Which technologies will be the big attractions at this year’s IBC? From cameras to media recorders, lenses and 4K, Televisual talks to IBC regulars about what will be causing a stir
Cameras: from Arri, Canon, Sony and Panasonic to JVC, Blackmagic and Cion
At NAB there was a glut of new cameras launches, something which delegates attending IBC don’t expect to see repeated.
If NAB was about camera concepts, IBC will be more about seeing the kit in the flesh and pricing it, says S+O Media head of operations Tony Mawby.
“Blackmagic’s offerings were interesting. Although a lot of people have since written them off, there are some fantastic features in the Studio Camera and 4K Blackmagic URSA and the Cinema Camera.”
Onsight’s Richard Mills is already using the Blackmagic Cinema Camera as a third unit camera. “It’s becoming more popular but some regard it as rather bulky. Likewise the URSA, which we are also keeping an eye on.”
Another 4K newcomer is the AJA Cion 4K/UHD camera. “That’s got some great features too and I’m particularly interested in taking a closer look at its connectivity options,” says Mawby. “What I’ll want to do is get my hands on it as new cameras are hard to access until you are actually face to face with a working model.”
WTS Broadcast sales manager Duncan Payne is also keen on the Cion. “Judging by the pre-launch interest, even before a UK price has been confirmed, it’ll give existing contenders a run for their money, as AJA’s technical pedigree and know-how is well trusted.”
Onsight’s CTO Richard Mills also singles out the 4K capable GH4, Panasonic’s lightweight, compact and powerful DSLR. “It shows promise and is smaller than the Canon 1DC, another highly spec’d camera that we are impressed with.”
VMI md Barry Bassett agrees. “The GH4 is an excellent 4K camera – small and with beautiful pictures – but still has associated problems with audio input, picture monitoring and sensor size. You can fix this, but there’s a lot of fixes when the Arri Amira just works without any bits to add.”
“There’s no escaping that everyone loves the versatility and simplicity of the Amira and the simplicity and [low] cost of the C300, so we are really looking forward to what Arri do with the Amira roadmap – including its latest plans for 4K.
“It will also be interesting to see how Canon plan to supersede the C300 and C500, now that they have seen the Amira,” says Bassett.
Procam head of systems Don Grant will be keeping an eye out for innovations in miniature cameras following huge demand for camera rig shows from clients.
He will be looking at Sony’s GoPro competitor the Action Cam. Small cameras are also in vogue at S+O says Tony Mawby, who is a fan of the Sony A7S. “ It’s a brilliant little camera, although I don’t’ see it as a run and gun camera to stack up with other DSLRs.
"We are looking at it as a decent in car minicam. GoPro is very popular with production cost wise, but dealing with the footage is always an issue. It means that that the ‘cheap’ GoPro can become very expensive in post.” There’s clearly a big opportunity for a new miniature camera that can stand up to the rigors of broadcast production.
Payne confirms that the A7S will be a big draw on the Sony stand. “With the Lennie/Bloom/Chapman social media jungle-drums beating loud and clear, the A7S will also be popular no doubt. If you’re still in the dark about this camera don’t worry as it’ll be able to see you even with the lens cap on such is its low light capability!”
Standby for a big upgrade on the Sony FS700 too – a Mark II version is rumoured which will aims to simplify 4K workflows.
At the other end of the market, Mawby will be viewing the new Panasonic Varicams. “I’ll be really interested at where they come in on price with the Varicam 35,” adds Mawby. “It’s very well made, but the worry is they’ll shoulder into the market at too high a price – plus I was really hoping for a wow factor such as super slow motion.”
And spare a thought for JVC’s new Super35mm 4K camera,” he adds. “The days where it was just Panasonic or Sony and you’d be mad to touch anything else are long gone. A few years ago who’d have imagined we’d consider buying a camera from AJA or Blackmagic?”
Media Recorders: Atomos, AJA and CD to Video Devices Cinedeck and Codex
Although most cameras are now designed to meet broadcasters’ bit rate technical requirements, the world of media recorders continues to evolve at speed. This means that a visit to the main broadcast recorder manufacturers such as Atomos, AJA, Convergent Design, Video Devices, Cinedeck, and Codex can be well worth the trouble.
Onsight CTO Richard Mills has a visit to Codex on his to do list. He wants to see a working version of its Action Cam remote head camera system, which can shoot up to 60fps. With the popularity of drones and remote recording on the increase there’s been no let up in interest in pocket sized media recorders.
Atomos will be one of the main ports of call for people interested in the latest recorder technology, with IBC one of the best opportunities to get to grips with new models such as the Ninja Star, the pocket sized flash-based recorder designed for drones and GoPro style shooting. The £179 price tag makes it a quick and easy way to get ProRes from GoPro footage, but media recorders are certainly an area where you get what you pay for.
The more expensive the recorder the more codecs it can handle and the better the monitor – with many camera operators and hire companies wary of recorders which can’t display video output these days. In fact, one of the main reasons for looking at recorders in the flesh is to find out whether the cheaper models are actually up to the job.
Many believe that simply paying more for a recorder buys you a certain amount of reliability and quality. Says VMI md Barry Bassett: “There’s no doubt that cheap recorders don’t really offer the functionality of the more expensive units.”
Atomos’s expanded range
At the top end of Atomos’ range comes the Shogun, its forthcoming 4K ProRes and RAW capable recorder offering 12G-SDI and 4K HDMI outputs.
This is expected to generate plenty of interest. Says Procam’s head of systems Don Grant: “We have invested a lot in Video Devices – the PIX270i recorder/player and Pic240i portable recorders because of the advanced functions they have.”
“You can attach hard drives and record multiple streams. We bought six recently and will want to go to Video Devices and find out what updates they have coming up,” says Grant.
“In fact, one of the things we like about IBC is you get a chance to talk to companies about feature changes and product updates. When you deal with Atomos on a daily basis you talk to customer support or sales side but not the people that make the decisions about future features.”
Another popular recorder is Convergent Design’s Odyssey 7Q, which can now be paired with the Sony FS700 converting it into a 4K camera.
It has transformed the Sony FS700 from a marginally useful camera into a 4K camera capable of 200fps slow mo (dependent on a future firmware release) at entry level cost. Proof that planned updates and modifications in media recorders are really worth keeping an eye on.
Trends in lenses
The big news in lenses is the next generation of 4K and anamorphic lenses which the big manufacturers – such as Angenieux, Cooke and Fujinon – are bringing out.
On the Canon stand its new all-rounder the CN7 x17 4K 17-120mm Cine Servo Zoom will be pulling the crowds. Procam has already ordered it, as has S+O. Procam operations director Paul Sargeant is also looking for new PL lenses to add to the company’s stock. Onsight CTO Richard Mills adds that Fujinon – manufacturer of the 4K compatible Cabrio Zoom – is one to watch.
“What we also need is more 4:3 camera lenses, as Arri is the only offering in this field at the moment,” says Mills.
VMI’s Barry Bassett adds: “There’s already a lot of talk about lens manufacturers stepping into the anamorphic market. We already own some anamorphics and have sizeable advanced orders for these in 2015 expecting our clients to want to shoot in 2.35 anamorphic. But what is interesting is the reason is not simply about the format but also about how the ‘bokeh’ of the defocussed images changes when you shoot. You end up with a completely different look to shooting with spherical lenses.”
The problem about today’s high resolution cameras and lens market is that everyone gets pin sharp images which look great, but what DPs want is images that stand out and look different.
This is what has fuelled the move towards inferior retro ‘vintage’ glass, says Bassett. “Pictures shot with these lenses look different – not necessarily ‘better’ but ‘different’. Shooting anamorphic is simply another method for achieving this.”
VMI already owns classic Kowas which have recently been rehoused, plus it has ordered the new Cooke S4 anamorphic primes and the new Angenieux 56-152mm anamorphic zoom.
Other hire companies are taking a more cautious approach. Says S+O’s Tony Mawby: “We have been looking at lenses, but they are all still very expensive. We have a lot of filmic lenses and an anamorphic camera, but expect the new offerings will be a little bit out of our price range.” Sigma is one photographic lens manufacturer talking about entering the broadcast video market, says Mawby.
“It has a good reputation and it’ll be interesting to see how it transfers to video. The big question is can Sigma keep the quality up and the prices down?,” he adds, pointing out that Sigma will need to come in at the higher end of the market, where it will compete with Arri, Zeiss and Angenieux, avoiding the lower end where there is a glut of cheaper Chinese imports.
There has been much talk about 4K but so far less practical engagement with 4K kit from broadcasters and producers. As a result 4K products haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves. But that won’t stop manufacturers banging the drum.
Says Azule Finance md Peter Savage: “They are going to be trying very hard to alleviate the perception that 4K is expensive, difficult and elite. Expect heavily edited shots of 4K World Cup football on the Sony and Grass Valley stands.”
But if buyers, from producers to post production, are not quite ready to make major investments in 4K there is still plenty of interest.
Most hire companies have a 4K camera or are thinking about getting one. Similarly facilities might have a 4K reference monitor, or if not, they are thinking of buying one. It’s all about positioning the company as 4K-ready.
Says Envy head of operations Jai Cave: “We have seen an increase in enquiries, so we are interested in new 4K products and existing product updates throughout the workflow chain, from camera updates to 4K displays.”
WTS Broadcast sales manager Duncan Payne adds that a 4K camera designed specifically for OB market is a big priority. “There’s the Sony’s F55 PL mount camera, with a fibre adaptor on the back and Grass Valley showed a prototype 4K OB camera at NAB. It will be interesting to see the progress that they’ve made.” VMI’s Barry Bassett adds: “4K is going to be increasingly important for lens manufacturers.
“Bear in mind that high end lenses (Cooke S4s, Zeiss MasterPrimes) are already 4K rated while lesser lenses are not – although people might not realise this. Expect a branding exercise to sell us what we already have – like offering us ‘organic wild strawberries’”.
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