Canon Commitment to 4K Is About More Than Next-Generation TV

Canon’s presence at the NAB Show continues to defy limits, especially when it comes to the size and scale of a booth that continues to grow and reinforce the company’s commitment to both digital cinema and broadcast production. Larry Thorpe, senior fellow, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, Professional Engineering & Solutions Division, Canon U.S.A., chatted with SVG about the current offerings from Canon, the future of 4K development at the company, and more.

What is Canon’s overall theme and message at this year’s show?
The theme at last year’s show was our formal debut into digital cinema with a lot of new products and prototypes. And now we are showing all of those cameras and lenses as real, shipping products, and then layered on top of that are new workflows and a digital intermediate room for professional color grading.

And the other aspect is TV, where we have become involved in a lot of projects with sports leagues, networks, and mobile-truck companies on niche applications like 4K, where there is digital zoom taking part. We actually have a truck on the booth with an Evertz Dreamcatcher tied to two cameras on our set and a live operator who is doing real-time zoom on images at up to 600:1.

And lastly, we also have a 4K projector with two of our 4K reference monitors on either side to show that the color matching between the projector and the monitors is right on, and that’s important for those in color correction.

So what’s next for 4K?
I think we need to get into systemization, as, right now, we have fiber links from the camera and into the truck, where we have the camera-control unit and the remote video control. And we have partners like Telecast and Astro Design to remotely control the iris of the cine lenses. So it is a new workflow for us.

But one huge advantage we have with that is, the raw 4K camera signal coming out of the camera conforms to the SMPTE 3G SDI standard. We break the 4K signal into 2K components: 2K red signal, 2K blue signal, and two 2K green signals. And those are then multiplexed and conform to the SMPTE standard and can be passed through any 3G connection.

So a 3G plant or truck will be able to pass the 4K signal?

It looks 4K distribution is still a bit down the road, so how should broadcasters approach 4K at this year’s show?
Right now, it is a niche application like digital zoom, but, beyond that, major TV programs need to be thinking about shooting in 4K for the shelf life of the product. If you’re shooting a drama in 4K today and downconvert to HD, you have a superior product and then put it on the shelf and have a 4K master for future syndication. For years, major TV programs were shot on 35mm film, and, in the long term, that turned out great.

And, while we have emphasized 4K in the early months following the launch of the C500 camera, its 2K capabilities are extraordinary, as it offers 4:4:4 10-bit or 12-bit signals without any need for debayering or compression. And we think we can offer the highest-quality 2K against established cameras in the market.

So, while 4K is important, the business is still in 2K and HD.

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