Camerahead

Posted on 27 June 2012

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With the 5DmkII camera the world of filmmaking changed. Now we have the AF100, FS700 and a lot of other (semi) pro camera solutions that is all about having the *best* sensor out there to mount on your rig and to use it with your existing set of gear, like lenses, recorder, viewfinder and batteries. So here is my quest for the best sensor.

Sensor

What would be great is to have a camerahead based on the FS100 or NEX-5n super-35 chip or better. The aim also is to get it to give a constant 50p or 60p output without overheating, as well as a dynamic range of 14 stops like the Alexa, the high spatial resolution like the Panasonic GH2 and no moire or aliasing or any other DSLR problems that the Canons suffer.

Recorder

When it comes to recording you could take the sony route (do the necessary processing in the camera) or the red-route (only record the RAW sensor output and do the processing on the computer in post). For the fast route it would be nice to have the full color-space of standards like or xvYCC as well as BT.709. Also, full bit depth would be nice, as well as S-log like matrix LUT functions.

Although this might not be needed if it would be possible to output a RAW-like HDMI stream (http://www.ronbigelow.com/articles/raw/raw.htm), so without white balance, tonal curves (matrix), sharpening or chroma subsampling done.

Lens mount

You would have different lens-mount versions: PL-mount, B4-mount etc etc. These would be hard-mounted to the (waterproof) body. Also, there might be power, iris, autofocus or other meta-data connections for using the lens control of the different lenses without problems, as an advantage over the many lens-mount converters that are in use now.

ENG style controls

There would be ND filters as well as hard buttons for white balance (1, 2, 3, set), gain/ISO and shutter speed (with a small display for the numbers). These buttons would be on a control panel that can be attached to the left side of this ‘head’ (ENG style) or anywhere on the rig (filmstyle, so you can make an Alexa-like setup).

Connectors

The basis would be a HDMI out which provide (as of specs) uncompressed video up to RGB or xvYCC output over HDMI, with potential (firmware) support up to 4k, 24p, 36 bit / 1920x1080p60, 48bit with the clock rate of 340MHz of HDMI 1.4.

There would be different professional connectors on the backside: power (XLR4 or hirose, or power over HDMI (max 5V/50mA)), USB (for firmware update and for iOS control of shutter/iso/WB/ND as well as setting color space, matrix, framerate etc etc) and of course the HDMI out (with a professional locking system). And finally, there would be a wordclock connector for easy 3D or multicam setups.

There might also be a 3G SDI out version of this head, but this would be limited to 1920x1080p30 at 36 bit RGB 1920x1080p60 at 20 bit (10 bit 4:2:2 YCC) or due to its maximum bitrate of 3Gbps. And there might be a Thunderbold (10Gbit) or maybe 10Gbit ethernet or infiniband versions.

This head would be meant to use together with the professional tools everybody already is using, like viewfinders with zebra and battery status, V-lock batteries, external HDMI recorders like ninja or SD PIX 220 with professional inputs. The big advantage will be that you can use it with your existing gear, in your existing workflow and that it is scalable, so you can replace only the head, or only the recorder as your needs change.

It wil be the only under $1000 solution that will give you a great sensor with clean HDMI output without gamma changes, strange p/i cadans, chroma subsampling, overlay information etc etc, at the resolution and framerate that you want it to be. It will give you professional connections, professional ENG style buttons and professional film-style controls.

Others

There are these nice other concepts like:

  • http://www.ikonoskop.com 2D and 3D camera with super16 (10,6x6mm) CCD sensor and memory cartridge. So this is not really a head: it’s also sound in, HD-SDI out, viewfinder and stereo lemo sound in. 1920x1080p30 12 bit, 3,2MB/frame in CinemaDNG format. Price of body € 7700 (IMS mount), C-mount adapter E 80, DII 80GB memory card: E 590 (15 minutes).
  • http://www.alliedvisiontec.com Allied Vision Technologies Prosilica GX2300, also base of the Digital Bolex:
  • http://www.digitalbolex.com. A $3300 super16 camera with RAW output (up to 90MB/s) to a dual compact flash card slot, together with XLR sound input. You’ll need a very good CF card to manage this datarate, but it seems like this is possible. This is not in production (yet).
  • http://www.viewplus.co.jp/english.html Lumiere. 4K@60fps 12bit RAW over PCI-e 4x. I’ve already read about this early 2010.
  • http://www.siliconimaging.com SI-2K mini. De head + body + touchscreen + EVF + 4x 32GB SSD is tweedehands zo’n 19000 Euro. Valt me mee eerlijk gezegd. Je kan de head dan uit de body halen en dan met extension cables een stuk verderop plaatsen. 2048×1152@30fps. 10 bit CineForm RAW, 10 f-stops dynamic range, 16:9 format 2/3″ CMOS (5um pitch, its single imager design enables the use of lower-cost 16mm film-style lenses, eliminating the optical aberrations caused by a 3-chip prism assembly). 65mm width for optimal inter-ocular distance for side-by-side 3D. There also is over (720p72) /undercrank (timelapse), as well as:
    • Play 10-bit CineForm RAW™ AVI and Quicktime footage in Microsoft Windows Media™ Player and Apple’s Quicktime Player, add metadata with Adobe Bridge™, edit in Adobe Premiere Pro™ and Final Cut, or composite in Adobe After Effects™.
    • Native sensitivity = ISO250 at 0db, 3200K. / ISO160 at 0db, 5600K.
    • Visually lossless CineForm RAW™ wavelet-based codec using SiliconDVR recording software (4:1 to 9:1 compression)
    • Interchange C, F, B4, and PL lens mounts without re-collimation using the unversal lens mount system ->; 2/3″ IMS mount
    • NOTE: the 2K-B4™ from P+S Technik allow you to mount B4-mount lenses without the optical aberrations associated with placing lenses designed for 3-chip cameras on single-chip designs. I don’t know what this means yet.
    • Analogue gain (up to 1000ISO/12dB) is better then digital gain.Whitebalance, on the other hand, is gaining of blue and green channels to match the light-color temperature and is applied in digitial domain because of the RAW format.
    • DC Power Regulation 11.5~19V
    • Recording on HDD (gigabit or other connector?) Direct-to-Disk Recording via connected laptop or PC controller? You will need a computer for controlling the head.
    • THEIR FAQ IS GREAT, about setting black (for removing fixed noise) and all sorts of other information
  • http://www.pstechnik.de PS x35
  • http://www.ptgrey.com/products/flea3_gige/flea3_gige_camera.asp
  • RED
  • Weisscam and ARRI have 35mm digital camera’s. Expensive, I guess
  • ZGC SinaCAM 3D camera$ 32370 2x 2/3″ Kodak sensor 14 bit RAW 1080p60
  • Open Source Cinema: apertus.org. Based on the $ 900 Elphel 353 C-mount camera with a 1/2.5″ 2592×1944 pixel chip. There is a CS adapter ring. Records to CF cards, IDE or eSata. 100 M network.
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