Thursday, October 14, 2004

Panavision’s new Genesis Digital Camera

Panavision’s new Genesis Digital Camera

Keywords: HD, digital camera, Genesis

by Harry B. Miller III

Panavision is about to make available a digital camera called Genesis. It looks pretty much like its standard Platinum camera, and uses the same lenses and accessories. It is designed to have the same look and feel as a film camera to give film people a comfort level with a digital camera.

I attended a screening at the Panavision theater where they showed two cut sequences, each about 5 mintues long. Each shot was photographed by the Genesis and a film camera, one after the other. Same action, lighting, lens, stop, and filtration. The both sequences alternated between a digital shot and a film shot. The second sequence reversed the digital / film order. The audience of ASC Technology committee members was left to guess which shots were digital and which were film. Turns out, most of the guesses were wrong.

There was so little apparent difference between the two sets of photographed images, that even the DP’s were fooled. I guessed only one shot correctly. My only clue was it had extraordinary depth of field.

The caveat to the presentation was that they really didn’t ‘stress’ the digital camera. Although it shot bright scenes well, there was no huge contrast range as with explosions or fire scenes. No night scenes either.

The Panavision people told me that several features are interested in using this system, which becomes available in late January.

It has several features of interest. It docks directly to a Sony HDCAM-SR field recorder, so can be independent of cables. This allows for hand held work. Most of the time it would be tethered for recording and monitoring. The recorder has 12 channels of audio recording – which means the chance for 12 channels of bad production audio instead of the usual 2. It has a variable shutter angle and can shoot from 1 to 50 fps.

How the tape can be transferred to a editing work station? There are several options. One option is to clone the tape and downconvert to NTSC. Unfortunately, a straight downconversion leaves an unpredictable 2:3 sequencing. To solve that, the tape is first transferred from 23.976 to 29.97, and then downconverted – meaning each tape has to be transferred twice in real time. Not elegant, but it does carry 24 fps timecode from the original master, as well as other meta-data. The more useful method is where the NTSC signal feeds a hard disc recorder on the fly to Avid format files, which includes scene, take, timecode, audio, etc. Then it is a matter of transferring the files from one drive to an editorial drive.

As of now the first show to use the camera is 8 Simple Rules.

Thanks to Nolan Murdock of Panavision for his help on this article.

For further information, see the Panavision web site at...,c202,c203

And the Sony HDCam SR ...


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