Shooting for 4K Clarity at CES

With Ultra HD television sets likely to be a major theme at the International CES 2015 this week, there will also be some notable activity on the 4K camera front at show exhibits in the South Hall and at the Photo Marketing Association events in Las Vegas.

While most broadcasters are years away from regular UltraHD feeds, manufacturers stress that 4K cameras offer a number of advantages for HD production. “You have higher dynamic range, better low light sensitivity, wider color gamut and better picture quality with the 4K sensor,” says Peter Crithary, marketing manager, camera technologies, Sony Electronics. “More and more broadcasters are realizing they can take advantage of 4K technologies today for their HD production and be future-proofed for the inevitable move to 4K.”

To encourage wider adoption, a number of vendors have either launched new 4K cameras or have significantly upgraded existing ones.

At IBC, for example, JVC announced a new line of 4K models that include the GY-LS300 with a 4K super 35mm CMOS censor, notes Craig Yanagi, manager of marketing and brand strategy, JVC Professional Products. “The combination of a super 35mm sensor and the MFT mount gives users the flexibility to use the widest variety of lenses and adaptors,” he says.

Recently, Panasonic North America also entered the 4K market with the launch of the new VariCam35 and VariCam HS camera and recorder system. Steve Mahrer, the company’s technology alliance manager and P2 product manager explains that the new VariCam 35 4K camera, which was recently used to produce a series in 4K for Amazon, was designed to help streamline 4K workflows and to be adapted to a wide range of production needs.

“It is a multipurpose camera that does 4K, 2K and proxies for parallel workflows,” Mahrer says. “That allows users to simultaneously record a 4K master while producing a 2K copy that can be used today for broadcast as well as a proxy.”

For added flexibility, the VariCam 35 camera head can be exchanged with Panasonic’s new VariCam HS in a common dockable shared recording module. That way, users can switch between the two camera heads for different production needs.

Others are working on cameras that might be more easily adapted to live production. Klaus Weber, senior product marketing manager for cameras at Grass Valley, adds that many of the 4K cameras currently on the market were designed for cinema or high-end TV production with large sensors that aren’t easily adapted to live sports production, where 2/3-inch sensors and long lenses are widely used.

“There is a real demand for a 4K camera for live production,” says Weber; that has prompted Grass Valley to demo a prototype 4K camera at IBC with a 2/3-inch sensor. “It can use the regular 2/3-inch HD lenses that have a large zoom range and a large depth of field—all the things they need for live production—with a 4K output,” he says.

Meanwhile, existing 4K camera producers continue to make notable improvements to their models.

Crithary says Sony has launched an adaptor for shoulder-mount shooting with its F5 and F55 cameras. “The adaptor basically lets you turn these cameras into traditional broadcast-run and gun-shoulder-mounted cameras so that you have access to all the same features in the same place that [camera operators] would expect from our broadcast cameras,” he says.

Larry Thorpe, a senior fellow at Canon U.S.A. adds that firmware upgrades to their Cinema EOS cameras provide wider color gamut and other features. “They can have the 4K master and even if they are delivering in HD, they’ll have a richer color gamut,” he says, adding that the 4K sensors in their cameras also deliver very high dynamic range that now is better than film.

“Just a few years ago, people would have gasped to have seen that kind of quality,” he says.

Going With the ’Flow

While advances in 4K sensors and image quality get the most press, the effortto streamline workflows for traditional HD camerasremains arguably the industry’s biggestfocus. “There is no flow without the workflow,” quips Peter Crithary, marketing manager for camera technologies at Sony Electronics.

To address those issues, Canon’s smaller ENG cameras, for example, combine improved imageswith the ability to handle multiple codecs and built-in wireless connectivity, says Larry Thorpe, senior fellow at Canon U.S.A.

“Broadcasters are saying that if you don’t have wireless in the camera, don’t bother talking to us,” adds Steve Mahrer, technology alliance manager and P2 product manager at Panasonic North America.

The newly released Panasonic AJ-PG50 field recorder handles a variety of codecs, including AVC-Ultra, and has LAN and wireless connectivityon the main unit, which weighs only 2.4 pounds.

Beyond built-in connectivity, newer HD cameras are also being designed to speed up delivery to multiple digital platforms, says Craig Yanagi, manager of marketing and brand strategy, JVC Professional Products.

JVC recently announced an alliance with streaming media tech provider Wowza Media Systems so that streams from the company’s IP-connected cameras will be automatically converted for delivery to multiple devices. “It is really a boon for broadcasters looking to reach multiple screens,” Yanagi says.