An X-citing New Camera

The year 2011 represents an interesting time for narrative filmmakers. Traditional, long-established, film-based workflow has largely given way to the present-day multiple-format/workflow chaos of electronic cinematography where it seems that almost everyone is shooting with a different kind of camera, recording widely varying codecs to different forms of media. With all of the dissimilarity in cameras, and production and post workflows flooding the market, it’s hard to imagine that buyers have been clamoring for yet another new camera.

Enter Munich-based P+S Technik. Since its founding in 1990, P+S Technik has successfully earned a reputation in camera manufacturing, emphasizing technological precision and successfully refining accessories and add-ons for existing products and capabilities. Ask most experienced cinematographers and ACs about P+S Technik, and the association almost always will be positive—the company’s reputation is well deserved, and they make excellent gear. P+S Technik products are never inexpensive, but always work well and get the job done reliably. The PS-Cam X35 is a new camera that P+S Technik is bringing to the already-crowded electronic cinematography market. When I heard the first rumors about the new X35 at NAB 2011, the first question that came to mind was, “Another new camera? Really?”

CLOSING THE GAP

Why did P+S Technik decide to come up with a new camera in today’s crowded marketplace? The PS-Cam X35 is an attempt to bridge the gap between traditional analog sync-sound film cameras like the ARRIFLEX 435 and the Panavision Millennium, and specialized top-end, high-speed digital cameras that are used to record slow-motion sequences. Today, if you want to shoot slow motion, there are several considerations you must take into account, especially in preproduction. In the transition from film to digital, an important “extra” has been somewhat lost, namely the ability for the cinematographer to shoot at moderately high frame rates with the production’s main camera. Many “stock” 35mm motion-picture cameras are capable of shooting frame rates up to 150 fps. In the transition to digital, though, specialized cameras that shoot high frame rates tend to be very complex and rare pieces of gear that require qualified technicians on set in order to shoot at frame rates that can be as high as 4,000 fps. But what if you don’t need frame rates that high? What if your script just calls for a few high-speed shots interspersed in a fight scene?

The design imperative for the PS-Cam X35 is to provide a digital camera capable of shooting sync-sound frame rates, as well as additional frame rates all the way up to 450 fps so the production’s main camera operator/DP can provide the director with fairly high-frame-rate, slow-motion footage without the additional costs of renting a separate high-speed camera package and the attendant technician required to use the camera. Most of the time, 450 fps is high enough to cover action scenes with the slow-motion shots needed. Frame rates in the thousands of fps are typically used more for explosions, slowing down bullets and other high-speed subjects that move extremely quickly, but 450 fps is fast enough for almost any fight or action sequence. The X35 seems to be an interesting take on an important feature that’s often overlooked when evaluating electronic cinematography cameras: integrated high-speed capability.

I asked Thomas Greiser of ZGC, Inc., P+S Technik’s exclusive American distributor, to fill me in on the unique features of the PS-Cam X35.

“You can shoot anywhere between 1 and 450 frames per second with the X35,” explains Greiser. “It’s a true multipurpose camera. This is a camera that can shoot all of the ‘normal’ cinematography frame rates with very high quality, as well as give you the options for some fairly high frame rates. If you need to shoot at higher than 450 fps, we also have P+S Technik’s Weisscam HS-2 MKII, which can shoot all the way up to 4000 fps.”

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