ON VISIT TO N.A.B. 2000 FOR IATSE 667 NEWSLETTER
by RICHARD STRINGER, CSC
to the N.A.B. trade show to check out the new developments
in HDTV products. As a union, we must keep pace
with the technology of HDTV cameras, which now can
be used as an origination source for: present 4:3
(1.33) format TV, future 16:9 (1.77) widescreen
HDTV, and even film distribution.
Finally, prototype models of the Sony
24 frame HDTV camera are ready and were on display
at N.A.B. in Las Vegas. The new 24 frame model is
the HDW-F900 and the 24 frame family of Sony products
are called "CineAlta". You can switch
from 24 (film rate), 25 (PAL rate), and 30 (N.A.
TV rate) frame modes. Sony defines the 24 fps as
having a 1/48 shutter speed, and categorizes exposure
as if it was with a "180 degree shutter".
They are really making the most of film terms to
apply to this camera. The "24p" relates
to 24 frame rate combined with progressive scanning.
There are many different bi-products from the Sony
24 frame camera and subsequent 24 frame post equipment
- both for transfer to 24 fps film and to various
versions of video. The video versions delivered
by the system are distinguished by frame rate, number
of scanned lines, scan type, and system cycles -
(plus the frame formats of 4:3 or 16:9). The frame
rates are 23.97, 24, 25, 29.97, and 30. The number
of scan lines can be 480, 720, or 1080. Scan Types
are either "I" = Interlaced (first odd
lines, then even lines) or "P" = Progressive
(all lines at once). System cycles are for North
America, 60 and Europe, 50. This diversity of end
product creates a universal standard which, up till
now, has been a limiting factor with video formats.
Two things are noticeable on the direct output from
the 24p camera:
1. Flicker from the monitor screen - this is from
the 24 frames repeated twice on a 48 frame cycle
monitor, like a second blade in a film projector.
This flicker is similar to 50 cycle PAL TV sets.
It goes away when transferred to film or 60 cycle
2. Strobing or Jitter to movement - very disconcerting
when seen on the direct monitor, but again disappears
when transferred to film or video with a 2:3 pulldown
process, so it will be important to consider having
2:3 electronic pulldown or downconverting to NTSC
on the set to keep the producer from freaking out
or just to be able to see the final product. Also
we have to consider downconverting to NTSC for any
UHF monitoring. This strobing is something the camera
operators will have to adjust to, just like they
have to deal with the flicker from film camera shutter
systems. The viewfinder is still B+W, with a choice
of various safe area markers. Sony does offer a
HD colour on-camera LCD monitor as well as a small
portable HD colour monitor - these are especially
made for 24p with 48 cycles - previous HD monitors
will not work with 24p cameras.
Most downconverters to date are large VCR size boxes.
Miranda Technologies of Quebec will be producing
tiny downconverters (MDC-800) which will attach
to the camera. They say availability by September,
but there will be much pressure to get them sooner.
There will probably be other manufacturer's versions
- it would be great to have them with a built in
wireless transmitter. By the way, Amphibico of Montreal
makes a very impressive underwater housing for the
Sony HD900. Sold with camera, lens, and batteries,
it will cost $275,000.
ASA ratings are difficult to pin down because video
does not work the same as film - but the estimate
is that the camera is around 200-300 ASA at 0 db.
Tapes come in 30 minute lengths with existing Betacam
SP, and 40 minutes standard HD, but now you can
record 50 minutes with HD 24p (for some reason you
gain 10 minutes because of the 24 frame capture
rate). The original Sony HDCAM 700 could not handle
all the menu setting files on its small memory chip.
The new 900 has what Sony calls a "memory stick",
which holds more files than you can shake a memory
stick at! Cost of the HDCAM 900: $153,000 for camera
body only - $200,000 and up with zoom, batteries,
etc. Previous HD 700 cameras will go down in price.
Demo 24p cameras will be in Toronto this month -
"not for sale" prototype versions. Rental
companies might have some by the end of May. George
Lucas has delayed his new Star Wars (the first big
Hollywood project shot on HD) till June or July.
I got a chance to see the new Panavision / Sony
HDCAM rig - they have special lenses, have beefed
up the lens mount, provide a bigger viewfinder image
with glow, and have other film like accessories.
They also have a system to record the shooting information
on the videotape itself - data from the lens settings
and even camera moves! All this is being done by
Panavision in Los Angeles - other Panavision outlets
will have to wait for systems to be 100% ready and
at least for this year, supply will be limited by
LENSES FOR SONY 24P:
Focal length conversion
- 35mm to HD:
14mm = 5.6mm, 24mm = 9.7mm, 50mm = 20mm, 135mm =
54mm (close to 16mm?).
There are two Canon HD zooms - the 7.8-144 and the
5.5-50 (they are actually refitted by Optex, UK).
Canon has 5 primes from 6mm to 35mm. Optex, who
actually works on the Canon primes, continues the
prime range with their own 40, 50, 80, 150, 200,
300, and 120 macro. Angenieux has a 5.3-60 zoom.
Panavision's two zooms (very large!) are the 9.5-105
T1.6 and the 6-27 T1.6, and later they will have
a 6-27 T1.8 and a 25-115 T1.9. Panavision is working
on prime lenses - 5, 7, 10, 14, 20, and 35. I heard
that anamorphic lenses are a possibility in the
future (for 2.35?). All these lenses are designed
for the HD camera. If you want to use film lenses,
Angenieux is working on an adapter for Ziess 35mm
lenses. It won't be available until October, and
will cost $28,000+. They were showing the images
from this adapter at N.A.B. on an upside down monitor!
It seems the image has to be inverted - something
not available on the camera yet, but will have to
be added. It is physically quite long - 205mm or
8 inches to the PL mount. Angles of view stay the
same and I thought I heard someone one say that
you gain a stop.
OTHER CAMERA MANUFACTURERS:
Philips is probably
the closest competitor to Sony in the 24 HD format,
but they do not make portable on-camera videotape
recorders. They are pushing a 2.35 format option
from the sizing of the CCD on their 24 frame camera
(Sony's is 1.77), but it won't be out for another
year. Many companies offer studio size HD cameras
or units wired to separate recording decks. If they
do use a recording deck built onto the camera, I
believe they digitally compress the image information
more than Sony. Ikegami has a one piece HD camera
in development - the HDL-V90 which uses DVCPRO tape
- no 24 frame. Panasonic is pushing 420p and 720p
which are lower end HD formats, but still deliver
very good progressive scan pictures. They use DVCPRO
tapes and have no plans for 24 frame. Hitachi has
HD models, but no 24 frame.
HOW DOES IT LOOK:
If the Sony HDW 700 camera
(available over the past year - with normal 30 frame
video) was close to 35mm film, the 24 frame camera
product is much closer. Interlace pictures look
more like "video", but the progressive
scan and the 24 frame capture of the new camera
looks more like "film". I would say that
Sony's 24p is very impressive and with the cost
saving on stock, process and transfer, it will definitely
be a competitive option to film, especially on lower
budget Super 16 shoots. Not so much for reasons
of image quality, but the Super 16 budgets are more
under competition from HDTV. The exact saving on
HD has to be looked at closely - producers might
save on tape, but equipment rental will cost more,
you have to downconvert your tapes, and tape to
film transfer is an additional cost if you are considering
With use of soft filtration, additional filmlook
option in post, and proper image manipulation (use
of internal menu settings), the 24p picture quality
(on HDTV monitors) is very film like. I hope to
shoot some tests at William F. White comparing 24p
HDTV transferred to 35mm versus Super 35mm print.
HD formats will still keep changing and there will
be a few versions - so, as with any tape format,
HD is not as "future proofed" as film,
which can be transferred to any format. Although
the high quality HD image will go much farther in
upgrade transfers. A lot of lower end HD options
(480 and 720 line) look very good to the average
viewer - certainly better than the present NTSC.
This might cloud the issue of consumers wanting
to support and pay for full 1080 line HDTV.
By the way, the facts presented in the article are,
like the fast moving HD technology, subject to change
moments after you read them!