CAMERA CODECS GE AR .
Panavision DXL series, illustrate the world’s willingness to handle this workload. The most uncompromising approach, of course, is to record uncompressed images, as was common during the earliest stages of digital cinematography. Workstations faced with uncompressed material – perhaps from one of Arri’s cameras, via the company’s collaboration with capture specialists Codex – might still need software described as a codec. Although its function is more organisation and filing than processing. Shot uncompressed, the company’s most capable models – the Alexa 65 and hugely popular LF – can be among the hungriest consumers of data space around. That is until we start thinking about high-speed cameras from the likes of Vision Research. A 4K Super 35 Alexa, purportedly coming soon, might bring similar considerations to smaller sensors, too. At extremes, uncompressed very quickly becomes impractical. There is no reasonable way to record Blackmagic’s gigantic 12K pictures without some sort of compression. While anything is possible on paper, cost and convenience inevitably step in. The company’s own Blackmagic Raw format is ideally suited, using fairly conventional compression mathematics at its core, but engineered for some interesting performance capabilities in very particular situations. With resolutions beyond 4K becoming increasingly difficult to handle in ProRes, the benefits of Raw recording are felt both in post and in-camera – such as on the 6K Pocket Cinema
Uncompressed compression There are several compression schemes which cost no image quality – mathematically lossless, as opposed to visually lossless. This might seem impossible, but techniques known as entropy coding can achieve it. Usually, they reduce the data 2:1 or less. Although, in circumstances such as Arri’s HDE – which can deal with enormous data sets from the most capable cameras – almost halving the data rate is a welcome gain.
Camera and upcoming Ursa Broadcast G2. We might wish for a simpler landscape of compression and storage. However, as long as computers keep getting faster, we’re likely to want new codecs to leverage the horsepower- versus-quality compromise to our advantage. As such, there’s little hope of an immediate
Patentology Only some parts of the world observe patents on software, although anyone who wishes to distribute worldwide might have to fall in line. Codecs are a hotbed of patent activity, to the point where organisations involved have claimed hugely broad and far-reaching control over vast swathes of development efforts. The slow uptake of codecs such as HEVC has been blamed on red tape created by the patent system. rationalisation, though companies like Hedge have some solutions to the problems created by such complexity. If it’s any consolation, things should keep getting better, even if they don’t get easier. The sheer performance we can now fit in a matchbox has to be worth it.
COLLABORATION Red helped develop the Panavision DXL series, like the DXL2 (below)
51. JANUARY 2022
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