UltraHD 4K is here. Within a short period of time 4K cameras and UltraHD TV sets have arrived at film/TV industry events, from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).
Video has become a predominate means of entertainment and communication. With democratized media, the ordinary person has the means to shoot video with their smartphone and upload it to the Internet. The proliferation of video has set a higher bar for professionals, making UltraHD 4K a natural progression from High Definition and 2K.
According to Nielsen Research, Americans now own, on average, four digital devices and spend 60 hours a week consuming content on those devices. A majority of U.S. households own HDTVs, Internet-connected computers and smartphones.
Although 4K TVs have only been on the market for a short time, dramatic sales have shown the hunger for higher resolution content. DisplaySearch reports that global shipments of 4K LCD TVs “soared nearly 700 percent to 12,730 sets in 2014.” In dollars, that represents 20 percent of total global TV sales of U.S. $83.5 billion.
In 2014, the drumbeat for 4K cameras and other gear began. At NAB 2015, we’ll see more 4K cameras, as well as infrastructure and systems for complete UHD production and post. In this feature, you’ll learn about the latest in 4K camera systems from Sony, a pioneer in High Definition and now leading the way in 4K. You’ll also hear about the professional 4K monitor from EIZO, another company that prides itself on keeping up on the forefront of innovation.
The one missing piece has been content, but that’s quickly being rectified. Dozens of feature films, newly transferred to 4K, have been the low-hanging fruit of 4K content. But it’s original content that’s going gangbusters.
Among the distributors of content, streaming video is pushing the market for UHD/4K content forward. Netflix was the first to the table, with the announcement at the beginning of 2014 that all their original programming would be streamed in 4K. True to the promise, Season 2 of House of Cards debuted in April that year in 4K. Netflix has shot additional 4K content, including the miniseries Marco Polo, and distributed 4K content such as the hit series The Blacklist.
Amazon is another OTT content provider that’s made huge strides in creating 4K content: Mozart in the Jungle, Transparent, Alpha House, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street and the TV series Orphan Black. Other sources for 4K content include DirecTV, Comcast, YouTube, UltraFlix, M-Go, and Samsung.
Also in the works is a 4K Blu-Ray standard.
Sports broadcasting is a “killer app” for UHD/4K, and broadcasters are also moving towards 4K. In 2013, Sony and FIFA successfully created a 4K live production workflow at the Confederations Cup in Brazil, followed by the World Cup in 2014. More recently, at the end of 2014, Time Warner Cable successfully produced two “proof of concept” 4K broadcasts: the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) high school football Division 1 Championship Game on December 19 and an NBA regular season game between the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors on December 23. This proof of concept involved a large number of companies with 4K solutions, including Sony, Canon, Adtec Digital, Chyron Hego, Evertz and Cisco.
What’s clear is that we’re just at the beginning of a wave of 4K content as well as ways to distribute and enjoy UltraHD, from game consoles and smartphones to TV sets and movie theatre projection. As more companies release solutions to offer choices for a complete end-to-end 4K workflow, 4K content creation will ramp up. Now is the time to get on board to enjoy the full benefits of understanding how to make an UltraHD/4K production work.
With Japan resolutely heading towards 8K broadcast, we know that the evolution of imagery won’t stop at 4K. We’re already hearing that drumbeat with 6K cameras, HDR (High Dynamic Range) and wider color gamut. In this feature, SHOOT takes a deep dive – beyond the hype – to reveal real solutions in 4K and how the experts are putting together the workflows that make 4K productions real.
Sony: A pioneer in 4K
Just as Sony was a pioneer in High Definition, so the company has been a leader in 4K. “Sony introduced its first commercial 4K projectors in movie theaters in 2005,” says Rob Willox, Senior Marketing Manager, Content Creation at Sony’s Professional Solutions Americas group. “Now there are more than 18,000 Sony 4K projectors installed at movie theaters and in other non-cinema applications – from small independent theaters to large circuits like AMC and Regal.” Willox reveals that Sony 4K projection technology is also used in command and control, simulation and visualization, training, government use, theme parks, museums, auditoriums and lecture halls and more.
Sony was also first to market with a 4K Ultra HD video download service – Video Unlimited 4K – and other consumer 4K technology highlights include 4K Ultra High Definition TVs (84-, 65-, and 55-inch sets), an Ultra HD Media Player (FMP-X1), a 4K home projector, and a full line of 4K-capable home entertainment products.
Following the launch of its 4K digital cinema projectors, Sony introduced a series of professional 4K digital motion picture cameras, starting with the 8K sensor F65, and then the F55 and F5 cameras, all of which have been widely adopted for feature films, sports, TV shows, commercials, documentaries and more.
“Sony’s 4K professional line-up has dramatically expanded to now include compact camcorders such as the PXW-FS7, NEX-FS700 and PXW-Z100 models, 4K-ready production switchers, 4K/HD servers and the new PMW-PZ1 4K/HD player and 4K OLED master monitors,” says Willox.
Sony has mastered one of the biggest challenges in producing 4K content: end-to-end workflow. “Sony is the only company that can deliver a total 4K ecosystem for documentaries, sports, music videos commercials and production at all budget levels,” he says.
“With each of its 4K cameras, Sony’s approach has been to develop the right technologies that meet today’s production requirements, and to provide the tools that enable a professional’s creativity,” he adds. “Ongoing upgrades and product development have enabled the addition of new codecs and recording options, all offering compatibility with most workflow platforms. Today’s camera technologies are continually delivering better image quality and higher performance to give professionals more flexibility.”
The cameras’ ability to produce 16-bit RAW delivers the highest dynamic range and color fidelity, with other creative advantages including more post-production flexibility in cropping, re-framing, and image stabilization. New technologies are making the 4K post process easier, more efficient and less expensive. For example, using the XAVC codec, 4K at 24P is only 240 Mbps, just 20 Mbps more than leading third party codecs in HD. “In fact, the 4K workflow isn’t any harder or less expensive than it is in HD – a change from just a year or two ago,” says Willox.
4K makes HD look better; there is more post production flexibility, and assets are “future proofed.” According to Willox, an increasing number of production professionals are realizing there is a value to shooting 4K now for HD and keeping that evergreen “4K Negative” on the shelf for later use.
Recent camera upgrades have included an optional hardware and firmware upgrade that transforms the F5 camera to an F55, and a 4K upgrade option designed to enable a host of improvements including: XAVC 4K/QFHD recording and playback; 4K SDI and 4K HDMI Output; and simultaneous recording (XAVC 4K/QFHD) with MPEG 50Mbps 422; a shoulder mount dock so users can quickly convert an F5 or F55 into a run-and-gun ENG/documentary camcorder; and Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD onboard recording.
At NAB 2015, Sony will announce new upgrades and features for many of its cameras, from large sensor models like F65 and F55 to its shoulder-mount and compact camcorders, as well as highlight new software updates for other products. “Sony has a commitment to keep investing in these 4K cameras and assuring customers that their investments in Sony technology will keep them abreast of changes in technology,” says Willox.
With this appetite for higher resolution, Sony’s 4K cameras and other products are being adopted by the film and TV industries. Some of the recent and upcoming motion pictures shot on Sony 4K cameras includes Annie, The Wedding Ringer, Dolphin Tale 2, Let’s Be Cops, No Good Deed, Ted 2, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Tomorrowland and Monkey Kingdom. On the small screen, TV’s top drama, The Blacklist, is shot with Sony 4K cameras, as is the top comedy, The Big Bang Theory, leading a long list of sitcoms and dramas.
Sony F65s and F55 have been widely used in live sports, mostly for cut-ins, zooms and high frame-rate capture and to produce crisper and more accurate replays for HD broadcasts.
Documentaries and commercials are increasingly being shot with Sony 4K camera. Willox reports that 4K acquisition for commercials has actually been occurring for the past several years. Sony’s PlayStation group uses F65 and F55 cameras for many of its spots, notably last year’s “Call of Duty” commercial and recent spots for the new Playstation 4 game “Destiny.”
There are also several growing areas for 4K production, most notably in over-the-top programming, where streaming and on-demand services like Netflix (Bloodline, Marco Polo), Hulu (Deadbeat) and Amazon (Alpha House) are all using F65s and 55s to create their original programming.
Another growth area is live concert production, where F55s have shot concerts by a range of artists including Katy Perry and Foo Fighters, with production crews taking advantage of the camera’s ability to capture a concert with a “filmic” look with a shallow depth of field.
In conclusion, Sony has been proving itself in 4K since 2005. That’s given the company years to develop technology, fix problems and come up with new ideas. The result is a range of 4K cameras for every budget and products that create a robust 4K workflow. That’s no small accomplishment for those seeking an end-to-end solution, and Sony offers just that for content creators who want to dive into this new world of 4K and Ultra High Definition.
EIZO: monitoring in 4K
In the world of UltraHD/4K, monitoring poses special challenges; professional solutions are few and far between. Now, at NAB 2015, EIZO Inc. will unveil its ColorEdge CG318-4K professional monitor.The ColorEdge CG318-4K – with a screen size of 31.1-inches — displays the DCI 4K standard of 4096 x 2160.
“The monitor offers all the color spaces required for work in the industry today, including 98 percent of the entire DCI-P3 standard used in digital cinema; in compliance with DCI-P3,” says product manager Hiroshi Nagai. “The monitor offers a 1500:1 contrast ratio for the true blacks that can be difficult to see on a typical LCD monitor.” The monitor also displays 100 percent of Rec. 709, EBU and SMPTE-C standards and 99 percent of Adobe RGB.
With 10-bit simultaneous color display from a 16-bit look-up table, the ColorEdge CG318-4K can show more than one billion colors simultaneously — 64 times as many colors as those produced by an 8-bit display. A 3D LUT that is included adjust color individually based on an RGB cubic table. As an LED-backlit monitor, it offers longer lifetime, better energy efficiency and better uniformity.
The monitor is based on hardware calibration. “That means it’s not calibrating down to the computer level,” says EIZO brand development manager Joey Sanchez. “When you’re calibrating, you’re calibrating the monitor itself, not at the graphics card level.” Sanchez also reveals that every display is individually calibrated at the factory. “When it comes out of the box, it’s calibrated and has preset modes that we’ve made sure are completely accurate to the color standards,” he says.
Another feature unique to the EIZO ColorEdge CG318-4K is the ability to automate all the calibration, even remotely or scheduling it for when the user isn’t in front of the display.
EIZO comes by its expertise in color accuracy through years of experience in the digital print and photography businesses, where color accuracy was critically important. “As we started to see the real necessity in video production, we began to work in that market, making a lot of our presets specific to cinema space,” says Sanchez.
“Our whole philosophy with color engineering is having a stable, uniform and accurate monitor,” says Nagai. “The only way we’re able to do that is with our own built-in circuitry that has been researched and developed from the ground up and manufactured by us. Our R&D facility improve on the chip circuitry: it’s what controls all the advanced features of the display.”
EIZO Inc. has a long line of “firsts” to its credit: In 2004, the company introduced the ColorEdge CG220, the world’s first LCD monitor capable of reproducing the Adobe RGB space; in 2002, EIZO made it safe for the pre-press and photography industries to make the switch to LCD technology when it first debuted the ColorEdge series, the first-ever targeted at graphics professionals. And, in 2001, EIZO released the FlexScan L675, the world’s first thin-bezel desktop monitor, with a bezel width that, at that time, was a revolutionary 18.5mm.
Some of the most color-sensitive creatives in the film/TV industry have already adopted the ColorEdge CG318 4K monitor, including Industrial Light + Magic, Dreamworks Animation, Laika, Warner Bros. and many other animation, VFX and post production houses in Los Angeles and New York.
In fact, Autodesk Flame and Smoke creatives may already be familiar with the EIZO logo; all Autodesk high-end systems come with an EIZO display. “We have the most stringent standards in the market when we create our displays,” says Sanchez. “If you‘re working in a color-critical environment, the EIZO ColorEdge CG318 4K monitor will make life more efficient and easier.”
Creating UltraHD content is the next adventure in storytelling and technology. Although 4K production, post and distribution is still in its early days, it’s never too early to get informed. At NAB 2015, we’ll see 4K gear in abundance, from cameras to servers. The show will be a great opportunity to look through the viewfinders and learn how current productions have established successful 4K workflows.
Similar to the transition from Standard Def to HDTV, everyone from directors to cinematographers will all make the leap to 4K. With vendors such as Sony and EIZO, creatives can feel secure that their manufacturing partners are hard at work to ensure it’s an easy transition.
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