In the past year, the ARRI ALEXA and the RED EPIC have been scoring points with some of the best filmmakers in the world, including Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Peter Jackson (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) and David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Many in the industry were wondering what Sony would come up with next, even though its flagship CineAlta camera, the F35, is one of the industry’s most respected digital cameras shooting blockbusters like TRON: Legacy, and more recently, Real Steel, which used the F35’s new firmware enabling 12-bit. But at NAB 2011, Sony blew away expectations by announcing a true 4K system with an 8K sensor: the F65. On the show floor, Sony screened an impressive short, The Arrival, shot by cinematographer and ASC Technology Committee Chairman Curtis Clark, ASC, which showcased the F65’s resolution and wide latitude and color space.
"The F65 ups the ante significantly in terms of dynamic range, wider color space and resolution," reveals Clark. "It builds on the success of the F35 by expanding the dynamic range to 14 stops and beyond. It’s true 4K, which is basically four times the spatial resolution of 1920×1080."
Many of you might remember the DALSA Origin camera back in 2003, which was the first 4K digital cinema camera that captured 16-bit raw files. At the time, although revolutionary, one of the Origin’s main problems was its huge size and weight (it sort of resembled a mini-refrigerator). Also, the capture technology wasn’t up to par for cinematographers who needed a camera that could shoot on location without being tethered to a workstation or weighed down by a heavy data recorder.
Just as the majority of filmmakers were getting used to 1920×1080, 4K is now a reality. So why now? The main reason is the advancement of technology and computing power. Thanks to solid-state cards and drives, the capture and storage of 16-bit raw files has finally caught up to the cameras and sensors to enable 4K files, not to mention the fact that storage costs continue to decline. In regards to Sony, movie theaters around the world have installed over 10,000 of their SXRD 4K digital cinema projection systems, and with SXRD and the F65, Sony offers the first true 4K digital pipeline.
Since Sony is one of the few companies that can produce its own imaging chips, the F65’s sensor is one of its most impressive features. By making big advancements with CMOS sensor technology, Sony has created smaller photosites that perform better in sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio, enabling an 8K, 20-million-pixel image sensor that can derive true 4K resolution.
"Filmmakers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of 4K for enhancing image quality," explains Peter Crithary, Sony Marketing Manager, Production. "For example, 4K film-outs are superior to 2K film-outs, and 4K DCPs are superior to 2K DCPs [if the source footage is truly 4K or greater]. For visual-effects work, the resolution of the large imaging area of a 4K canvas sourced from the F65 can be used for unprecedented levels of realism, such as with greenscreen compositing, pulling a clean matte, zooming into areas of the picture without quality loss, motion stabilization, etc."
And with an 8K sensor and the ability to capture 16-bit linear raw data, a filmmaker can derive formats that are higher than 4K in the future. From an archival standpoint, raw will be highly beneficial as image resolution inevitably increases.