopic 3D, providing a start-to-finish stereo workflow including previs
ualization, editing, VFX, color correction, trailers and mastering. The Quantel Stereoscopic 3D Option for Pablo iQ and Max has the ability to playout and manipulate two simultaneous streams of HD or 2K in sync and without rendering.
Quantel is also launching a cheaper dedicated stereoscopic postproduction workstation called Sid.
Sid comes in two configurations – as a full stereo online system and also as a straightforward viewing, conform and mastering system.
“Some post houses need a cost effective back room stereoscopic system as a ‘hub’ for their existing tools” said Mark Horton, Quantel strategic marketing manager. “Others want a dedicated stereo room, where a whole project can be finished with a client attending. Plus, of course, current Pablo or iQ customers can now handle stereo in their existing suites.”
Digital Vision unveiled Phoenix, a software product for automatically restoring and re-mastering film and video content. Phoenix uses sophisticated algorithms to automatically fix common image problems, and provides fast, high-quality digital re-mastering in a range of media formats to address high-def DVD, pay-per-view and pay-per-download VOD over IP services.
Company president and COO Simon Cuff also revealed that the company is releasing a Photoshop plug-in with Filmmaster’s color correction tool. It gives the company a foray into on-set color correction.
The plug in can also output an ASC CDL.
Da Vinci Systems and Arri have developed a file exchange process for tight integration between Arri’s Arriscan film scanner and da Vinci’s Resolve color enhancement and Revival restoration systems. The new da Vinci-Arri Exchange protocol allows for close coordination between a facility’s scanning and color correction departments, improving workflow efficiency.
Imagica Technologies announced that it is working on an IMAGER HSX-8K Film Scanner. The company will demonstrate a prototype of the HSX-8K at next year’s NAB exhibition, with units to begin shipping in September 2008.
The IMAGER HSX-8K Film Scanner will be able to scan 35mm 4-perf film at four frames of 4K per second, or eight frames per second at 2K. The system, which can also be configured to scan two frames of 8K per second, has been re-architectured to use a custom designed 8K x 6K CCD area array sensor with high resolution, high dynamic range and low noise, as well as fast readouts allowing for high-speed scanning.
The Pixel Farm is now shipping its PFTrack 4.1. The new version adds Autodesk FBX and Apple Motion file formats and support for Vista. It also allows users to render an Open GL preview to disk, for shot approval, without having to export data to a 3D application.

Written by Scott Lehane

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