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Tech Retreat Features Next-Gen Gear

Digital imaging lures new players

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF.

In case you've been living in a spider hole these last couple of months, please be advised that the Tech Retreat will be back in the Palm Springs area Feb. 4-6.

Hosted by the Hollywood Post Alliance, the event is the ultimate gearhead smorgasbord, offering something for everyone, be it information, networking opportunities, contests, a softball game, or a nice warm place in February.

Headlining this year's information menu is a nod to the latest in digital cinematography, particularly two panels on Thursday, Feb. 5, which straddle lunch.

Host Mark Schubin moderates "The Cameras" (1:15 p.m.), which he believes will be of particular interest to TV Technology readers. In addition to a traditional triumvirate -- Sony, Panasonic and Thomson -- the panel boasts companies actively looking "beyond HDTV," Schubin said.

These include Lockheed Martin, which has a prototype with 12 million pixels per chip; Dalsa with 8 million pixels, and, hopefully, Arri with 6 million. Current HDTV cameras have 2 million pixels per chip.

Lockheed Martin's prism camera, which uses gigantic chips, requires relay optics. The Dalsa and Arri cameras use a Bayer Mask: four sensor sites (two green at the corners plus a red and a blue) to filter color, which enables the operator to use a film lens without needing relay optics.

Arri chose chips that are the same size as a 35mm film frame, said Schubin; Dalsa's are a bit wider because the company preferred a 2:1 aspect ratio vs. the 4:3 used by Arri and Lockheed Martin.

Schubin pointed out that cinematographers and directors argued for a 2:1 aspect ratio at the time the ATSC standard was being approved.

One other factor that sets the five manufacturers apart is the variable frame rate featured in products by Panasonic and Arri.

Rounding out "The Cameras" panel is the "legendary Hollywood renter of film equipment" Denny Clairmont, who, said Schubin, made his mark inventing things that cinematographers wanted but weren't getting from manufacturers.

Taking note of his reputation, both Dalsa and Lockheed Martin consulted Clairmont when they decided to embark on their respective digital cinematography projects.

The fact that "engineers sometimes come up with stuff that doesn't make sense," has made Schubin most excited about the American Society of Cinematographers' first appearance at the tech retreat.

THE CINEMATOGRAPHERS

Curtis Clark, head of the AFC's Technology Committee, will moderate "The Cinematographers" panel at 11:15 a.m.

Cameras will be featured in "Return of the Digital Camera," with a European perspective from Mike Christmann, a partner in Flying Eye, a German media investment firm. And they will serve as a jumping off point for "The New Digital Workflow" panel (although, Schubin said, John Carey of Walt Disney Feature Animation will probably insist that computers are just as valid a starting point as cameras).

Cameras will also justify arguments for better metadata. After all, as Schubin pointed out, "If you have a camera with 6 million pixels that you run at up to 150 frames per second, how the heck are you going to be able to record all that information?"

Early Thursday morning, Evertz Microsystems' Romolo Magarelli will moderate "Metadata: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."

The panel has representatives from companies that worked on "Star Wars: Episode III"-Lucas Digital's Fred Meyers; Sony's Nick Dilello; Fujinon's Chuck Lee (who will discuss the lens that provided data to the metadata system); and Marker Karahadian of Plus8video, which supplied the equipment. Sony Pictures Television's Phil Squyres, said Schubin, will explain "how all this relates to more mundane things, like television."

BBC producer Tony Salmon and Snell & Wilcox's Paul Walland will give hands on accounts of the "European MetaVision Project" at 10:30 a.m. The six-company consortium demonstrated a new electronic camera system at last fall's IBC show that could convert film and video shot at 72 fps into any desired rate using motion compensated interpolation. It also provided depth information to support special effects in post production, according to the IBC.

The ramifications of these new digital cameras will not be limited to Thursday discussions.

On Wednesday morning Charles Poynton will replace his signature color tutorial with one on format conversion.

As Schubin noted, "there are so many different formats-4K, 2K and others beyond HDTV-the question is how do you get that stuff down to 'normal HDTV' (720p and 1080i) and standard definition?"

Poynton will also deal with the various displays entailed: DLP, LCD and Canon's SED.

On Friday, Rondal Moore of Via Licensing will host a breakfast roundtable called "Who Should Pay and Why?" as part of his company's initiative to determine the right way to assess charges for using MPEG-4 Part 10.

If this isn't tempting enough, there will also be surprise demos and guests.

"We never know what's going to be there until the last minute," said Schubin. "Last year Sony introduced HDCam SR."