By Tim Spitzer
I had the very enjoyable experience of seeing footage captured on two of the newest large sensor camera’s being introduced to the marketplace: Panasonic’s Varicam 35 and Arri’s Arri 65.
Starting with the latter, a “for rental only” camera that captures 6.5K images only in ArriRaw — these are the most beautiful images I have seen captured on a digital sensor. In a brilliantly inspired demo, close-up images of the faces of Arri employees, shot without make-up as portraits, were seen projected by a Barco 4K Laser projector. The images were revelatory, not only in their detail, but in how beautiful and naturalistic digital capture can be.
Emotive descriptors s such as organic, silky, “like butter, baby” fail to describe what in my mind has immediately become the new benchmark for top quality moving image picture capture.
Panasonic’s Varicam 35 is no slouch either. The 4K images it captures on its Super 35 4K MOS sensor are beautiful and will offer recording in uncompressed 4K V-Raw to (a soon-to-be available) Codex back.
Panasonic’s adoption of the AVC Intra codec also provides pragmatic flexibility of capture recording master footage in 4K, UHD, 2K or HD. The use two internal recorders, a main and a sub recorder, allow simultaneous recording of the master footage — with or without a 3D LUT — to be captured in the main recorder, and an offline or lower resolution version —with or without an embedded 3D LUT — to be captured to the sub recorder. In all of the AVC codecs other than 4:4:4, the camera offers Varispeed recording from either 1-60 or 1-120 frames per second. Just as in the early days of digital HD, where the Panasonic Varicam was a true workhorse non-studio camera, the new Varicam 35 looks ready to claim a similar position in today’s market.
These cameras combined breadth, with recording flexibility and practicality on one hand, and with new vistas of image quality on the other, all of a sudden gave me the feeling that digital image capture has matured. “Toto, I don’t think we are in the Trailer Park anymore!”
Another highlight briefly glimpsed was a Quantel demo of HDR color grading in Rec 2020. That was an eye opener in many ways! Working in Quantel 32-bit full/16-bit half float the color grading is non-destructive. If highlights are blown-out or shadows crushed in one layer of the grade, that detail can be losslessly retrieved in any other layer of the grade. This is a huge step forward in color manipulation. Consistent with Quantel philosophy, clips imported retain their native color-space, bit depth and resolution but are provided a wide range of choice of attributes for grading (Rec 709, Rec 2020, sRGB, P3, ACES, or CIE XYZ) and resolutions for output (8K, 4K, UHD, 2K, HD).
This is incredibly powerful in allowing for the easy creation of multiple color-space and resolution deliverables. My head is still spinning from the use of highlight and shadow alpha channel mattes for grading in HDR, but the results and control were impressive: To my senses HDR is of much more visceral impact than resolution. HDR provides a major step forward in images’ emotive power.
Tim Spitzer, principal of Timescape,LLC a post production services company, has been a fixture in the New York post production landscape establishing digital lab services, from dailies through digital intermediate finishing, film scanning, library restorations and digital finishing for a wonderful worldwide roster of socially conscious and visionary filmmakers.