NAB 2012 – After revolutionizing indie filmmaking, Canon looks to disrupt the high-end motion picture market
With the exception of a camera from Blackmagic Design that nobody saw coming, I think it’s safe to say Canon owned NAB 2012. Not only were they showcasing their excellent new Cinema EOS C300, they also launched the update to the 5D Mark II camera – the 5D Mark III. It’s also probably safe to say that the landmark Canon 5D Mark II saved NAB during a rough economy due to the creation of an entire industry of camera accessories and solutions. Indie filmmaking was changed forever because of the DSLR Revolution.
Now Canon looks to disrupt the professional film industry by releasing two new professional 4K motion picture cameras. The flagship Cinema EOS C500 camera captures 4K (4096 x 2160-pixel) resolution with uncompressed RAW output for external recording. Just like the C300, the C500 will be available in either EF- or PL-mount versions and has a tentative list price of $30,000, which is significantly less expensive than rivals in its class. Canon is also releasing an interesting DSLR – the EOS-1DC – that contains an 18.1-megapixel full-frame (24 x 36mm) CMOS sensor. 4K video is captured by an approximately APS-H-sized portion of the full image sensor, while Full HD video can be captured in the user’s choice of full-frame or Super 35mm cropped sensor area. As you probably know, high-quality cinema-style lenses usually determine a professional camera system. At NAB, Canon showcased four zoom lenses that are light enough for handheld and Steadicam work and contain uniform gear positions, rotation angles and lens front diameters so professional camera crews won’t have to adjust to using a new lens system.
To prove they are moving into Hollywood, Canon showcased the C500 and its 4K workflow with a short film by cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network) in which FotoKem provided the on-set workflow solution with their NextLab system. Shane Hurlbut, ASC, who was one of the pioneers of the DSLR revolution, demonstrated the 1DC at the Canon booth as well.
While visiting the Canon booth, I got the privilege to sit down with Canon Inc.’s Masaya Maeda, (hang on, long title) Managing Director and Chief Executive of Image Communication Products Operations. Here we discussed Canon’s latest products, as well as their entry in the professional filmmaking space.
HDVP: Is this your first time at NAB?
MASAYA MAEDA: Yes, first time.
HDVP: Before we get into Cinema EOS, I wanted to ask you about the development of the 5D Mark II. From my understanding, it was a surprise to Canon that the camera took off amongst high-end cinematographers?
MAEDA: It was certainly unexpected, even for us. In the development of the 5D Mark II, the original target was still photo journalists who wanted to shoot stills and video on one device. Because of the progress of the Internet, there was a demand for professional photographers to do both.
HDVP: So what went into the strategy for the 5D Mark III?
MAEDA: After the unexpected reaction from the cinema industry, we took all the feedback from the 5D Mark II into consideration for the 5D Mark III’s design. We really wanted to provide a product that would be even more suitable for 5D Mark II shooters. The basic strategy was totally different because with the 5D Mark III, we knew the cinema industry was already looking for even more functions than the 5D Mark II.
HDVP: One of the biggest complaints about the 5D Mark II was the line skipping technology it employed. How were you able to eliminate this?
MAEDA: First of all, the speed of reading out from the sensor has improved dramatically from the 5D Mark II. That enabled us to eliminate the line skipping issues that were happening.
HDVP: Was it primarily a result from the DIGIC 5+ processor?
MAEDA: Yes, it was a combination of both the new image sensor on the camera, as well as the Digic 5+ processor.
HDVP: Do you still see a lot of growth for filmmaking with DSLRs?
MAEDA: We think the market for cinematographers using the DSLR format will still increase. Also, there is a big difference between using a regular camcorder, including the C-series, versus the DSLR. First there’s the compact body. Even though the C300 is compact, a DSLR is even smaller. Also, the DSLR only requires itself to shoot and record versus professional camcorder systems that need all of your professional accessories to shoot with.
HDVP: 4K seems to be the big trend for this year’s NAB. How fast do you see the implementation of 4K for both motion capture and exhibition?
MAEDA: Since 4K just launched, everything is still just an estimation but we can look back to the transition from SD to HD. Even though there was an initial period when everyone launched an HD camera, broadcasts were still in SD, even though people were starting to shoot content in HD. A similar situation will happen at this point where we’ll see a shift from HD to 4K. So even though the majority of broadcasting will be in HD for a couple of years, those people who will use our 4K cameras are shooting everything in 4K for archival purposes – to be ready for the future of 4K broadcast.
HDVP: Where do you see Cinema EOS fitting in with the crowded market of high-end digital camera systems like the ARRI ALEXA, Sony F65 and film? Would you place them in that category or a category of its own?
MAEDA: Neither (laughing). First of all when we released the 5D Mark II, we understand that people gravitated to the overall image quality. It wasn’t just the specs, but the feeling they get from seeing a filmic image from a DSLR. Also, we are not looking to compete with all the existing products from different companies. Since we found out there was a demand for products like the 5D Mark II, we are trying to aim for those needs in the marketplace. 4K is one solution that we provide. We’re not only trying to target 4K to the very high-end but also target the younger generation who would like to use our cameras to create. For example, for lighting in the past, people have been trying to produce what looks like natural light. All of our cameras have really high low-light sensitivity so you don’t need to re-create natural light – you can just use the existing natural light. Please stop by our 4K theatre where you can see the actual footage of the cameras capturing natual light.
For more information, please visit www.usa.canon.com.