Friday, 12 September 2014

IBC 2014 product launches place 4K in the mainstream

A round-up of 4K items of interest from IBC 2014 in Amsterdam.

Those of use who use DSLRs like the Canon 5D to shoot time lapses have been aware of the 4K phenomenon longer than most. The detail it produces and the ability to move the video around within an HD raster without quality loss are just two of the benefits of shooting in 4K. The football World Cup in Brazil was a testing bed for broadcast 4K and many high-end TV series have been shot in 4K - some have even been transmitted (on Netflix) in 4K.

The biggest drawback with 4K is its size. File sizes are huge and because it is such high quality you don't want to compress it too much. Most versions of HD codecs such as ProRes and H264 have been beefed up to handle 4K images but the obvious omission was a new DNx codec from Avid. Most people expected Avid to enhance their AMA system which uses plug-ins to handle other codecs within Media Composer. Most of the time I get to a point in the edit where I transcode the AMA material to DNxHD which Avid handles beautifully and is compatible through the Avid/EVS system. 

Yesterday at IBC in Amsterdam Avid announced they have developed DNxHR a 4K (strictly a UHD) version of their codec which will be available in Q4 of this year. They have called it "4K beauty without the bandwidth" and are releasing a new version of Media Composer to cope with it. Hopefully this will be a universal codec that once added to a PC or Mac can be used in Adobe, DaVinci Resolve and other edit systems. I have yet to discover the all important MB/sec size of this codec but it could be a good alternative to H.265 for distribution of 4K material.
Blackmagic Design has been an early advocate of 4K and is now producing very usable firmware for its 4K Production Camera. In the older HD Cinema Camera DNxHD was one of the recording options so I hope the Production Camera will gain DNxHR recording when it is released.

Blackmagic also added a new monitor to its line-up today with the SmartView 4K, a 15 inch rack mount (or VESA mount) LCD monitor for under $2,000.

Blackmagic Design SmartView 4K

Not sure how good it will be for grading (no gamut information), but it has built-in LUTs so it is intended to be used by creatives and not just engineers. It is due out in December 2014 and hopefully won't experience the delays of other Blackmagic products.

One monitor that you can definitely grade on is Sony's new BVM-X300 4K OLED Master Monitor. I am sitting in front of its HD cousin and it is the best monitor I have ever seen, I cannot wait to see the 4K version but unfortunately I'm not in Amsterdam this week but an edit suite near Heathrow.

Sony BVM-X300 4K OLED master monitor

Unlike the Blackmagic Design monitor this 30 inch monster is true 4K (4096x2160) with an extra wide gamut range, although Sony must be gutted that is doesn't cover the full ITU-R BT2020 wide colour spaces and have to admit it in their documentation. Of course this will probably cost more than a small car, even if that small car is a mini with all the extras on. Canon's competing monitor, the DP-V3010 is currently £29,000 at CVP.

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