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February 19, 2024

BSC Expo Lively in ‘Fragile’ Market

One of the areas that has seen the most advances in 8K recently is in in content capture and cameras. To talk to those involved in those industries, we were pleased to visit the British Society of Cinematographers Expo that took place in London’s Battersea Evolution exhibition facility on the 16th and 17th of February. The facility is quite small, but was full of cameras, lights and the accessories of content production. The UK has a strong content creation industry that has an international reputation and there were plenty of visitors.

Sometimes these smaller shows see just local distributors representing major brands and that can mean limited expertise, but in London a number of major brands were there ‘in person’. However, the show is just a couple of months before the major event of NAB in Las Vegas, so there were no major announcements of new products. We did get to see some relatively recently announced products, though. 

Some Market Challenges

Although brands were being positive and upbeat at the event, the professional video content business does have some challenges at the moment, we heard. One comment was that the market was ‘fragile’. Just two or three years ago there was a huge demand for new content by streamers and at one time, it was said that all you needed was a good idea to get funding. The strikes of last year took a big toll even in the UK as content was pushed back and with streamers now focusing more on advertising-funded content (FAST) there is a lot more cost pressure and fewer projects. That impacts the market for equipment, although there is always a base level of demand.

Red Digital was highlighting its new full frame V-Raptor (X) and V-Raptor (X) XL cameras which feature a global shutter but support 8K operation. We recently dug into this topic as there has been a lot of interest in the market because of the announcement of the Sony Alpha 9 III camera (although that camera does not support 8K as it has just a 24.4 megapixel sensor). We would have liked to get a bit deeper into the claims that Red has made that it has created a global shutter system while maintaining dynamic range, but technical staff were not available.

RED’s V-Raptor (X) XL was getting a lot of interest from delegates. Image:Bob Raikes

Usually there is a trade off in dynamic range when using a global shutter. CVP has published a detailed test and analysis of the new cameras on YouTube and was convinced by the claims. The Red cameras have a new ‘extended highlights’ mode that can extend dynamic range up to 20 stops, although with some subjects the mode gives some artefacts. The artefacts are because in this mode the camera automatically captures a second image at a shorter shutter speed to capture highlights. The video has a detailed dive into the feature. CVP also dig into the ‘Phantom Frame’ feature and highlight the uses in the video.

Blackmagic Promotes Cameras from IBC Launch

Blackmagic Design is a supplier of cameras with up to 12K sensors, but at the London event was showcasing its Cinema Camera 6K and Micro Studio Camera 4K G2 which were launched back at IBC in September. The Micro Studio APS-C camera was introduced because the firm had so many fans of the previous generation units. Staff told us that many are using the device in applications where they might previously have used an action camera such as a GoPro.

Blackmagic showed its most recent 4K and 6K cameras including this Micro Studio Camera 4K G2. Image:Bob Raikes

Sony had a substantial presence at the show, with much emphasis on the Burano 8K camera, which was getting a lot of interest. It had been hoped that the camera would be shipping by now, but deliveries are still a couple of weeks away although it too was announced at IBC. Staff at the event were emphasizing the ability of the camera to capture and encode 8K directly into the XAVC format which uses the H.265 codec. Using this kind of codec rather than Raw or Sony’s X-OCN formats saves a lot of space and storage. The XAVC format supports 10 bit 4:2:2 capture and staff on the booth were very positive about the visual quality that could be delivered even though there is relatively high compression. The files can be edited without an issue although we were told that something like an Apple M2-based editing system or above is really ideal. 

Sony’s 8K Burano will be available shortly. Image: Bob Raikes

This was also a chance to see Sony’s latest dual panel 4,000 cd/m2 dual panel LCD monitor which looked very impressive – but then at around $30,000, it should look good! The 4K monitor is due to start shipping in April 2024. (we tried to get a good image but the contrast and peak brightness made it extremely difficult!)

The only other monitor specialist at the event was Swit of China. It was promoting its flagship 4K miniLED monitor which is close to half the price of the Sony unit, and less than half the peak brightness. For a miniLED backlit unit, the monitor was very impressive. The monitor as advertised as 4K/8K but this is because of the ability to capture 8K via 4 SDI ports and then downscale to match the display panel itself. 

Swit’s monitor accepts 4 12G SDI inputs to support 8K monitoring and had good performance based on a miniLED LCD. Image: Bob Raikes

Sigma was demonstrating its very wide range of 8K compatible cinema lenses. The company is well known for its highly regarded digital photography lenses, espcially the ‘Art’ models and extended into cinema-specific versions of the lenses some years ago. All the firm’s products are made in the single factory in Japan and the firm is proud of that heritage. The company is still family owned and continues to produce one model of mirrorless digital camera as it was always the aim of the previous president to make cameras. The company also developed the Foveon sensor which is made by the firm’s US-based subsidiary. (Just after we posted this article, we spotted an interview with Sigma which highlighted delays to the Foveon full frame sensor.)

Sigma highlighted its range of 8K cinema lenses

Summary

The event was a good one, although major new product announcements are typically made at NAB and IBC, so there were few surprises from the camera makers.

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