Camcorder trends from CES include: 50p HD recording; higher resolution video; focus tracking and ease-of-use features; larger capacity storage; and the first glimpse of the Red Scarlet.
Although not an exhibitor, Red spokesman, Ted Schilowitz was at CES showing off a prototype of the much-delayed Scarlet digital cinema camcorder. It can shoot at 120 frames per second (or up to 180fps in short bursts – perhaps even more in the final version), using the “visually lossless” Red Raw codec, at 3K (more than double the resolution of full HD – probably about 3072 x 1620), using a 2/3-inch 5-megapixel sensor. It is claimed to offer clean high ISO performance and should come with Red’s new HDRx Extended Dynamic Range technology.
Although the 8x 28mm f4.0 zoom lens is built in, the camera is largely modular, so you can add an audio interface with XLR connections (it comes with dual mini jacks) or additional storage. It can record to either Compact Flash memory cards or a solid-state drive (either of which – or even both – will bolt on the side). It can shoot stills or video and comes with HDMI output and synch ports for 3D (the right-hand side handgrip, which also contains a battery, can come off so two Scarlets can be mounted close together). The camera should weigh about 3kg, depending on which modules are fitted – it should work with all the accessories for Red’s 5K Epic.
It has a touchscreen monitor (allowing touch focus in autofocus mode), although it can be used without one as there are about three or four ways of accessing every control, such as by using the Redmote wireless remote controller (which can click onto its back when not needed and can be used to control multiple cameras).
Exactly when it will ship or at what price, or even the final specification is, like everything Red related, liable to change. However, Red has talked about wanting to be in the $6,000 price range and aiming for introduction before Summer 2011. There should also be a Scarlet with interchangeable lenses and one with the 5K Super 35mm-sized sensor from Epic.
JVC’s high-speed Falcon
JVC has developed “the world’s first LSI for high-speed processing of Full High-Definition video and stills on one chip for HD camcorders”.
The large-scale integrated chip will enable shooting and recording full HD, including 3D images, and also higher resolution images. High-speed photography with high-speed processing will also be possible. The LSI boasts low power consumption and should enable lower system costs by incorporating all image-processing technologies for HD shooting, including camera-signal processing and video/still image codecs.
JVC did show a concept “high speed multi-purpose camera” that uses this LSI at CES: the GC-PX1. Looking very like Sony’s F707 stills camera, it offered 1920×1080 HD video at 60p (at 36Mbps), amongst other video and stills settings.
The Falconbrid LSI is also being used in JVC’s new 3D camcorder, the GS-TD1 (see separate 3D camera round up). The LSI should be 2.7 times faster than JVC’s previous CPU. It also: improves signal processing speeds by 70% (enabling 8.3-megapixel video at 60fps); doubles the speed of processing H.264 video (enabling compression of 2.07MP images at 60fps); speeds JPEG still-image processing by 5.5 times compared to its previous technology (enabling compression of images as large as 8.3MP in JPEG at 60fps).
It supports higher resolution video images, which it calls 4K2K (3840×2160 – that 8.3MP – at 60p), which is four times the data of HD.
Falconbrid should also deliver a 40% reduction in power consumption and 50% reduction of system costs compared to previous LSIs, making it suitable for use in a wide range of both consumer and professional products.
As all hardware and software is integrated into one platform, products that use it can be developed much more rapidly.
It will be particularly suitable for 3D, as it can do real-time 3D compression of separate full HD images (1920 x 1080/60p) from right and left cameras using MPEG-4 MVC. The amount of data is double the conventional side-by-side 3D recording format, enabling high-resolution full HD 3D images with one chip.
It could even do high-speed video capture in 3D, recording at 300fps (but at VGA resolution).
1080/50p AVCHD at 28Mbps
Panasonic has replaced its 700-series cameras (the first camcorders to record 1080/50p using AVCHD at 28Mbps) with the 900 series, upgraded versions that have larger LCDs and can be fitted with a 3D conversion lens (allowing 3D recording – using the lower-resolution side-by-side format at 960×1080 per side). The images from the three CMOS sensors used by the 700 series delivered nice looking pictures (we’ve used one for some of our TVB Europe videos) and the new models should be equally useful. However, editing the 50p video isn’t particularly simple with most broadcast editing systems such as Final Cut Pro, as 28Mbps is not yet part of the AVCHD standard.
Panasonic is now extending 50p recording to single sensor camcorders, while other manufacturers have announced their own 50p models, which should hasten its adoption in any NLE upgrades.
Sony has adopted 50p (and 60p) HD recording with its $1,300 HDR-CX700VE (pictured), which will be available in March, and should lend more impetus to the AVCHD standard being extended to include 28Mbps recording (both Sony and Panasonic are part of the AVCHD consortium). The CX700 might be a useful small camera to have, as it can also do 25p (and at 24Mbps compared to the 17Mbps on the Panasonic cameras). It comes with some professional features, such as Expanded Focus, Zebra and Peaking, as well as CinemaTone Gamma and CinemaTone Color presets. It also delivers a reasonably wide-angle image (26.3mm as a 35mm equivalent) and has 96GB flash memory and a GPS receiver built in. Sony built a more professional version of the CX700’s predecessor, the CX550 (the HXR-MC50E), so perhaps there will be a version of the CX700 with, at least, improved audio.
It is also bringing out three lower-cost cameras with 1080/50p: the $450 HDR-CX130, $600 XR160 and $800 CX360.
All of its HD Handycam camcorders will also come with a new Tracking Focus feature, which maintains focus on moving objects. It is similar to Face Touch, where you can select a person in the frame to be prioritized, so you can now touch any subject in the shot, such as dog or vehicle, to keep in focus. Just as face detection is now creeping in to professional camcorders, focus tracking will probably become widespread once it is proven.
Sony also showed new Handycam camcorders with projectors built into the front of the 3-inch LCD panel, allowing video to be projected at up to 60-inches (diagonally) when projected 6m away, which could be useful when doing presentations.
Single lens 3D
The Sony Cyber-shot TX100V is the world’s first compact digital stills camera to offer 1920×1080/50p video. It is also one of five new cameras that can shoot 3D stills with a single lens and sensor (the other four record HD at 50i).
In the 3D Still Image mode, the camera takes two consecutive shots in different focus positions to calculate the depths, creating left-eye and right-eye images to produce a 3D effect. 3D images can also be captured using 3D Sweep Panorama mode, which takes panoramic pictures in one press-and-sweep motion – stitching the images together automatically to create 3D panoramas.
A novel feature on Samsung’s new HMX-Q10 camcorder would be a useful addition for video journalists (or possibly left-handed shooters). As it has an accelerometer, it knows when it is turned upside down, so can automatically flip the picture (and menu controls) over. This means you can have the LCD screen on the other side – most camcorders, especially small ones, have the screen fixed to the left-hand side of the camera. This makes life difficult for any video journalist that wants their interviewee looking right in the picture if they have to stand on the left of the camera.
The Switch Grip technology could also be useful for very low shots, where, for example, you carry it upside down on a monopod, which would otherwise have to be flipped in post. The inexpensive, interlaced HD consumer camcorder is otherwise unremarkable, but the technology could find itself in other camcorders in future.
First fast 128GB SD card
Lexar has introduced the world’s first 128GB SDXC memory card rated at 133x (offering a minimum guaranteed transfer speed of 160Mbps). It should be available soon, costing $700. There will also be a 64GB version ($400). However, buying four 32GB SD cards, which are now widely available from various manufacturers, could cost about a third of the price of the 128GB card – and you won’t lose as much of your shoot if you lose one of the lower capacity cards.