MULTIPLE CITIES: Last January, JVC announced a sub-$5,000 hand-held camcorder with native 4K resolution, which is a little more than twice the resolution of 1080i high definition. If the JVC GY-HMQ10 becomes popular with indie film and television producers, Sony, Panasonic and Canon might focus on budget 4K as well.
4K TV is something that the Japanese (most notably NHK) have been dabbling with and publicly demonstrating for several years. While consumers may have been warming up to it as the successor to HDTV, production costs have impeded content production. So who would purchase a 4K TV when there is no content being produced?
JVC’s GY-HMQ10 A couple of years ago, 3DTV popped up as a fad du jour, and it received a lot of enthusiasm from equipment suppliers and high-end movie production. It seemed the likeliest way to move beyond HDTV. Much like when color was introduced during the era of black-and-white broadcasts, 3D put the biggest burden for equipment upgrades on the consumer, whereas producers, broadcasters and distributors could spend proportionately less to tweak existing infrastructure to shoehorn 3D into the existing bandwidth in a way that was backward-compatible with existing HD infrastructure.
It appears the initial excitement for 3D television exhibited by developers, producers and vendors spread to the managers of movie theaters, but not consumers. JVC’s announcement may signal a push to 4K TV unimpeded by enthusiasm for the waning novelty of 3D.
FROM THE BOTTOM UP
JVC’s radically different experiences with Digital-S and ProHD seems to have shown the company that it is easier to work from the bottom up to foster new formats into common acceptance — that is, by introducing it in a consumer package first so that the mid- to high-end production community will take notice. In addition, the GY-HMQ10 is the first shot in a new low-budget production format war. I expect that once it generates moderate enthusiasm in the reality TV, low-budget movie production segment, other manufacturers of production gear likely will undertake production of similar products to get a share of the market.
JVC is the only one of the four mainstream consumer, pro-sumer, industrial to high-end video camera manufacturers that does not have comparable digital still camera capability. And yet the Falconbrid digital signal processing chipset present in the GY-HMQ10 enables JVC essentially to use a 1/2-inch complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor imager that would normally be found in a digital still camera, and process the full resolution of the imager at speeds that support standard video or film frame rates. Many digital single-lens reflex, or DSLR, cameras that record full frame-rate video drop the resolution to 1080i or 720p in spite of the imagers being capable of much higher resolution. The reason is their DSP chipsets cannot process more than standard HD at standard video frame rates.
Sony has taken a different approach to increased resolution by employing larger imagers like the full-frame 35mm chips in its higher-end NXCAM and NEX lines. And Sony has introduced those cameras to the professional market with such features as interchangeable lenses, time code, sync signal processing and other goodies that low-budget productions often do not use, or for which they find simple “workarounds.” With the acquisition of Minolta a couple years ago, Sony, like Canon and Panasonic, now has access to the digital still camera technologies low-budget producers crave—most notably, larger imagers, interchangeable and prime film-quality lenses.
However, the common thread is that higher resolution video production seems to be trending to single-chip technology instead of the standard three-chip infrastructure that has been accepted as de rigueur for professional production. The popularity of DSLR video production has shown that producers prefer higher-resolution single CMOS imagers, access to film-quality glass with multiple, prism-fed charge-coupled devices. The fact that JVC, a non-DSLR producing company, is driving a low price point for high-resolution production may be the biggest surprise in this new trend.
JVC’s GY-HMQ10 records its processed 4K image to secure digital high capacity secure digital extended capacity cards in 144 Mbps H.264. However, uncompressed 4K video is available from the camcorder’s high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) ports. A number of outboard DVR suppliers claim to support 4K recording and sport HDMI input connectors. Whether or not those units can be plug-and-play with the 4K that JVC sends to the GY-HMQ10’s HDMI ports needs to be tested. JVC’s partner, Focus Enhancements, may soon have a unit that docks to the camcorder and records the uncompressed 4K data in a ready-to-edit format to hot-swappable memory cards or inexpensive hard drives.
With appropriate workstation horsepower, most popular editing applications claim to be able to work in 4K. So the primary piece of the production puzzle that has to be solved for the budget-minded 4K producer is real-time full 4K monitoring. As was the case with HD, that problem might be solved by using high-resolution computer displays, possibly with HDMI-to-display port adaptors, which would likely encourage the appearance of 4K liquid crystal display and light-emitting diode studio monitors in the sub-$5,000 range as well. ~ from Government Video
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