Indie Film Live

Friday, May 05, 2006

All Steam Ahead

After a 30 hour flight into Las Vegas Grant Appleton and I decended on NAB to collect the first PROTOTYPE model of the Silicon Imaging Si1920HDVR. A rush around NAB to collect all the accessories, Anton Bauer Batteries and chargers and 60 hours later we were flying back to South Africa. Another 30 hour flight. Was it worth it?

The fact that the camera is a prototype sort of made me nervous but once we looked under the hood and chatted to the guys at silicon imaging about the known issues that are in the prototype I relaxed. Like any prototype their are bound to be issues but nothing big enough to get in our way. The team has such a strong handle on everything that we caouldn't really find anything they hadn't already told us about. The image is great, but we already knew that. The camera boasts the prototyope model of the altisense 3570 with Gige on board. It was all exciting and then it got more exciting. We began playing with the cineform raw footage in premiere. This is the BEST latitute I have ever seen on any video format. The 10Bit file has very wide dynamic range and the files are relatively tiny. Our data rates are around 11MB per second. David newman did you say that was because it's single sensor using Bayer Raw cineform compression?

I think that's what he said.

I was expecting 18MB/sec. Aside form a few practical technical issues we are on track. The production model scheduled for release later this year will be awsome and free from any of the teething we must go through in the beta phase. Teething is the currency you use to pry the camera out of the developers hands before it is in production. "Hey let us Beta test that for you on our movie - we'll take care of the teething".

Our biggest issue is the fact that we shoot on Wednesday (10th May). We have had less than 10 Days to prepare everything. And then without warning the motherboard blew. No big deal except that in South Africa cutting edge MB's are'nt sitting on a shelf ready to go. They need to be shipped. It takes 5 days without issues in SA customs. So that was a bit of freak out but again once we came to grips with it it was a blessing because we acceleraed our "head on wire" GripCams and we made provisions for any furhter hiccups while ACTUALLY SHOOTING. We're getting into the film cam mode. If it breaks you open and fix it. It's not like regular video cameras. It's all solid 1+1 stuff. The case is rugged aluminium and the parts inside all familar. The only thing we can't do anything about is the camera head. That's new. But the computer stuff is really practical and it's liberating to know that we can control and service the unit without opeing up complex circuitry. It feels like a computerised Film Cam without moving parts!

We will shoot the first scenes on cable attached to 2 wafian boxes. These make the head light and small and allow for those impossible shots, rapid setups and easy hand helds.

This is the big thing for us. We strongly believe in a future where flexible head removal, mounting and integration will change much of the way shooting happens. Note: the head on the unit is totally removable. You can leave the recorder behind and run gige to the head and shoot from wherever you can think of to place the head. This combined with the use of computers and their processing power on the film set, and integrated with the camera are revolutionary forces. The Si1920HDVR has all this flexibility. The cineform raw bayer data backing up flexible interchangeable hardware. For the first time a digital film camera feels like a a film camera. It's robust and the components accessable and interchangeable with very basic functionality. Just like with film you expose everything, keep everything and decide in post what direction you want to go in. And there is latitude to do it. At NAB our minds were spinning at the possibilities for modular expansion and development, accesssories and tools. There is so much scope in this area for innovation and it's not only around the sensor. Watch this Space!

We will try and post footage as we shoot. Please be patient we are entering production phase. Ken cyr at Anton Bauer, David Taylor, David Newman at cineform Jeff Yeoul at wafian, Steve Nordhauser, Ari Presler adn not forgetting Jason Rodrigues on the Silicon imaging team - thank you. Hopefully we will soon have some great footage that does all your effort justice.



3 Comments:

  • Nice post guys. Great you meet some of your team at NAB.

    Regarding the data rate. Yes a RAW bayer image contains contain half the data on a 4:2:2 YUV image. If the camera process bayer data to 4:2:2 (like digital still cameras do) you have to compress twice as much information without improving the image quality (i.e. a total waste.) Also to do bayer to 4:2:2 requires all sorts of damaging processing like demosaicing, sharpening and saturation color matrices. By bypassing all that nonesense, the RAW sensor is very easy to compress. The number would be lower than 11MB/s, except we use the ease of compression to improve the quality further (it is a lighter compression than we have done previously.) Plus the low noise of the SI camera also helps reduce bit-rate.

    By Blogger David, at 1:49 PM  

  • Thanks David. Any word on co-existance of YUV and Raw together. Do I understand correctly that right now they can;t bu they will soon? DOes this mean the wafian software will playback to component out through the aja. That already works with premier. Jeff said that given that our aja boards on the wafians were licensed we could use the Aja control app to set windows media playback. What is this app called. We have machina bu that doesn't have any WMP config otions. Does it? Jeff can you give us a bit more info?

    By Blogger simon, at 7:28 AM  

  • RAW and YUV happily coexist in the post environment. I think you are talking about the Wafian box, which will require some tweaks for switching between RAW and YUV capture/review. No updates on that yet.

    By Blogger David, at 8:59 AM  

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