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NAB Coverage/3D

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As the use of digital cameras gains momentum, the biggest concerns among cinematographers are quality issues including dynamic range and resolution. At NAB 2003, manufacturers unveiled camera technology in the hopes of meeting the requirements of these filmmakers.
Thomson’s Viper camera, which was one of the showstoppers at NAB 2002, continued to generate interest (see related story on the making of the demo), along with some new developments.
Among them, was DALSA Corp.’s new 4k X 2k digital cinematography camera that is expected to ship in the spring of 2004.
Designed by DALSA from the ground up with close consultation from a number of cinematographers, DALSA’s camera incorporates a 35mm film-sized, scientific-grade, CCD image sensor designed specifically for cinematography. At a resolution of eight million pixels (4k x 2k), the DALSA-designed sensor offers four times the resolution of HDTV in an effort to offer more “film-like” images. The DALSA-designed sensor is not limited to a fixed frame rate. It can operate at variable frame rates – at full resolution and full image quality – making is suitable for shooting slow-motion.
“The top two concerns we uncovered among cinematographers regarding their reluctance to move from film to digital – next to resolution and dynamic range – were lensing and viewing systems,” reported Dave Litwiller, DALSA’s VP, marketing and business development. “We recognized early on that our camera had to incorporate standard 35mm PL mount cinema lenses and a precision reflex viewing system in order to ease adoption. Our camera does both.”
JVC and Rockwell Scientific introduced HD-CMOS high definition camera technology with an HD camera that utilizes the next-generation of Rockwell Scientific’s CMOS chips. The camera outputs 1920×1080/59.94i format and provides two SMPTE 292M HD-SDI outputs. The configuration is box style and features a 2/3-inch bayonet lens. The camera system includes a data rate of 75MHz at full HD resolution.
Unique to this new camera is the use of three 2/3-inch 2.1 megapixel ProCam-HD CMOS image sensors developed by Rockwell. Doug Howe, Rockwell’s director of business development explained that the major difference between CMOS and CCD technology is that CMOS is low power, making it especially appropriate for portable cameras. “CMOS uses 20 percent of the power needed for a CCD chip set, so the battery power is extended,” he said, adding that the camera would therefore generate less heat, which contributes to noise. “So less heat means better noise performance,” Howe added.
The sensor has high dynamic range (more than 68dB) and sensitivity, no visible smear and low fixed pattern noise.
Panasonic presented its new standard definition DVCPRO Cinema Camera, the AJ-SDX900, designed to complement its popular AJ-HDC27F Varicam system.
The AJ-SDX900 offers its operator-controllable selection of EFP-quality 4:2:2 sampled DVCPRO50 or 4:1:1 sampled DVCPRO recording, and native 16:9 wide screen or conventional 4:3 aspect ratios. The camera provides 24 frames per second progressive scan (480/24p) acquisition, in addition to 30 frames per second progressive (480/30p) and 60-fields-per-second interlace scan (480/60i) capture.
It features three newly-developed 2/3-inch 520,000-pixel IT CCDs with progressive-scanning capability that provides a sensitivity of F13 at 2000 lux, 65dB signal-to-noise ratio and low-light shooting down to 0.09 lux (+48dB). The AJ-SDX900 offers a maximum record time of 33 minutes in DVCPRO50 and 66 minutes in DVCPRO, and four 48kHz/16-bit digital audio channels in 50Mbps DVCPRO50.
It is scheduled for availability in May at a targeted list price of less than $30,000.
And as reported last month in Below the Line, Sony introduced the HDC-F950, a new version of its Cine Alta HDCAM camcorder, which is capable of capturing 4:4:4 RGB and 50 percent more data than the current camera version. Sony reported that this new version was developed with input from leading filmmakers such as James Cameron and George Lucas.

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