Tech Features

Revisiting storytelling in 4K and HDR with Canon

From left: Stephen Hart Dyke, Professional Imaging/B2B Product Marketing Manager with Paul Atkinson, European Product Specialist, Professional Video, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group for Canon Europe, at IBC2018.

From innovations around 4K, UHD and HDR to a Netflix partnership alliance, Canon experts take us through storytelling initiatives suited for filmmakers, big or small.

The world of storytelling and filming has never been brimming with as much opportunity as in this age, with new technologies and platforms opening doors for anyone with a tale to tell. IBC2018 served as the ideal platform for a raft of new launches designed to take storytelling to the next level. Joining that journey with a number of landmark launches at IBC was Canon, which also celebrated 60 years of developing some of the finest glass for filming this year.

“The story this year has been all around 4K, ultrahigh definition (UHD) and high dynamic range (HDR), and how Canon as the only manufacturer of the golden triangle of lens technology, CMOS sensors and DIGIC processors, are committed to the future of filmmaking,” explains Stephen Hart Dyke, Professional Imaging/B2B Product Marketing Manager for the Imaging Technologies & Communications Group at Canon Europe Ltd.

“With both the image capture and the output as well with onset/grading monitors, Canon supports the whole process of filmmaking. Everything across our new range has been optimised for 4K, UHD and HDR. From cameras through to broadcast lenses to the world’s longest broadcast zoom lenses, we have created options for everyone. Our new zoom lenses are enormous and ideal for golf or cricket or any sport that requires you to close in on a shot. Canon is bringing new possibilities and new codecs to the customer, with new features in the camera and the greatest possible zoom you can get today.”

Perhaps Canon’s biggest win at IBC this year was Netflix’s timely announcement of the Netflix partnership alliance, which certifies products from certain manufacturers as especially suited for 4K production and delivery. In the words of Chris Fetner, Netflix Director of PostPartnerships and Integrations, certified vendors are “committed to better interoperability and faster innovation cycles”. Canon has been identified as one of those vendors.

“Essentially, they are trying to simplify workflows,” explains Hart Dyke. “Netflix has pre-approved cameras, which they have tested and know are suitable for 4K production and their workflow. They have started with cameras but intend to vet products for the rest of the spectrum including post-production.

“4K has gained traction because of Netflix, and we have been working with them for years to support this format” Stephen Hart Dyke, Professional Imaging/B2B Product Marketing Manager, Canon Europe Ltd

“4K has gained traction because of Netflix, and we have been working with them for years to support this format. We have four cameras that are part of the Netflix Partnership Alliance – the Cinema EOS C700 FF (full-frame) camera that we launched recently, as well as the C700, the C500 and the C300 Mark II. These are the cameras from the Canon stable that Netflix has recommended to those who have been commissioned to shoot for the streaming service. In addition, our lenses offer full 4K support.

“From our photo lenses that are used for still cameras through to video-dedicated primes, cine servos and cine zoom lenses, we have a timeline of innovation. Since 1958, when we first launched our broadcast lenses, Canon has been bringing new technologies into broadcast applications, including image stabilisation.”

Two of the big launches from Canon at IBC this year were the EOS R System with its RF mount and Dual Pixel CMOS AF, and the Canon XF705.

The EOS R System is a 30.1 megapixel, full-frame mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera with a whopping 5,655 selectable points and 88% vertical and 100% horizontal coverage. It’s an important milestone that signals the next generation of Canon cameras and a new beginning with the RF mount.

“30 years ago, we launched the EF mount,” explains Paul Atkinson, European Product Specialist, Professional Video, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group for Canon Europe, giving an idea of the scale and breadth of its popularity. “We celebrated the sale of 130 million lenses until last year with the EF mount. That gives you an idea of how well established that mount was and the scale at which it has been adopted worldwide.”

He explains that replacing such a popular mount was indeed a challenge, but necessary to keep up with the requirements of new technologies.

Hart Dyke seconds that.

“There are many elements that make this camera unique. For instance, we have added extra pins, which in combination with the new CMOS sensor and processor, allows for several world firsts, such as the world’s first fastest autofocus at 0.05 seconds. Those kind of forward steps in terms of technology through time are allowing end users to capture and innovate continuously.”

He adds that the camera has the ability to focus down to -6EV.

“Imagine a dark room with a lamp in the corner where you can still focus on a person’s face. The human eye may lose the colour in that room, but through the cameras and the new sensor, you can actually capture that. That is a step forward in new boundaries and another feather in our cap.”

Canon has also looked carefully at lens optics for this camera.

“The EOS R brings subtle but important differences. For instance, to protect the CMOS sensor where there is no longer a mirror in front of it, we have a little shutter that comes down and de-focuses the sensor to protect it. There are 12 pins in the RF mount, allowing for faster communication between lens and camera, but also readying the camera for new lenses which might require more power for zoom control, for instance, in the future,” Hart Dyke says, adding that the EOS R is unique because the lens and the camera have been designed together to “give the absolute best in the whole system”.

Atkinson points out that the XF705 is also an important launch at IBC, because it replaces a monumental product like the XF305.

“The XF305 has been around for a few years, and it has been such a trusted old workhorse that it was difficult to try and justify replacing it. But with changes in codec, changes in demand for footage that comes in and more people wanting 4K, it was important to launch a product that addressed those requirements.”

He says the big challenge with 4K in the past has always been the size of the files.

“In the cinema EOS range, like the C200, capturing footage in Cinema RAW Light consumes 1Gbps. What we needed were files that had the same quality with much lower bitrate, and that’s what the XF705 does. It uses a new H.265/HEVC codec with approximately double the compression of H.264, with an MXF wrapper to make Canon’s own variation XF-HEVC, which means we can record 4K UHD video up to 50fps and record in 10-bit 4:2:2 onto an SD card at 160Mbps. That’s a huge improvement.”

“For the first time in Canon’s pro camcorders, we can record HDR in both flavours – PQ (Perceptual Quantisation) and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma)” Paul Atkinson, European Product Specialist, Canon Europe

Atkinson adds that Canon has gone one step further to shoot footage in both HDR and SDR simultaneously.

“For the first time in Canon’s pro camcorders, we can record HDR in both flavours – PQ (Perceptual Quantisation) and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) – like the Cinema EOS higher-end cameras. If you want to record it in HDR, the camera allows you to just record and output it. That’s the first clever part.

“The second clever part is that they may want an SDR version as well. Till now, you had to do one workflow for HDR and then one separately for SDR. However, with XF705, you can record the HDR onto an SD card and simultaneously SDR onto an external recorder. The challenge there is that you would have to expose differently for HDR and SDR workflows, but with this camera, you can set the gain independently on each recording. This works for those who want to take the easier route. For others who want to do it manually and tweak it in post-production, they have that option as well.

“To help with that, Canon has incorporated several connections at the back of the camera, including 12G-SDI, which means only one cable to take the 4K out. Movie recording can be done at UHD or full HD using XF-HEVC 4.2.2 10-bit up to 50P/i, or full HD using XF-AVC. It allows for IP streaming via Ethernet or Wi-Fi.

“This is being positioned exactly where the XF 305 is being used now, which is the content news gathering, documentary, small lightweight market, where you can get the memory cards just about anywhere and add relatively low-cost bits and pieces to it. This is why I say this is a worthy successor to the XF305.”

Atkinson also lauds the C700 FF camera, which was announced earlier this year and is now shipping. “With its full frame sensor, this opens up a new style of filmmaking possibilities.”

Although Canon has focused on 4K delivery, it is already connected to have an 8K presence at the Rugby World Cup in 2019, which will be transmitted to specific venues.

Perhaps the greatest takeaway from the Canon booth at IBC was the fact that it appeals to a whole range of creative people in every genre.

“It’s because all the major Hollywood films have been using a range of our camera systems – everything from DSLRs for documentaries to high-end cameras for feature films. Luckily, we have a product that fits every category, supports all filmmakers and every budget you can imagine,” concludes Atkinson.