No, that’s not a misprint: 1 Terabyte Memory Card capable of 4K production. I almost fell out of my chair halfway through Sony’s pre-NAB presentation last week. Although accompanied by the disclaimer “Future Technology Demonstration,” this was a pivotal moment.
Imagine a solid state memory card about the size of a Hershey Bar, with storage capacity up to 1 Terabyte, RAID 5 equivalent (very safe), and guaranteed data transfer rate up to 5 Gbps for HD, 3D, 2K and 4K image files. It cues up in cues up in 4 frames. That is fast: HDCAM SR tape’s data rate is 880 Mbps; current SxS Memory Cards are rated at 800 Mbps. This is 5,000 Mbps (5 Gbps): more than 5 times faster.
And what’s so important about that? I think where there’s true 4K storage, a true 4K camera can’t be too far away. A wise man once told me, “no camera was ever developed before an established storage system was already in place.” Film came before most cameras, tape came before camcorders, Compact Flash cards came before HDSLRs. SR 2.o promises MPEG-4 standard, non-proprietary, native file-based, instantly-editable production.
At NAB, Sony will also demonstrate something they call the “Media Backbone.” We are mercifully migrating away from hydrodynamic allusions (workflow) to anatomical ones (bones and spines). As we evolve from silver halide and tape to files for capture, storage, and archiving, the new Sony paradigm promises to link hardware, software and files throughout the production process, from pre-viz to shooting and on through post and preservation.
An important component of the Backbone is “ELLCAMI,” a resolution-independent multi-format input, transcoding and output system. Think of it as a sophisticated high-speed network of computers with all the familiar input and output connectors attached. It uses Sony’s cell processor technology familiar to all kids with Playstation 3). The high-speed processors (up to 128 cores per workstation) can quickly gobble up images in a variety of formats and resolutions (from 4K to proxy), process and convert the files without reducing quality, and output the results in a variety of ways. Wow.
Sony’s stock doubled last year. If I were your broker, I’d mumble the usual disclaimers, be sure this isn’t inside information (it isn’t), and suggest you consider a company with brave new plans. If I were head of a film studio, network, rental house or production company, I’d head to the Sony booth at NAB. You know where I’ll be: covering NAB like a kid in a candy store. Check back here for more early warnings and follow-ups.