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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hi-Tech Studio: Be A Hybrid Shooter

Get into the motion game with the latest equipment for creating and working with 4K video


As the most affordable of the RED cameras, the SCARLET-X is an attractive option for still and motion shooters.


At twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of full HD video, 4K video files actually capture four times the image information of high definition. The major criticism of the burgeoning video format has been that you have to be sitting very close to see the increased resolution, but as new models from ASUS, Dell, Panasonic, Sharp, Sony and Canon are showing, the enhanced clarity and sharpness are well received when viewing media on 4K tablets and computer displays. 4K resolution also makes it easier for companies to produce larger screens, and we're now seeing 4K displays as large as 110 inches in size, as well as 4K projectors from Christie, Sony, RED and JVC. Entertainment companies like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube have also been streaming 4K content. Sony's Vegas Pro, Apple's Final Cut Pro X and Adobe's Premiere Pro are all options for editing 4K.

So you can see that 4K content is about to become readily available, but the means with which to produce it has been very expensive until very recently, requiring top-of-the-line professional camcorder systems for filmmaking that were only available from Sony or RED. Over the last year, offerings have begun to filter in, however, starting, ironically, with new smartphone models like the Samsung Galaxy Note III and Acer Liquid S2. Of course, capturing and processing sequences of back-to-back 8-megapixel images is a difficult task to manage, and the compressed video produced by these smartphones is likely to be questionable. Similarly, while most DSLR and mirrorless sensors have larger native resolution than 4K resolution requires, the processing needs for capturing and outputting such large images at so many frames per second at such high quality is beyond the capabilities of most still cameras.

There are a few still and motion solutions available on the market for 4K, however, like Panasonic's newly announced LUMIX DMC-GH4, by far the most affordable 4K-capable model currently available. It's the first Micro Four Thirds camera to feature native 4K video capture, with full 4K at 24 fps, and Ultra HD resolutions at 24 fps and 30 fps. As a still camera, the GH4 produces 16.05-megapixel stills, as well as native 8.8-megapixel frame grabs while capturing video. The camera also offers high-bit-rate ALL-Intra video capture at 200 Mb/s or IPB compression at 100 Mb/s for much longer clip lengths of up to 29 minutes, 59 seconds. It sports WiFi and a number of professional video features like color bars, Synchro Scan for flicker suppression, "CINELIKE D" and "CINELIKE V" gamma for in-camera exposure setting presets, Master Pedestal brightness adjustment and Zebra patterns for determining areas of overexposure. A separate (but very expensive) Interface Unit (AG-YAGHG) is available to add 2-channel XLR inputs, 3G-SDI video output and audio levels. List Price: $1,699 (LUMIX DMC-GH4/body only); $1,999 (LUMIX AG-YAGHG Interface Unit).

Nikon's 4K offerings are meager. The Nikon J1 and recently discontinued V1, both mirrorless models, are capable of very short RAW 4K video clips through a workaround on the bursting modes. Much like Vine video clips, they're too short for full videos, but are useful as an affordable way to achieve supplemental slow-motion footage or B-roll shots. Estimated Street Price: $439 (V1); $239 (J1).

Canon, on the other hand, has the 4K-capable EOS-1D C, part of their Cinema EOS line of EF lens-mount cameras and camcorders. As an 18.1-megapixel still camera that has been designed with video needs in mind, the full-frame shooter captures video in 24p with 4K or at frame rates of up to 60 fps with HD resolutions. Unlike previous Canon still camera models, which skipped lines of image resolution to achieve video, the EOS-1D C crops at the sensor for an APS-H angle of view, which reduces jelly motion and image skew.

The Canon Cinema EOS line features compatibility with the EF lens mount so you can use standard Canon still lenses for filmmaking. Thanks to the large imaging sensors, DSLR systems have much better light sensitivity than most camcorders, as well, and the EOS-1D C has an expandable ISO range of 50 to 204,800. It also has a built-in headphone terminal for monitoring audio (though it loses the flash sync port found in the similar EOS-1D X). A Canon Log Gamma setting maximizes dynamic range and exposure latitude to achieve the best results during postprocessing and color grading. At 4K, the EOS-1D C only offers 4:2:2 chroma subsampling at 8-bits of color depth, however, which means the video codec compresses color information in order to achieve smaller files. Also offering Canon Log Gamma and compatibility with EF lenses, the more expensive Canon EOS C500 with an 8.8-megapixel Super 35mm-sized CMOS sensor has a more traditional shoulder-mount camcorder design. It can capture full 4K, 10-bit RAW or 12-bit 4:4:4 video files at up to 60 fps. It's also available as the EOS C500 PL with a PL mount for use with classic cinema lenses. List Price: $11,999 (EOS-1D C/ body only); $19,999 (Canon EOS C500/PL).

 

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