This is a preview of the Introduction to FDTimes June 2015 Issue 70 – coming Tuesday. It raises an important question: can all the camera and lens manufacturers agree on a new cine mount standard when Full Frame 24×36 takes off?
Why were Winfried Scherle and Michael Schiehlen (above) smiling at NAB? Their ZEISS Compact Prime CP.2 and Compact Zoom CZ.2 lenses have been covering Full Frame sensors for quite some time. When asked whether he knew something we didn’t, Dr. Scherle said, “I had a hunch.”
A year ago, in February 2014, FDTimes brazenly proclaimed, “This is the year we will see more Full Frame 24×36 mm sensors, already familiar to the DSLR world, appear in digital motion picture cameras.” Oops, that prediction was off by a year. Interestingly, RED was the only camera company to embrace 24×36 FF Cine this year at NAB 2015. With more than 200 million Full Frame still lenses from Canon, Nikon, Leica, ZEISS, and others already out there, what’s taking the cine camera makers so long?
Kavon Elhami of CamTec said, “I love it. I don’t care so much about the K as long as it makes a good image. With the RED 20×40 size, you already have millions of still lenses—they are already there—and they can be rehoused.”
Canon CEO Masaya Maeda said (see next page), “Larger pixel sizes are an advantage in low light. And we are not restricted to the Super 35 size by the silicon wafer itself.”
ARRI Managing Director Franz Kraus said, “Looking at the beauty of the ALEXA65 images, I think Full Frame sensors will lead us towards this esthetic. Having significantly more of these good and large pixels will also be very beneficial.”
Otto Nemenz said, “This is where the business is going—bigger sensors. ARRI made the first step with the Alexa 65, and now RED. I think the industry may settle on the 24×36 format. It is an ideal format because it already has a huge base. Give cinematographers a bigger sensor and they will want to fill it up.”
The makers of Hawk lenses are smiling: their recently announced Hawk65 Anamorphics will cover any format from Super35, to Full Frame Still, to RED 20×40, and all the way up to 65mm.
Amnon Band of Band Pro said, “For large sensor cameras, it’s not a question of if, but when. It’s inevitable. It’s not a fad, it’s progress.”
Here we are in April 2015, and 35mm digital motion picture cameras have aspect ratios of 4:3 (ARRI Alexas), 16:9 (Sony, Canon, Blackmagic, Nikon, GoPro, Phantom Flex4K) and 2:1 (RED Dragon). If you are a camera manufacturer, you are delighted if your cameras have sensors 18 mm high—which do not crop the huge selection of new anamorphic 2x lenses now available. If your digital motion picture cameras are using sensors 13.8 mm to 15 mm high, your customers have probably been beseeching you to provide cameras that will accommodate all these anamorphic lenses. So, what’s a designer to do?
My guess is that many camera designers, rather than try to stretch a mere 3 mm more in height to 18 mm, will decide to make the leap directly to larger sensors, 20 to 24 mm high × 36 mm wide.
I think the next generation of cine cameras will be multi format, scalable and croppable. The most important thing is to accommodate the smallest common denominator: if you are planning to put 16mm or B4 lenses on your camera, those formats should have at least HD capability. Super 35mm will want to be at least 4K. You then do the math up from there.
Multi format digital cameras
The idea of multiple formats goes back to the beginning of film history. 35mm film was a universal standard for more than 100 years. But many different formats were available within that standard. All you had to do was put a mask in the gate and change to a different groundglass. In fact, the permutation of film formats fill a 98-page Guide from ARRI and another from Clairmont Camera.
And not only 35mm. Want a larger format to get people away from their home TVs and back into movie theaters? If it’s 1954 and you’re Douglas Shearer at MGM, Robert Gottschalk, president of Panavision, or Mike Todd, you call Kodak and get a commitment for 65mm film negative and 70mm prints. But even that was not unique. 70mm film was used at the Henley Regatta in 1896 and the Paris World Exposition in 1900.
The VistaVision camera aperture, a cousin of Full Frame Still Format, is 37.72 mm x 24.92 mm. Martin Hart of Widescree Museum writes, “The earliest VistaVision optics were still camera lenses by Leica, since the 35mm still frame size is roughly the same as VistaVision. VistaVision was created by Paramount Pictures in 1954. It was not an anamorphic processes like CinemaScope. The 35mm negative ran horizontally through the camera gate.”
PL and PV Predominate (for now)
Lest these pronouncements produce dispepsia among the lensmeisters of Leicester, Oberkochen, Wetzlar, Saint-Héand, Saitama, and Morigane, they can take comfort in knowing that 95% of high end features and commercials are using PL or Panavision mount lenses on variations of the Academy format. The new RED Weapon 8K camera will certainly accept all these lenses with its removable PL mount.
Universal Mounts for new standard of lenses
The big question is whether a new mount and a new standard may emerge. PL mounts have a flange focal depth of 52 mm. The Panavision PV mount is 57.15 mm. They were designed for spinning mirror cameras. Mirrorless digital cameras enable shorter flange depths, which enable smaller lenses.
Last week in Oberkochen, Winfried Scherle of ZEISS said, “There’s a big need in the industry for a standardized interface. Leave the choice of lens to the customer, but I would be very glad if this idea of a common mount could be possible.”