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NAB 2012: Final Recap - Was This Really the Year of 4K? (Blackmagic Proves Otherwise)

I’m still trying to catch my breath from this year’s NAB show, but all this week I’ll be posting more videos and a few more thoughts on what I saw there. This had been dubbed the year of 4K by many, but I’m not so sure we can call it that. 4K is still a couple more years from becoming mainstream, but there’s no doubt that manufacturers are pushing their televisions and cameras into the world of 4K2K and QuadHD. Even though there were a few devices capable of shooting in that frame size announced at NAB, none of them are currently shipping (though the FS700 is the closest – even though it won’t technically be shipping as a 4K camera). It was a big year for announcements, but a few companies stood above the rest, while others missed the mark.

Let’s get the big question out of the way, was this really the year of 4K? It depends which part of the industry you work in. In terms of displays, there weren’t as many 4K monitors as I’d hoped. The exhibition and display side of 4K (as well as the storage side) has a much longer way to go than the acquisition side.  I’ve said in a couple different places that I think mainstream 4K is about 5 years off, but the biggest obstacle to that will be providers offering content in 4K and regular people being unable to purchase anything but a 4K display in WalMart. Manufacturers will realize that they can’t sell more 1080p displays to people who already have them, so instead of 3D, the next big technology to convince people they need a new TV is 4K. Bitrates actually matter more than resolution, but as a filmmaker, I can’t complain that my work will be seen in higher resolution somewhere other than a theater. For 4K2K and QuadHD, bigger is better, and for me it’s difficult to see much of a difference at normal distances until the screen size is bigger than 50 inches. At the REDUser event, the gigantic Panasonic display was a perfect example of why you might ever think 1080p is not enough. It just wouldn’t have been possible for 1080p to have looked as good as the 4K content that was being shown there.

But back to the NAB show. Sony is the closest of the big manufacturers to shipping a 4K camera, but when it’s released it won’t quite be 4K. You’ll still need an external recorder, and all the details about the actual way it will record 4K have not been finalized yet. Canon is at least a year away from releasing the C500, and the 1D C is going to be released sometime this year (which could mean December, technically). While on the surface it might seem like a lot of 4K cameras were released, in reality, most were merely announced, with shipping dates sometime in the future. RED was criticized for this very same practice some years ago, but it took them quite a bit longer to release working products (over 2 years for Epic and Scarlet).

Panasonic was almost a no-show. Their main attraction was a non-working Super 35mm 4K camera that sat behind a glass case, and may be released sometime in the next 2 years. For a company that seems to have struck gold with their GH2 (thanks to hackers, of course), they are so late to the Super 35mm or bigger club that it might be too late. The AF100 has not sold as well as they’d hoped, mainly because the GH2 produced better results for a 1/4 of the price (and it’s smaller), and if you’re going to spend the money, many would opt for the higher priced FS100, with its better low-light performance and larger sensor. They’re in major trouble if they don’t release a camera in the next year that has better performance than the GH2 (ideally that would be the GH3). There have been rumors that they are going to end the AF100 product line, and if they do that, the GH3 should have a fully recordable and working HDMI output. The sensor will not get bigger, but if they can improve low-light performance, they might have another winner on their hands. Ideally the bitrate should not be so limited internally – but that’s a conversation for another day.

Another big loser was Aaton. The Penelope Delta they’ve been teasing for 2 years was nowhere to be found. They did not have a booth and multiple people at different rental houses had heard absolutely nothing about it. If Aaton wants to stay in business they need to release this camera in the next couple months or the high-end rental market will be completely dominated by the Arri Alexa and RED Epic (and some F65 thrown in). That is unless Aaton can come in at a much lower price point, somewhere around $30-$40K – then the Penelope Delta will be of interest to owner/operators. But we’re not even there yet – they haven’t released working cameras to any productions that I know of, and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon. It’s very possible that they are having software or hardware issues, but my biggest fear is that they’ve seen companies like Sony and Canon stepping on their toes and they aren’t sure where to price the camera to stay competitive. It may seem like I’m favoring them unnecessarily, but I honestly prefer when a product is designed without compromises in mind. The Penelope Delta is the only digital camera made by Aaton, and thus it has all professional features with a professional workflow in mind (at least on paper). Budgetary reasons keep me from using cameras like that most of the time, but when I’m working on higher-end projects I’d much rather have a no-nonsense piece of gear than something that’s been made to be replaced in 2 years or less – plus, I’m partial to the motion produced by CCDs, rather than CMOS sensors.

I wasn’t expecting Canon to be working on a 4K display – but in hindsight it makes perfect sense. 4K displays are useful in medical and industrial applications, not just filmmaking, so from a product line standpoint it can’t hurt to have one. It looked great – much better than one of the Panasonic QuadHD displays at the show – but size is an issue. It would be nice to see them scale that screen to much larger sizes to use for color grading.

4K is coming at the low-end sooner rather than later, and all of these 4K cameras will be released eventually – along with plenty of new recorders to take advantage of the format. The only question that remains is when it will make sense for each person or production company to move into 4K. Some will need it sooner than others (theatrical for example), but on the independent side, 1080p still hasn’t reached its full potential, and costs are still coming down. As an example of that, Blackmagic surprised everyone this year, and announced a beyond-2K camera that has better specs than many 1080p-only cameras – for the low price of $3000. The excitement surrounding this camera is hard to describe, and I heard countless times from people that wanted to buy this camera just because its low price and the fact that it can shoot professional formats right out of the box – DNG, ProRes, and DNxHD. This should be a lesson to Panasonic, Sony, and Canon: that sitting back and crippling lower-end models can only work so long. Competition is good, and finally we’ve gotten a professional camera at a low price point. It will be exciting to see what they can do with the Cinema Camera going forward, but at the top of everyone’s list is a larger sensor (which will be dictated by those companies who actually fabricate sensors).

It’s a little sad that NAB has come to an end, but there will be a few more updates before we move on (and back to our regularly scheduled blog).

Who do you guys think were the winners or losers at this year’s NAB? When do you think 4K will become mainstream?


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  • Dude, I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of NAB this year. Although I did play with almost everything (even stole some footage with some cards I had in my pocket), I was really impressed with Black Magic over anyone else. I really hope they bring Canon back to reality and help all the big guys be a little more creative and not worry so much about other divisions.

    I heard some comments that Canon were purposely trying to create a high end “brand” with EOS, that it wasn’t for low-budget. Kind of like Cadillac Luxury. And now that they have high end cameras to protect, they can’t let their low-end products destroy all their hard work (releasing a 5Dc or something similar with great codecs or uncompressed out—or even 8bit out with hdmi). Even Red had to be careful with their Scarlet and not upset a lot of high end Epic buyers. Black Magic has nothing to protect. They can do whatever they want… because they have a lot more items to sell—a whole system that ties in from acquisition to final output. And now they have a camera at the head of the pipeline.

    With some (minor?) rolling shutter issues, I don’t see the BMD camera taking over the $10-15k range of cameras… but I do see it as they end of the DSLR video age.

    • I considered doing that but ran out of time on the last day – oh well. I actually really wanted some footage of the new Zeiss Anamorphic prototype (the one at the Zeiss booth that was being shown with the C300).

      I agree about Blackmagic – I’m excited to see where they can go from here. Canon was originally in that position but they saw the markup they could get for cameras like the C300, so I really doubt we are going to see a good sub-$10,000 large sensor video camera from them anytime soon.

  • I personally think the Canon 1D C wins the cake, at least for my own utilization. The usage of 8-bit color scares some people, but honestly it has never failed me in my workflow. Then again, I am not James Cameron or Peter Jackson. The post you had a few days ago about RAW workflow really opened my eyes to the whole hidden cost and backup headaches, and it made me realize how little I wanted it. 4K is really nice to work with, and a luxury right now. But seriously, a good 1080p camera is all I want. Hence why ALEXA is still being used all the time and looks absolutely fantastic on the big screen. Granted I only have a 2K projector at my local theater, but I am always astonished with ALEXA footage. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was so sharp and amazing tones.

    RED makes good products, but I don’t like there politics and drama associated with the brand. So much so I stay clear. Then again, that has nothing to do with how good the image looks :P

    This BMD is a pretty neat idea, but 2.5K is dumb and small sensor is even dumber. I don’t know why people are jizzing their pants over this camera. Honestly, no clue what-so-ever. Once you buy the camera for $3k and then memory, 256GB drive in my neck of the woods costs well over $200 and that isn’t that much space to record on. Then once you are done shooting your 20 minutes of footage on 256GB, you then have to dump that onto a hard drive to work off. If you shoot an 8 hour day, usually you have about 2-3 hours of footage, you’ll need to offload something like 2 TB of files… that’s ridiculous. Especially when there are cameras that will look the same in the end for the same price and fit in your existing workflow. ie. 5D3 – D800

    I will just deal with my 5D3 and all it’s “shortcomings”. :)

    • Sorry to say that, but a 5d3,… will always look like a 5d3, whereas a raw-camera can look how u want it to.
      I don’t think that the sensor size is a problem, altough some other mount options would be nice – because I’m afraid, that canon won’t release fast wideangles fixed focus lenses.

      • There are many examples where DSLR looks how ever you want it to look and so on. 127 Hours looked great and matched the SI2k footage brilliantly. RAW is nice, but it’s not the be all end all for film making.

        • Matt Anderson on 04.23.12 @ 6:22PM

          Don’t agree Tom – Watch Act of Valor. If they can’t make 5D footage look good with millions of dollars, you can’t either. 5D footage will always look cheap and video-y.

        • Daniel Mimura on 04.28.12 @ 5:08AM

          Also…you’re comparing D-SLR to the SI 2k, which looks terrible. Edgy video look.

    • Had to remark on the 1D-C… IMHO, that camera is an example of taking the HDSLR to a ridiculous point.

      My main concern is FOCUSING.

      There’s no 4K out to an external monitor, there’s no internal focusing assistant like peaking… You have to judge critical focus using a 1080p out signal on an image that’s 4x the size?

      In the words of a well known Persian messenger, “this is MADNESS!!”

      And for that price, how is the 1D-C more attractive than a C300?

      Oh yeah 4K…. that slightly out of focus 4K image…

    • Shoot ProRes log on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and you’ve got around 80 Gigabytes an hour. People are going crazy about this camera because for $3,000 you can have RAW when you want it or TWO different professional recording formats when you don’t. Not only that, but you’re getting 13 stops of dynamic range. No one is touching that type of performance at that price point.

      2.5K is not “dumb” – it’s an oversampling of 1080p to get better color and resolution in post. This is exactly what Alexa, RED, and Sony are doing with their cameras. The size of the sensor is a fact of what’s out there at this price point. Blackmagic doesn’t fabricate sensors, nor do they have the money to get someone else to design one for them. But even if they did, it certainly would have raised the price of this camera significantly.

      • The best part is “RAW when you want”

        That’s the key. That’s the problem with the Digital Bolex that would make it very hard to use in an every day setting.

      • so true Joe. “2.5k stupid”hahaha yeah I’m sure the 5K Hobbit is gonna look crap on DVD……

      • Is this 13 stops of DR a proven thing? I haven’t seen any proof of it… Unless I missed a post.

        • Yes, absolutely, at worst they are underestimating the dynamic range. Check out some of the before and after stills from John Brawley’s blog (who did the camera tests).

          • So, how is it that a company who never made a camera before, suddenly, comes up with a chip around 1/4th the size and better DR than the Alexa? And, how is it that somebody with deeper pockets (Alexa, Sony, Red or even Canon) didnt bring something similar to the table at NAB?

            • Well, look at it another way, there are projects where people are building cameras outside of the big name companies – Digital Bolex, Apertus, etc. Building a camera is not as hard when you keep it simple – it’s actually all this compression that makes cameras really complicated. A camera is basically a sensor with a mount connected to some sort of recording device, whether that’s a computer or internal. It’s all the other features and connections and software that complicate things.

              Blackmagic is not designing or making sensors – which is very beneficial in keeping costs down. RED, Arri, Sony, Canon, Panasonic, and JVC are all involved in sensor design at some point or another. If you’re going to make your own camera, you need to find a sensor that a sensor design company is already making, and then adapt that for your system. Blackmagic looked at what was out there for sensor sizes and price, and figured that since they were so well versed in the post-production aspect, they could actually do it. It helps tremendously if you keep your compression options simple – RAW, DNxHD, ProRes – and since they already made devices that handle those compression schemes, it’s simply a matter of adapting them to this camera.

              So if you look at it that way, it’s not really a stretch to think that a company could build a camera – but the price – is simply a matter of not having any other camera products to cannibalize. They are probably making some money on the Cinema Camera, but for the most part, they priced it to sell. If it cost $10,000, I don’t think it would get nearly the same amount of attention as it has gotten. They’ve got the infrastructure to make a camera because it’s mostly the same hardware (except for the sensor).

              As for the dynamic range – Alexa is actually rated about a stop better theoretically 14 vs. 13 (and probably in practice) – and the reason why no one came out with something similar at NAB? Well, let’s look at the product range:

              Alexa: Professional Alexa models aimed at rental houses – they don’t care if individuals can buy it or not, but they have been successful either way. They wouldn’t want to tarnish their brand by introducing something cheap – I’m sure they could do it, but it actually hurts what people think of the brand. They wouldn’t really have cannibalized sales – so I think it’s really a company image standpoint and a customer standpoint – their customers are mostly professional users with PL mount lenses – which doesn’t fit into the $3000 camera market – since a Master Prime lens is $20,000 for one lens.

              RED: If you recall, RED wanted to do this with their 2/3″ Scarlet. Prices were rising with that model, and they were having trouble with the built-in lens. I think they realized that too many cameras were coming out with bigger sensors, and they were going to have a lot of trouble selling a 2/3″ camera at $6-$8K when their S35mm Scarlet was going to be around $10,000 (that’s a simplification, but in comparison, I think there are enough people that would have just paid for the higher priced model over the 2/3″ model if they were only a few thousand dollars apart). Either way, it was becoming a logistical nightmare to make the camera, and that’s why we have the Scarlet we have – which is a crippled version of the Epic. RED now has product lines that they are trying to keep, and they’ve decided they are only going to hit the higher end market – and not try to compete with DSLRs.

              Sony: The FS100 is arguably better in a lot of ways than the Cinema Camera, but it’s internal recording options are crippled because of higher end models. They probably could release a camera for $3,000 that is the same as the Cinema Camera without hurting sales of the FS100 – so I wouldn’t actually doubt that at some point a camera like that would come out. I’m more inclined to believe that Sony will stay with Super 35mm as a sensor size, but we’ll never see a RAW/DNx/ProRes camera for that cheap because of the higher end models – Sony can sell us paid firmware upgrades and recorders for more money.

              Canon: This one is easy – they’d hurt sales of their own DSLRs – so they’d never release a camera like this. Canon knows that they can kind of price their cameras anywhere they want and they’ve got a good enough following that people will buy them. I read a statistic that the Mark III is outselling the D800 25:1 at a big retailer. For a more expensive camera with arguably worse video and photo features (low-light is obviously better) – that’s saying something about your consumers.

              Honestly, part of the reason these companies wouldn’t do this is because they’d rather keep larger sensors. Panasonic would be the only company that could have released a camera like the Cinema Camera and it would have made sense (since they are already doing Micro 4/3s anyway). It would make a lot of sense for them to have made a RAW AF100 – they would have blown away the market. But I think that’s where Blackmagic has the advantage, is that they’ve worked with these higher-end formats before, so including them in a camera is much easier. I really don’t have much of an explanation for Panasonic other than the costs and features of the AF100 as released fit better in their product line, and allowed them to recoup R&D costs better – but if they want to stay relevant I think they do need to create a camera like the Cinema Camera, even if it loses money, because they’ll make their money back ten-fold in volume.

          • Joe, your answer to my question was spot on and every word made perfect sense but, I think I asked the wrong question. What I meant to ask was, how is it that Black Magic has come up with a sensor that rivals the DR of Alexa, Red and Sony S-log? I thought this was an area reserved for the big boys. I mean, it was only yesterday when Sony made the F3 do this with a $3800 upgrade. The C300 doesn’t have this DR at $16K.
            See what im getting at?

            • I would have to guess that it’s a newer sensor, so performance is better than the last generation of sensors. Since it’s a third party sensor not necessarily designed for filmmaking, they don’t care about the aspect ratio or sensor size quite as much, but improving something like dynamic range and signal to noise ratio is very, very important. In the medical field these sensors need the least amount of noise and the most dynamic range possible.

              Also look at what all of those sensors do that this one doesn’t – for example rolling shutter is likely much better on any of those higher end cameras than on this camera – that is something that takes a lot of money and development to improve.

              Basically, it’s harder and more expensive to make these improvements the larger the sensor size. In 2-3 years when the next generation of all of those cameras come out they will likely blow away what the Blackmagic camera is doing, just because technology improves (but that doesn’t mean they’ll be cheaper thanks to larger sensors). Look at RED’s Dragon update, granted it will cost a lot, but RED is claiming 15 stops at least of dynamic range.

          • Joe, great insight, reasoning and explanation! I’m kinda addicted to NFS and it’s fantastic to kck this stuff around with people much more ‘in the know’ than I am. Thanks!

            • Always fun to have these sorts of conversations – that’s why I’m here in the first place. Not to be humble, but I’m not necessarily any more “in the know” than anyone else who writes here or frequents the site, but I spend unhealthy amounts of time researching stuff like this. I’ve also thought about building my own large sensor camera – so part of my knowledge in that respect is due to researching sensors for that purpose.

    • Stu Mannion on 04.23.12 @ 11:42PM

      I’d be shooting Prores with this BM camera, not raw. For what I do raw is overkill. Being able to shoot prores is gold. How much can you fit on your 256gb drive then?

      The idea of this camera is growing on me. Hopefully the next model nails it.

  • Very nice summary Joe.
    For me BM would have been the big big winner if their camera was at least a M 4/3 or S35. Don’t get me wrong they came out with a very nice camera. Just waiting to see more footage.
    Beside that, all the others are bunch of losers.. Canon let the 5D MKII DSLR shooters down (price to high ).. Sony distracted people with a slow mo feature on the FS700 which does not shoot 4k yet… but we don’t shoot slow mo all the time. filmmakers are interesting more in quality of footage.. dynamic range, color space latitude in post prod.. instead of the highly compressed codec AVCHD .. Panasonic why in the world you announced a camera that does not even work and that will be available in 2 years? Ridiculous …
    Overall I think none of these companies are really ready for the 4k ..

  • 4K will NEVER be mainstream (as we know it). It is the biggest marketing hype to get camera fan boys to buy the “the next thing”

    This was my thought as I wandered the NAB halls. I stopped by the RED booth and saw the live demonstration of the Scarlet. My first thought was… boy that 4k looks good… until I read the little placard under the large screen that read “Displayed in 1080p”

    The problem is we have come up to and surpassed the biological resolving capabilities of our eyes. Given the size of the screen and where normal people (not pixel peepers) like to sit, you simply can’t really make out the difference between 2K and 4K. Our eyes just can’t see that kind of resolution. (Carlton Bale has a site with the math:

    And that’s not forgetting that resolution really should be one of the least important concerns to a filmmaker… after 10 minutes in a film, if you’re not hooked, the resolution isn’t going to save the film… I mean people are watching their favorite shows on their iPhone for heaven’s sake!

    I realize it’s sort of a CYA to say 4K be around in the next xx years – but I’m going to be that sole naysayer and say “fooey”

    4K has it’s applications (especially in 3d I’m told) but it’s not going to be mainstream in our generation.

    • Manufacturers will do anything to sell more products – and 1080p televisions will reach a saturation point in many parts of the world. That’s when I think they are going to move on to the next frontier – which will be 4K. This happened with the transition from SD CRT to HDTV, and I believe it’s going to happen with HDTV to 4K.

      I think logical explanations for why we don’t need 4K are going to be far surpassed by dollar signs in the eyes of the companies who make this stuff.

      • larry Towers on 04.24.12 @ 8:20PM

        4k is a joke. Do you realize how large a screen you need or how close you need to sit or how perfect your sight needs to be to see the difference between a good HD signal and 4k? Most consumers barely have room for 47-55” displays (Most of us live in cities and we ain’t rich!). Where are we going to stick 120″ displays? Most people don’t want to sit less than 8 feet away from a 120″ display Any smaller and you can’t really see a difference. And where in hell is the bandwidth going to come from to deliver 4k pictures?
        As for people complaining about the mere 4/3rd sensor size of the BMD camera? Are you kidding me? With the appropriate lenses you can get wide enough. It’s going to be a workhorse if the build quality is good.

    • Hmmm…your Carlton Bale incorrectly used the diagonal instead of the horizontal when doing his calculation…

      I’d rather just stick with this much better thought out argument:

      Keep in mind, 4k TVs will be bigger than HD TVs just like HD TVs are bigger than SD TVs. Home theaters will continue to get closer to actual theater experiences, and that’s clearly something consumers want.

      • That’s from sony, they are in a ship with the evil zombipirates.

      • Yeah, those homes with their theater sized viewing screens are quite common place. If it weren’t for this damned recession – we’d all have 100″ screens in our living rooms.

        I don’t see why diagonal measurements would invalidate the conclusion.

        Still an interesting read from a company that makes 4K projection systems and wants you to buy them.

        • And the link is using diagonal measurements because he’s talking about Television sets which are sold that way…

        • You’re full of snark, but short on a valid argument. Are you saying HD TVs are not making home viewing experiences more like a theater’s than SD TVs?

          And if you’re going to use a diagonal measurement, then you have to use a diagonal resolution. Otherwise you should be using the diagonal screen measurement to derive the horizontal screen measurement. He’s using a diagonal screen measurement and a horizontal resolution measurement without any conversions…he’s treating the diagonal measurement in his calculation like it’s a horizontal measurement.

          And while Sony obviously has their agenda, the article is both detailed and free of errors, which is more than can be said of the one you linked. If you find an issue with Sony’s argument, feel free to express it.

          • Gabe you really are jumping off the deep end of the irrationality…

            No I’m not saying HD isn’t better than SD. It is… but I’m saying 4K isn’t necessarily better than HD. And I’m speaking from actual real life 4K viewing experience. The image from a normal viewing point isn’t THAT much better…

            Diagonal vs Horizontal vs Vertical… I don’t see how this invalidates the fact that our eyes lack the resolving power to see all those pixels. If you stood forty feet away from me, I could only make out the big features of your face, but if you stood 12 inches away, I’d be able to see the pores and throbbing veins and the sweat pouring off your brow as you type out your response.

            See, they found this formula… Pythagorean Theorem… you can convert diagonal to horizontal measurements pretty easily… and the numbers still work out pretty much the same.

            You should try it.

    • Read the Arri 4k DI paper, we shouldn’t need to go beyond debayered 6k or downsampled 8k for a 4k finish and 2k will still be perfectly acceptable for indy productions. When companies start using pseudo-science to push 8k as a delivery format for cinemas, then you can legitimately get upset.

      For broadcast or web, QuadHD as a delivery format will make no sense until the average household has 8ft screens. Home theatre projectors are becoming quite affordable though and QuadHD may make inroads there.

    • This is true. In fact, the majority of broadcast infrastructure still relies on anything but FullHD (meaning 1080p). 1080i is still the name of the game in Television and a lot of content is shot in SD (!) and up-rezzed to 1080i in the pipeline. So, until 1080p is everywhere, let’s not think of 4k for distribution. Acquistion is a different ballgame altogether… 4k – and, much more, raw – recording is adding real value for production, especially when a lot of post work is involved.

    • 35mm film has resolution of 4K. 65mm film (and 70mm 15-perf IMAX film) – a lot more. What’s your point again?

      • James Anderson on 04.27.12 @ 11:31AM

        Anyone care to respond to this?

      • Daniel Mimura on 04.28.12 @ 7:41AM

        where do you get this “35mm equals 4K”? (I suspect it has something to do which something Jim Janard probably said somewhere, but who knows.)

        People have been quoting that a lot and I have no idea what that means, and I suspect that most people saying it don’t either b/c no one has explained what it means, or where I can read more about it that makes it mean something specific.

        What 35mm film stock are you talking? Are you talking about a slow stock or a fast one? And when was this “study” or whatever done? Did it include the newer Kodak Vision 3 stocks that only came out in 2010? What about Kodak 5230 which only came out last year?

        And what format of 35? Super 35? Are you talking super-35 transferred digitally or optically? If digitally, at what resolution? (also, if you’re comparing film to digital, is it even fair or appropriate compare them, b/c you’ve actually put one of the things you’re comparing it to within the other thing you’re comparing it to—is that like a conflict of interest? Is there a risk that it is actually degrading it more b/c you’ve forced upon ithe film, something very small, square and regular, which film *isn’t*, which might artificially lessen it’s sharpness when compared to an analog only direct print)…but if you aren’t talking about a digital blowup of super-35, optical blow ups lessen the resolution drastically (which is one reason why Reservoir Dogs is the sharpest looking optical super-35 films I’ve ever seen—b/c they used 50ASA film, even on the interiors—compare that to Cameron movies which are grainy as hell.) Or if not super-35, what other format? 2-perf (aka Techniscope)? Or 4-perf? If so, which one?—academy or anamorphic? (anamorphic is 25% bigger a negative over 3-perf…but you lose some sharpness with the anamorphic lenses…but then again, (almost) nobody shoots 4-perf academy, so maybe that’s the “best” 35…but the films that shot that way are using the older film stocks (which are not as fine grained or as sharp)…

        Printing..I’m assuming this is negative you’re talking about, so does that mean a direct print or an internegative. Contact or wet printing? If super-35 or 2-perf or scope, are you talking about an anamorphic print or flat? (there is a huge difference in generation loss with these choices, particularly with 2-perf, when using a 4-perf print…you’re negating generation loss to a huge degree!)

        When comparing 35mm to 4K, are you talking resolution? Latitude? Or color? And what measurement of color? The intensity or vibrancy of the color? Color fidelity? Or the range of colors? How are you defining the colors? Color gamuts of digital and film aren’t the same thing exactly, so how do you define 35mm as being “equal” to 4k. (Maybe you’re not talking about color space, I guess…)

        And are you (or wherever you get this “fact” from) taking into account the differences in perception between 35mm and digital projection based on a physical xenon bulb directly hitting the screen (although through the film print and a shutter cutting each frame 2-3x per frame to help smooth out the motion) versus a progressive display that is scanning the pixels at the speed of the computer data rates (as opposed to the speed of light—meaning it’s not “continuous light—it is pulsing, and has rolling shutter…)? To my eye, the digital image feels “sterile” cuz still shots are STILL, but then again on the other hand the highlights don’t annoyingly strobe like they do with projected film…

        Is there a quantitative way to compare the differences in perceptions between a randomized pattern (film grain) versus a geometrically set array? Is it really possible to say one of them “equals” the other? It sounds like apples to oranges to me. And 6 of one, and half a dozen of the other…b/c there are benefits of one and benefits of the other…also drawbacks of one and drawbacks of the other.

        I’m asking stupid questions (that don’t really have solid black and white answers) to point out that to say 4k “equals” film doesn’t mean anything.

        Digital will fully mature when we stop (falsely, incorrectly, unquantifiably) comparing it to film. Use it for it’s own benefits, not trying to do something that film already does.

        • If a given frame of film was drumscanned at 5000 or 6000 horizontal pixels and exhibited no increase in detail over a 4000 pixel scan but, the 4000 pixel scan exhibited more detail than a 3000 pixel scan, I suppose you could say that particular piece of film was equivalent to 4K.

          • Daniel Mimura on 04.29.12 @ 10:22PM

            That works as a definition of sharpness/resolution (just one of many ways to compare the 2 media).

            I’m just asking for someone somewhere to site what study this is or whatever that makes people say “4k equals 35mm”. I just haven’t seen it, and the people spouting have never provided where they’re getting this from.

    • Daniel Mimura on 04.28.12 @ 6:12AM

      The needs for 4K are here right now, but b/c a huge number of theaters do not follow the correct standards of seating-to-screen distance. 4k is definitely overkill for the indie scene (you can *really* put that money to better use elsewhere on your film), and it’s really not needed for home use for awhile, probably years (although it would be nice for those 27″ iMacs and larger computer displays b/c they already more than 2k, and the viewing distance of your desk is very close…)

      How many times have you seen a digitally projected movie and saw the pixels (or worse, the “screen door” effect of the space between the pixels)? It’s particularly noticeable in text and graphics more than organic things like close ups of people. The green rating cards (telling you that the film is approved for appropriate audiences, PG, G, R…etc….) are usually the worst (best) example of this, obvious the moment the house lights dim.

      Anytime you see that, you are most likely not seated at the correct viewing distances… Theaters cram more people in by putting seating where you are too close to the screen, or they are using the wrong shape of room (a common multiplex problem)… When when movies sell out, far more people are seated in the less than ideal seats.

      I have better than 20/20 vision (20/15), so that may make it a little more obvious to me, but tell me you never see jaggies in modern digital movie theaters and I’ll agree with you that there is “NEVER” a need (for you) for 4k.

      Note: i’m talking about 4k projection, not cameras, but if we had 4k cameras (or 5k shooting, for a downconvert to 4k), we’d be better utilizing those 4k screens…we would be using them to their full potential.

      This is totally biased, b/c they obviously want to sell 4k projectors, but here is an article by Sony about it:

      Yes, they have their bias, but movie theater design has been progressively getting worse (excluding the “stadium seating” trend) ever since the 80′s (when they began turning duplexes into four (or more)-plexes. 4K is one (more cost effective) way to overcome it.

      • Daniel Mimura on 04.28.12 @ 7:47AM

        oops. This didn’t post where it was supposed to. And then from where it was supposed to go…right under that, i saw others talk about that same sony article.

        I wish there was an edit button.

  • Clear winner of Nab 2012: the consumer.

  • Nice summary… but the C500 will be shipping in Q4 of this year, from what Canon and others have said. A vendor of an external capture device got even more specific, saying Canon people told his company that the cam is “five months away”, which puts it in September. Who knows if they’ll hit that, but being the prototypes were pretty solid, I think it’s probable?

    • A Canon rep told me they had no idea when the C500 might ship (it was at least a year from being completed), and that the 1D C will definitely launch first sometime this year – so that’s the info I am going on until I hear more. It’s possible this person didn’t have good info, but if someone with direct knowledge tells you something, you’re more likely to believe it.

      • Yeah, I heard from both a Canon guy and the external vendor Q4. Who knows? Hope springs eternal, I guess. But the stuff that Jeff Cronenweth shot with that camera in 4K (they were showing off some of the footage on those 4K monitors) was possibly the best motion picture stuff I’ve ever seen– to my eye it rivaled 70mm.

        • I agree, it looked beautiful. The 1D C on the other hand, not so crazy about. Why in the world you’d add a fake grain texture to a camera test like “The Ticket” makes absolutely no sense to me. Either way, the 1D C looked muddy.

          • Totally agree… Shane Hurlbut is an amazing DP (and an fantastically knowledgable guy) but The Ticket looked like really good DSLR cinematography– which is to say: not bad and sometimes really good, but it’s not in the same league with the C500 (or maybe even the C300).

  • And honestly– and I think somebody mentioned this already– the real selling point of 4K is for filmmakers who have been through the process of making films a few times, and the ability to crop in post. It’s a huge, huge plus, and may be worth the money, even if you’re mastering just to HD.

  • panasonic screwed up so royally. I still can’t believe it. they needed a spruced up Af200 to compete, now… they need a complete game changer. my only hope for them now is that they leapfrog the competition and do a BMD style camera in the S35 market. something that utterly bashes the usual pricepoint. something like what the hacked gh2 was to the consumer DSLR market, but to the $3000 video market.

  • “Another big loser was Aaton. The Penelope Delta they’ve been teasing for 2 years was nowhere to be found.’

    Paris, on February, at the micro-show AFC, I saw on the big screen (Sony 4K projector), the first images of the Aaton Penelope Delta : Beautiful. Aaton is late, compare to Arri or Red but certainly not a loser. Beauviala announced a price around 80,000 euros in France (no need to external recorder to shoot in RAW).
    Sorry for my bad english.

  • Right now 480 sd is still mainstream…even for people with 720 or 1080 capable screens…most people are not paying extra for the hd box…so before we get to mainstream with 4k, we’ll need to get to mainstream with 1080 hd…and we ain’t there yet.

    • Really?

        • My main tv is still a old Sony CRT old school baby!…. With a SD digital set top box.
          For work though my Main lcd panel is used for 1080p grading on etc…

          Output seems like my next doco will be most likely edited down for iPad viewing as it looks like the new way of watching stuff on these days.

    • James Neuendorf on 04.25.12 @ 7:57AM

      Lets be honest, 360p on youtube is currently mainstream on a global scale, I live in the carribean and it takes a few minutes to buffer even that… I’m sure theater goers in New York are hungry for 4k but most theaters around the world are just now switching to digital, obviously things are extreme here but here they still project new films on film stock, and I swear they rub it in the dirt before projecting it. Moral of the story? Story is 50x more important than image quality in 99% of the world.

  • Where is Panasonic? Seriously. The DVX glow wore off a long time ago. The Black Magic camera and C300 look most attractive. If C300 was around 7k, that would be my next camera. But even that camera has its flaws.

    I don’t want an external recorder. I don’t want to pay for upgraded firmware. I want a super 35 sized sensor, Black magic like codec choices that records internally on SD or SSD’s. Not interested in 4k, raw would be more important to me. Around 5k is ideal. I don’t know why i have to mention this but swappable batteries would be required. Everything should be on the friggin’ camera, I don’t want a rig. When I pull the camera out of its bag, it should be able to shoot. Is that really so much to ask? No

  • Lot’s of excitation on 4K, TOOO MUCH ! Same as 3D years before.

    Koo wrote in a previous post, the first real 4K feature film appear in 2012 with D. Fincher film :

    I’ve learned in the photo field that megapixels race, definition, resolution does not make a better picture.
    The 4K process needs 4K lenses capability, more make-up, perfect film set . These issues are added to camera specifications 10/12 bits quality, 4:2:2 / 4:4:4, compression, codecs.

    I remember 8K Super HD @ ibc, 5 years ago, Astro & NHK. I cry, so beautiful landscape shots. It seamed to be so real that i could touch the snow, the leaf moving but they weren’t showing any human face shot. Such a definition can make an easy disaster face looking. Must get a “skin soft detail” in post-prod process to be pleasant to watch.

    At least the most disappointed @ NAB 2012, no Thunderbolt pro-computer.
    Last year I bought a BMD Ingest Ultra 3D Thunderbolt, a Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt 12 To Raid storage product, Da Vinci software, a Quadro NVIDIA as GPU and still today, more the a year after, there is still no Mac-pro neither PC-Desktop with Thunderbolt, just laptops. Don’t expect Thunderbolt / PCi adaptor announced @nab to work with any graphic or GPU card. They are not graphic softawre compatible and also can’t reach a x16 PCI speed (Limited to PCI x4). Therefore BMD developed Da Vinci on PC … So exciting to build my Thunderbolt PC or Hackintoch … Tomorrow. Just waiting the new i7 motherboard with Tb implemented.

    Last year, we didn’t expect it would take so long to get a thunderbolt entire process all the way long, to computer, storage and ingest. Then i learn to be patient. That’s why i would rather wait before 4K market and before getting a BMG 2K Camera i’ll wait your feed back guys.
    Yes BMD Cam was the most awesome nab announce, just dislike its audio connector and its sCMOS size for the focal factor with my lens.
    Sorry for such a long comment

  • The biggest winner of NAB by far was Arri with their Alexa line of cameras their picture was simply unbeatable by the rest. Using this camera first hand and comparing with others put the red to shame as well as all the other competitors. The Alexa paired with zeiss’s anamorphic prototype was seriously an unreal experience. Can’t wait to see the future through the zeiss anamorphic lenses and the Arri Alexa work horse.

  • I dont think 4K is new at all. There is a film called Baraka (1992) restored through 8k UltraDigital HD, taking up around maybe 30 TB of spaces… lol but scaled down to 1080p for Blu-ray, picture quality was super awesome!

    • Daniel Mimura on 04.28.12 @ 8:05AM

      Woah! I just happened to watch that last night. Yeah, amazing.

      DIdn’t know it was from an 8k master. Sometimes that stuff makes a difference that doesn’t seem to make any logical sense (I mean, if you are counting pixels and looking at resolution that way)…the way the IMAX batman 2 footage was clearly sharper source material than the 4-perf 35 footage, even when watching it at home at 1080p.

  • Big Hollywood movies cost already 200- 250 million to make in 2k, and some of them still manage to lose money, once they take all these VFX packed movies and bid it in 4K for effects this goes up to 350million then they just say : ahhh forget it.. or else they invent a magic plugin to up res VFX rendered images to 4K just like they to with cheap 3d stereo movies.

    4K might be the format to capture in 3 years, but for output? at least 10 YEARS, tell that to Jim and all his hype.

    • Also I read in some place someone saying after a 4k projection, that he would get 6 inches from the screen and not seen a pixel. Why on earth I’d stick my head close to screen trying to find a pixel? I should be fine sitting on my couch watching my 1080p.

      If anyone watched Dark Knight on Imax there was one chase sequence all done in 4K, I bet nobody noticed, if you want to check how insane the post was just for one sequence you can read this article:

      • Daniel Mimura on 04.28.12 @ 8:34AM

        Woah again. I just mentioned TDK in the post above. I did see it in IMAX (Real IMAX™, not new Coke™ IMAX™).

        Marcus, when you are showing that article, you weren’t saying that it was 4k, right? What scene? This was something else you know or something right? —Cuz that article said that they were rendering at 5.6k for most of the footage for the IMAX version (this was for transferring the 35mm 4-perf film regular footage to IMAX—b/c the IMAX version was real film, the whole movie had to be put onto IMAX film, not just the footage shoot in IMAX…and the regular footage was letterboxed).

        For the record, that article is wrong about Batman Begins. It states the first one was shot entirely without anamorphic lenses. I just double checked (American Cinematographer June 2005), Wally Pfister said he mixed Panavison C and E-series lenses much more (whereas in Momento and Insomnia, he used mostly the E-Series (75mm).

  • It would be interesting to poll how many DSLR shooters use raw as a setting for timelapses in their projects. Although it gives a heck of a lot more data to play with (After Effects especially handles it well), it also indicates how much your workflow will slow down. Of course, you could choose to edit off-line with low-res proxies and then reconnect by the time you get to grading and VFX, but still, raw is no easy cookie to swallow.

  • I’m as surprised as anyone but the BlackMagic S16/2.5k camera (who knew they were even in the camera business?!), but I must say the decision to house the battery internally and to record to SSD’s that aren’t really designed to be swapped in and out hundreds of times has me scratching my head. It puts the camera in an odd consumer/pro limbo for me. Sure the price is fantastic, but if it’s got strange design flaws like these…

    • Agree – I’d use the shit out of this camera if it could change batteries and I didn’t have to lug crappy v-locks about. They claim that the internal battery keeps the cost down because it mean that they can keep the shell a single piece of aluminium… I’d pay the extra (what are we talking here… 10 bucks a piece – but in camera land) $500 for a standard sony or canon battery mount.

      Some really basic thing over looked in this camera.

      I have a feeling it was a major gamble for them so they hedged their bets. Now they know that there is a massive demand for what they have to offer I feel like they will release another camera addressing the simple shit pretty soon.

      • Daniel Mimura on 04.28.12 @ 8:38AM

        Crappy v-locks?

        V-locks are way better. For little cameras or monitors, you can get thru the whole day on one. I hate having to work with little crappy mini camera batteries with d-slrs swapping out batteries all the time. It’s not a hassle using a big enough battery to last more than 25 minutes.

    • Are they “design flaws” when the purpose of the design is a commoditized, low cost camera? I’ve used drive caddies for years and never damaged a connector… and don’t you already own a bunch of batteries and some EF mount lenses?

  • I regards to the C500 release date – I am not experienced with release dates etc etc etc blah de blah BUT the C500 is listed for preorder on many many online retailers – with a list price too. To my knowledge the cameras are not usually listed unless they are ready to go and the company is just getting it stoke pile together for release. I may be wrong and make people vomit with my disgusting ignorance but hey… there it is.

    • It’s hard to say, because the FS700 does have a release date, yet there is no price listed on a site like B&H.

  • What happened to the Jvc 4k. I thought even with 4 cards (Goofy Idea) you can still download to pro ress. I don’t operate in the same league with you posters. but (except for the 4cards) everything seemed to be in place with this camera….price, ready to film out of the bag. any comments?

    • It’s a small sensor camera – so you’re not going to get the same depth of field as a Canon 7D, or especially a 5D. The 4 SD cards is a terrible idea. If one card is corrupted for any reason you no longer have a full picture, that’s pretty dangerous. It’s also too cumbersome and confusing if you’re really trying to use it on a daily basis, you really need 8 identical cards so that one set can be transferring while the other set is recording.

      It’s just of less interest to filmmakers, because of the depth of field.

      • Joe, thanks for comment. Do you think JVC will listent to all the negative feedback the (4 card ) mess is receiving and go for a solution more sensible?

        • At this point it is no longer a prototype so I don’t see that happening. I think they just went with the easiest solution to 4k they could think of, 4 1080p streams combined into one later.

          • B&H sent me notice the JVC QuadHD camcorder was in-stock.

            Cumbersome? Then, what are the DSLRs?

            Confusing? Shoot like any camcorder. Edit QuadHD with crop and pan&scan to HD.

            All the questions about 4K TV sets miss the point. Use 8MP pixels the way photographers work with 24MP.

            And, 4K sets will arrive when OLED 1/4-inch thick 72″ panels mount on a wall. Japan Inc. “must” sell them for the years until 8K arrives.

            No shallow DOF? (And, you can get a moderate DOF from a 1/2-chip. Fine when you shoot p24.) Do those who shoot at p60 REALLY care about super shallow DOF? Amazingly, not every one wants to make “movies.” Think sports coaching. Shoot wide then zoom-in in post to an FullHD image.

  • Joe, Great review and again I need to ask, any word from Sony about a possible F5? You did mention you were going to try on the last day of NAB to get any info in regard.

    • Yes, no words yet, I think it’s safe to say that the F3 has another 6-12 months as being the mid-range flagship 1080p camera. It’s very possible that they could phase out the F3 and just stick with the FS700, but it really seems like they will be releasing an upgraded camera at some point in the near future. I would expect to hear some rumblings in the next 6 months. If you are thinking of getting an F3, I wouldn’t hesitate, because it’s still going to be the only 10-bit 1080p camera at that price range even with the FS700 coming out.

  • Wait another 2 mos and Sony will announce the FS50, 1080p 60p S35 sensor camera at @1,500 USD. Internally it records avchd, but has HD-SDI clean recordable to their upcoming recorder at 3K, and or 10 bit ProRes. Recorder might be around $1,500 too. Now that will be BMD’s only competitor.:D

    • That’d be an interesting product, but I think it’s a pipe dream. Sony is very happy with their FS100 at about $5,000, and I don’t think they will release a product anytime soon that will beat it in features for a cheaper price.

  • Anthony Marino on 04.25.12 @ 8:12PM

    Hi just like to say love all the comments and especially this site. Everyone here does a great job keeping us up to date, much appreciated. I came across this footage on the new Sony Fs700. Figured I’d share, thanks

    Anthony Marino

  • James Anderson on 04.27.12 @ 11:32AM

    Can someone respond to this please, or is it the last word?