The bar has been raised again. Sony is planning to show the prototype of a new >4K motion picture camera at NAB 2011. This could be historic.
We’re an hour southwest of Tokyo at Sony’s Tech Center in Atsugi. No pictures allowed, but we spent time with the development team and executives involved in this latest addition to the Sony CineAlta product line. It doesn’t have a name yet, but instead of calling it the Next CineAlta Camera, let’s give it the working title of Cine Altissima. She is not a mere 4K motion picture camera. Behind the PL mount, there’s an 8K sensor: 8768 x 2324 pixel single CMOS sensor (that’s 20.4 Megapixels) — Super35 3-perf size, 16-bit RAW output, 16:8:8.
Altissima covers a wider color space than any other digital camera, and will include ACES Film Emulation.
In normal mode, the new Sony 4K camera will shoot from 1-72 fps. In HFR (High Frame Rate) mode, she’ll go from 1-120 fps.
A 1 TB Memory Card recording at 24 fps will store about an hour of “footage.” A dockable SR Memory Card Recorder can attach to the camera for recording directly to an SR Memory Card of 256 MB, 512 MB or 1 TB. I imagine that other recording options will become available, both onboard as an accessory digital “magazine,” and tethered by cable in a separate case. Debayering for instant viewing or playback will be available with external real time hardware.
Altissima has the familiar look, in prototype form, of a high end motion picture camera: hints of F35, Arricam Studio or Panaflex Millenium. Power will be dual 12 volt; consumption is expected to be less than a Sony F35.
What does the image look like? The pictures from the prototype, on a large 4K monitor, were stunning. Rich blacks, incredible detail, superbly sharp. I’m guessing the native ISO sensitivity is around 800-1000 — just quick speculation in a dark test room and a tabletop set.
I think what makes this new camera possible is the fact that Sony manufactures the five secret sauces essential to practical 4K: sensor, storage, software, station, and screening. Sony makes the 8K sensor that subsamples to 4K. That’s a significant amount of headroom; higher resolution from this sensor might be seen in the future. Storage: Sony makes the SR Memory Cards–they have an impressive 5 Gbps sustained data rate. Station: Data from the SR Memory Card is downloaded, cloned, and copied via Sony’s SRW-5800/2 deck. Software: Sony announced that Avid, Final Cut Pro and other major editing systems will handle all this. Finally, Sony’s 4K digital projectors have been installed in more than 7500 theaters worldwide.
Sony’s new Cine Altissima camera has the potential to be the big breakthrough into practical 4K production. This isn’t the trickle of traditional workflow. This is the floodgates opening.