Download the 4-page PDF version of this article, reprinted from the September Edition of FDTimes.
At IBC 2016, Panasonic introduces the VariCam Pure. It is a “co-production” between Panasonic and Codex.
VariCam Pure is a new S35 4K/2K camera system with high-quality imaging, 14+ stops of dynamic range, dual ISO 800/5000, and built-in, uncompressed RAW to 120 fps.
The new VariCam Pure camera records pure, uncompressed RAW up to 120 fps onto familiar, industry-standard Codex Capture Drive 2.0 media already widely used by many camera systems, post facilities and studios.
VariCam Pure is rugged, compact, lightweight (5 kg total) and ergonomic. The Codex RAW Recorder is integrated with the camera.
Menus and controls of both the camera and the Codex are managed by the camera’s flexible control panel and video display. It attaches to either side of the camera or can be run remotely.
A Panasonic press release says the suggested list price of the V-RAW Recorder is under $ 30,000.
Interview with Kunihiko Miyagi and Marc Dando
This discussion of VariCam Pure has a structure reminiscent of Rashomon. The difference is that both protagonists are in full agreement with each other. Kunihiko Miyagi is Director of Panasonic’s Professional Video Business Unit. Marc Dando is President of Codex.
Jon Fauer: Please provide an overview of the VariCam Pure. How is it different from the original VariCam 35 and LT?
Kunihiko Miyagi: We are pleased that the performance of the VariCam 35 and LT were well accepted by the market. Panasonic and Codex worked together on the RAW recorder that attaches directly to the back of the VariCam 35 camera head and the Varicam 35 AVC-Intra Recording body. However it had some limitations of mobility. Quite a few customers asked if the RAW recording capability could be made in a smaller package.
Now Codex and Panasonic propose a new RAW recording system that directly connects the existing VariCam 35 camera head module with a completely new, integrated Codex V-RAW 2.0 Recorder. It is an uncompressed RAW-only recording system, up to 120 fps. This new camera system provides better mobility because of its smaller size and lighter weight.
It is called VariCam Pure. The name suggests the purity of uncompressed RAW recording that enables the best picture quality.
When did the project begin?
Marc Dando and I got this idea at NAB2016. We started the co-development project in June of this year. The engineers of both companies worked very hard to achieve this in only 6 months.
My understanding is that RAW recording amounts to about 10% of the high-end market. Will this camera make RAW more affordable and popular?
Yes, we believe so. The AVC-Intra 4K recording of the current VariCam 35 offers high quality video, capturing 14+ stops of dynamic range, all with a reasonable file size and fast workflow. It has been widely used in episodic dramas by major content providers such as Netflix. On the other hand, the demand for uncompressed RAW recording is very high in the high-end market. We believe this new, pure, RAW camera-recorder system will expand the VariCam world.
Describe RAW for someone who doesn’t know much about it.
RAW recording captures the maximum possible image quality from the sensor. It allows for flexibility in post production and color grading to achieve the best possible color reproduction.
The VariCam Pure system utilizes the Camera module and the new V-RAW recorder to achieve this quality of 14+ stops latitude up to 120 fps. The Codex RAW workflow is well established in this industry and so this is a natural step for both companies.
Do you want to tell us about delivery dates and prices?
Delivery will be end of 2016. Prices will be announced at IBC.
The original modular concept of the VariCam 35 enabled this project to be realized. We believe that the combination of Panasonic’s camera technology and Codex’s RAW recording and workflow expertise will create an excellent synergy for future developments.
Marc, what is the concept of this new camera?
Marc Dando: Meeting with customers around the world, we often heard that they loved the image quality of the VariCam 35, wanted RAW recording, but needed a smaller camera system that could be used in all situations—from an A camera on a dolly to a Steadicam or on a remote head. We knew that we could work together with Panasonic and improve the ergonomics and usability of the system.
Will this camera increase the use of RAW recording?
RAW has become the standard for many feature films and Codex is fortunate to have been at the forefront of the transition. Now that more and more consumers are expecting higher quality in the home, studios like Netflix would like 4K RAW acquisition so that they can meet the expectations of their current customers and also future-proof their content— for example, for HDR distribution.
What are the advantages of shooting RAW?
RAW is uncompressed and unprocessed. It’s the pure image data collected by the sensor. For today, it means you have maximum flexibility in processing and color grading the images. And for tomorrow, it means that as image processing algorithms improve, you can meet the needs of future distribution formats and get the maximum value out of your archive.
But isn’t it harder to deal with in post?
No. Facilities are now very used to dealing with RAW files. They understand the huge advantages for grading, VFX and archiving. Many people are surprised to find out that RAW files often are not that much larger than, for example, high quality ProRes files. The Codex system, from recording through completion, allows users to make mezzanine files (digital intermediates used to make copies) before finishing from RAW, providing all the quality with the simplicity of a ProRes workflow.
Why doesn’t the VariCam Pure record ProRes then?
Actually, it does that very elegantly, but not in the camera. And not only ProRes, but also DNxHR. Insert a Codex Capture Drive into a Codex Production Suite’s Capture Drive 2.0 Dock to clone the RAW files, create dailies and offload to popular formats.
We are very excited to work with Panasonic as we roll out this camera system together. We believe that both companies have done a great job of listening to customers and incorporating their needs. We can’t wait to see the creative results that will emerge.