Tomorrow’s movie technologies debut at NAB 2007

By Nick Dager

In the movie industry as we knew it, production was always production and post was always post-but the buzzword of the future is “workflow.” With digital technology enveloping all stages of the moviemaking process, it is now easier than ever to transition seamlessly from shooting a film to editing it and getting it viewed by an audience. This sea change was obvious at the 2007 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas, where a record number of attendees (more than 108,000) crowded the vast exhibit halls and exhibitor booths to catch a glimpse of cinema’s future.

As film production makes the transition to digital 4k acquisition, which has roots in both post-production and exhibition, several camera manufacturers are vying for market share. the goal is to make the entire workflow process as seamless as possible from acquisition through exhibition and hollywood seems to believe that the best way to start is in 4k.

Sony showcased its long-anticipated Cinealta F23 camera, the newest member of Sony’s high-end CineAlta line of acquisition products for digital television and motion picture content creation, using three 2.2 megapixel, 2/3-inch type progressive CCD imagers and a 14-bit A/D converter. Totally moviemaker-friendly, the CineAlta camera body is compatible with a variety of film camera accessories, including bridge plates, matte boxes and follow focus units, all of which can be attached to the unit without modification.

The evolution is the latest in Dalsa’s growing line of 4K cameras. It has a smaller form factor model than its predecessor (aptly named the Origin) and incorporates the company’s latest generation frame transfer CCD image sensor. The new camera, which uses cine-lenses and has a real optical viewfinder, also includes a new live HD/SDI output feature for enhanced on-set monitoring and direct HD recording if desired. It will be available early next year.

Silicon Imaging, in partnership with AltaSens, announced the sI-2k series of digital cinema cameras, a next-generation 2K digital cinema camera solution powered by the 2/3-inch ProCamHD4562 CMOS color sensor. The sensor gives the SI-2K cameras the flexibility to shoot at various 2K Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI)-compliant formats and frame rates for theatrical distribution as well as at standard 1080P progressive HD frame rates for broadcast television.

“Silicon Imaging’s SI-2K camera is changing the way we make movies,” says producer Michael George of Pacific Gold Entertainment. “We just completed shooting a feature film called Blood: A Butchers Tale in just 17 days. The project was shot almost exclusively on green screen in the same style as 300 or Sin City. The image quality and detail from the SI-2K is simply amazing-the footage can easily be mistaken for film. The visualization tools for setting our shots and the instant playback of dailies was incredibly powerful and helped shorten our production process.”

JVC unveiled the new Gy-hd250u, a full-resolution, HD progressive camcorder designed from the ground up as a professional unit. A new 14-bit A/D converter was specially developed to prevent signal deterioration. The camcorder uses a wide-band analog front end to process its CCD sampling via the converter, which further improves the signal-to-noise ratio and horizontal resolution by optimizing the CCD drive circuitry. To enable 720p/60 recording, a new super encoder and pixel converter were developed, incorporating an adaptive filter, which optimizes the scalar performance of cross-converted signals. The resulting effects are increased resolution and reduced aliasing, making images more lifelike in appearance.

Panasonic exhibited its new aJ-hPX3000, a five-slot P2 HD camcorder capable of producing 1920 x 1080 high definition images, the highest HD recording quality in a one-piece camcorder. The AJ-HPX3000 is scheduled to be available in September.

Last year large crowds of people waited in line for the privilege of entering the Red Digital Cinema booth and were able to see… nothing. Inside there were only brochures and lots of promising talk. This year the lines were even longer and once inside people could watch a short film shot on the red one by Peter Jackson. (Yes, that Peter Jackson.) People also learned that the camera itself will be shipping soon. Very soon. In fact, I know several well-respected cinematographers in this industry who believe in the camera. One Hollywood friend in particular has already invested in the Red One and is counting the days until he gets it.

Band Pro Film & Digital, the exclusive reseller for the Sony CineAlta F23, was also showing a range of Carl Zeiss DigiPrime lenses. The new digiPrime 135mm t1.9 and 52mm t1.6 lenses feature superior quality optical glass and are precision-engineered.

16×9 Inc. entered the lens-making business in a serious way with the introduction of the eX super Fisheye. With a whopping .45X magnification, the new EX Super Fisheye claims to be the widest single-element fisheye adapter on the market. Added to the Panasonic AG-HVX200 lens, it delivers a 115-degree horizontal and 135-degree diagonal field of view.

Schneider Optics introduced a new line of Century professional lens accessories, designed specifically to enhance the performance and expand the creative capabilities of Canon’s new compact HD cameras as well as Sony HVR-V1U and HDR-FX7 camcorders.

Large cameras require a lot of support and to that end OConnor introduced the 120eX extended capacity fluid head. Based on OConnor’s proprietary EX technology, this patented head features a new stepless counterbalance system and ultra-smooth pan and tilt fluid drag, custom designed for film-style shooting. The 120EX can deliver full counterbalance to a camera package up to 120 pounds at full plus or minus 90 degrees forward and backward tilt; in EX-mode, it can handle up to 240 pounds at a reduced plus or minus 60-degree tilt.

For the foreseeable future, post houses will continue to have to deal with a wide range of formats and resolutions, and the technology at naB reflected that reality.

The top film editing systems invariably start with the letter “A.” Long dominant in the higher end of the market, Avid Media Composer has long maintained its leadership position by continuing to offer new features such as scriptsync. Simple in concept, ScriptSync seems destined to become a muchused editing tool. Powered by next-generation phonetic speech recognition technology from Nexidia, the ScriptSync advances the functionality of Avid’s script-based editing by automating the task of synchronizing scripts or transcripts with their respective media files and eliminates the labor-intensive process of manually inserting sync points. Once the script and media are matched, moviemakers can quickly and easily review multiple line readings and select individual takes. With ScriptSync, script-based editing is significantly more accurate and more practical for everyday use.

The company also announced the worldwide availability of version 2.7 of its award-winning Media Composer family of products and version 5.7 of avid Xpress Pro software. The new Media Composer and Avid Xpress Pro systems now include support for Intel-based Mac notebooks and workstations, new workflow capabilities and an updated bundle of third-party content creation software. Both Avid products also offer expanded format support, including write-back capabilities for the Sony XDCam and Panasonic P2 file-based media formats.

Not to be outdone, the other “A” name in editing, Apple, unveiled Final Cut studio 2. The upgrade includes Final Cut Pro 6, which introduces Apple’s ProRes 422 format for uncompressed HD quality at SD file sizes and support for mixed video formats and frame rates in a single timeline. It also comes with a long list of new features, but the one that attracted the most attention was “Color,” a professional color grading and finishing application for ensuring consistent color and creating signature looks. With the markets for HD movie transfers and HD post-production continuing to grow, Thomson has launched a new version of its film scanning platform, the Grass valley spirit HD telecine. The new machine shares all its optical and mechanical components with the Spirit 4K film scanner, allowing the Spirit HD to be upgraded on-site with a minimum of downtime as a user’s requirements move from HD to digital intermediate (DI) post-production. The new Spirit HD scans at all standard and high-definition formats, in both 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 color resolutions. Outputs are available as SDI, HD-SDI, dual link HD-SDI and as data, allowing the Spirit HD to be used as the input to 1920 x 1080 DI post-production.

With the ability to deliver up to 48 streams of 2K real-time video to any post-production application attached to the network, the Brightdrive Pro16 is particularly suitable for large-scale, data-centric post projects and facilities. Using the BrightDrive Pro16, up to 48 operators can access, share and work on the same media files concurrently, thereby bringing higher levels of efficiency and collaboration to the post-production workflow. This means managers no longer need to spend time copying files between applications or waiting for individual processes to finish before media can proceed through the workflow.

As digital production moves to ever-higher resolution there is an increased demand for improved reference monitors both in acquisition and in post-production.

Cine-tal Systems added several upgrades to its widely acclaimed monitor line. The new Cinemage 2.1 provides a host of new features such as a DVI input that provides a calibrated desktop monitor and an HDSDI/SDI reference monitor integrated into a single package. Cinemage version 2.1 adds compatibility with standard definition video formats. Both standard definition and 720p video formats may be viewed pixel to pixel or scaled to full screen for optimum viewing accuracy. Cine-tal also unveiled the eL 1000 visual display processor, which delivers precision HD monitoring and color management in the digital workflow process for both production and post-production environments.

Sony, too, introduced a new generation of professional master monitoring technology, the first of which will be the Bvm-L230 LCD video reference monitor. The 22.5-inch monitor combines a new full-resolution LCD panel, a high-precision backdevelopment for several years. Sony says the new LCD panel is the industry’s first with a 10-bit driver that is capable of producing 1,024 levels of gray scale, making the monitor ideal for high-end monitoring applications including digital cinema, digital intermediate, telecine and high-end post work, as well as program and preview monitoring. (A 42inch version is already planned for next year.)

JVC introduced two flat-panel monitors, the 24inch dt-v24L1du and the 20-inch dt-v20L1du, both of which are compatible with a variety of external control interfaces and both have the ability to be mounted using standard VESA-compliant mounting brackets and tabletop stands.

eCinema Systems also unveiled plans to launch an expanded line of LCD monitors. Founder and CEO Martin Euredjian says, “eCinema Systems has been conducting research and development in the LCD monitor field for over five years. The new monitor line reflects what we’ve learned about the technology. However, and more important than that, the new monitor line is a direct reflection of the customer feedback we have received. Last year we held private demonstrations of a CRT-replacement LCD monitor in prototype form; this year we are showing the finished product. Known as the dPX series, these new displays were designed with high-end DI and telecine in mind.”

As digital cinema grows globally, one of the biggest challenges is content creation. Getting content-be it a feature film, concert, advertisement or trailer-on to digital cinema screens can be costly and time-consuming. advances in digital post-production, such as 4k digital intermediates and higher bit-depth color, have increased the demands on digital cinema content creation. meanwhile, cost of entry has discouraged all but the largest facilities from investing in the tools to create final digital cinema distribution files, known as “digital cinema packages” (dCP).

JPEG 2000 compression for digital cinema is a task that demands large amounts of processing power in order to be done in a realistic amount of time. In the high-pressure world of feature film post-production, this is time that should be as short as possible.

To address these issues, Dolby has introduced the sCC2000 secure Content Creator, a scalable solution to digital cinema compression, packaging and encryption. Offering a comprehensive suite of software tools for the creation of DCPs ready to go to cinemas, the hardware is designed to work both as a standalone unit and for integration into post facilities.

Each render farm unit, or node, works independently on a batch of image frames dealt out by the SCC2000. By optimizing central storage and render node setup, real-time or faster 2K and 4K JPEG 2000 encoding is achievable. Moreover, the system is expandable to meet the growing needs of an expanding business. The Dolby JPEG 2000 encoder software generates 2K or 4K files to the DCI specification by utilizing unique optimization that allows the user to select profiles for different content types, such as live action or computer-generated images, to provide the best quality results from encoding. Other userdefinable features, such as target bit rate, allow each encode to be tailored to a moviemaker’s individual needs.

MTI Film announced multiple strategic alliances and integration certifications with Avid, EFilm, DVS, DataDirect Networks and Quantel. These alliances were made to ideally create greater flexibility and integration opportunities for customers who use MTI’s Control dailies and its new sister application, Convey, which provides file-based deliverables from media ingested by the Control Dailies system.

MTI Film also announced that post house FotoKem has purchased Control Dailies for its facility, which it plans to use for both feature film and episodic television projects. “FotoKem is one of the great names in Hollywood postproduction, and so it is with great pride and satisfaction that we strengthen our existing relationship through its purchase of Control Dailies,” says MTI’s CEO Larry Chernoff. “We look forward to collaborating with FotoKem on making its dailies operations as efficient as possible and providing its clients with state-of-the art service.”

SmartJog was showing its smartdelivery and smartdam products, which enable almost instantaneous delivery of TV spots, trailers and electronic press kits (EPK) while allowing for a fully collaborative workflow between local offices. SmartJog also added post-production functionalities to its smarttools suite of products including new QuickTime input and output formats.

Digital Video Systems (DVS) announced that its Clipster system for digital intermediates now meets the requirements and specifications of the DCI. Bernhard Reitz, head of DVS product management says, “It has always been of utmost importance to DVS to seize or to develop technological developments early. Thanks to Clipster, our customers are able to meet the demands of digital cinema and to thus shape cinema’s future.” Kodak demonstrated an array of new film technologies. The company demonstrated the organic quality of film displayed in high-definition format, along with advanced post-production tools, including grain reduction and dust-busting software. “We are here to demonstrate why the large majority of dramatic content and national commercials airing on television are produced on film,” says Kim Snyder, vice president of Kodak’s Entertainment Imaging division. “We are also here to listen and show our commitment to the creative community.”

Kodak featured Super 16 and 35mm film images presented on high-definition monitors. There are currently seven Kodak Vision2 negative films that offer specialized imaging characteristics designed to give moviemakers maximum freedom for telling stories visually. Kodak also demonstrated the company’s proprietary digital Ice technology version 2.0, which is designed to automatically detect and eliminate dust, scratches and other anomalies when film images are converted to digital files for post-production. The upgraded software integrates with other post-production applications and offers flexible output options. “Kodak has a historic partnership with the creative community stretching back to the earliest days of the art form,” Snyder says. “We plan to continue our dedication to filmmaking long into the future.”

Increasingly the digital workflow issue is moving to all aspects of production, post-production and distribution and several companies addressed this issue at the show.

Brazil’s theatrical cinema chain Rain Network is changing film distribution across the globe, screen by screen, with the help of FileCatalyst’s file transfer acceleration solution. Prior to deploying FileCatalyst, Rain Network tested a number of other file transfer products and services, ultimately deciding on FileCatalyst because of its superior technology and product support.

By reducing IT costs with extensive automated processes and remote administration, and requiring no additional hardware, Rain Network now transfers more than 250 digital film transfers each month-each one 15 to 20 GB in size. MM

Nick Dager is the editor and publisher of digital Cinema report ( He has reported on film and television production for more than 20 years, has moderated panel discussions at numerous industry events and is the author of two Hardy Boys mysteries, Dead Season and Uncivil War.

Band Pro Film & digital, Burbank
Bright systems
Cine-tal systems
digital video systems
eCinema systems
mtI Film
rain network
red digital Cinema
schneider optics
silicon Imaging
16×9 Inc.
thomson Grass valley
Carl Zeiss