Video trends: 4K is here – HDR video, VR and 3D audio is coming

IBC (International Broadcast Show) is Europe's largest tech and business exhibtion and conference for the video post-production, CG and VFX industries. Here we look back at the new cameras, software and services announced – plus the more out-there tech that's still at the R&D stage including HDR video and cameras for capturing 360 video (above) for VR systems such as Oculus Rift and Samsung's Gear VR – to discern what the biggest trends that will affect editors, VFX artists and post houses.

Why Blackmagic bought Eyeon

The big news of the show – which was actually announced just beforehand – was that Blackmagic had bought Eyeon. Blackmagic has grown from being a producer of add-on hardware for video post-production to developing its own line of very successful video cameras and acquiring software tools like DaVinci Resolve. Even so, the company surprised many by announcing that it's acquiring Eyeon, developer of VFX software Fusion.

The new version 7 of Eyeon's Fusion compositing system was being demonstrated on the Blackmagic stand, which is where we encountered Eyeon CEO and founder, Steve Roberts.

“Fusion has been a secret workhorse,”  Roberts told us. “It's been used in over a thousand feature films and is equally capable in broadcast for motion graphics and fix it in post type operations; it goes through the whole gamut.  It's also resolution independent and with Blackmagic showing a lot of 4K/UHD complete workflows it fits perfectly in line with that as well.”

“Blackmagic is the most progressive company in the post production space, relentless in their development at making things better for the customer,”added Roberts. “We've always had a similar focus with Eyeon, always being customer-focussed, so we fit really well into that same methodology. We just finished wrapping development of Fusion 7 at the start of the show, so it's really good that we get to sell it at the same time as we have a new beginning. It's going to do great things for our clients.”

Creating a new language for cinema

Fusion was also used by VFX-legend Douglas Trumbull on UFOTOG, a experimental sci-fi film production made in stereoscopic 4K at 120 fps. The film was shown at Trumbull’s keynote at IBC, during which he urged filmmakers to find a new 'cinematic' language. He said the existing technical standards for cinema are almost identical to the technology for TV, so there’s very little difference.

“People are finding the convenience of a tablet is outweighing the inconvenience of going to the cinema,” he told the audience. “There’s no one silver bullet, not just HDR, or HFR, or sound or giant screens, it’s all those things together in a symphony of increased quality.”

UFOTOG was shot at 4K using Canon Cinema EOS C500 cameras on 3Ality rigs, with the two cameras shooting 60fps out of sync to capture 120 fps. Trumbull said conversations are underway with studios and filmmakers about his system. The clips from UFOTOG used in Trumbull's presentation  were screened in 2K, 3D at 120fps using dual Christie 6P laser projectors and Dolby 3D, as well as with Dolby Atmos sound. 

In the same big screen auditorium, in a world first, Life of Pi was shown in stereoscopic Dolby 3D at an optimum brightness of 14 foot-Lamberts for the first time. A  truly immersive experience, it used Christie's recently launched 6-primary DLP laser illuminated cinema projector, while the Dolby Atmos sound was provided by over forty QSC speakers specially installed in the auditorium.

Passing by the Fairlight stand in IBC, we encountered another immersive audio technology, where a man seemed to be controlling multichannel sound with mid-air swipes and gestures. It turned out that this was exactly what he was doing, demonstrating the Australian company's 3D Audio Workspace (3DAW), a new platform for immersive and object-oriented 3D sound production. One of its standout features is AirPan, a concept that allows operators to use a VR style input to position and control images in a 3D space.

“This feature is incredibly cool," said Tino Fibaek, Fairlight's CTO. “You can literally reach out into the airspace monitored by the controller, and by just moving your fingers in the air, you can pan, rotate, tilt and spread your sound in space.

Filming for Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR

Other spatial explorations could be found with NextVR, which was exhibiting a rig (above) at IBC that features several Red Epic Dragon cameras configured to capture 360-degree 3D virtual reality content.  The Virtual Reality Digital Cinema Camera System aims to offer immersive ultra high definition stereoscopic video with high dynamic range and spatial audio for mass-market virtual-reality displays. The system is being used to create content for the Samsung Gear VR for example.

DJ Roller, NextVR co-founder, said having a professional-grade digital cinema camera system like the Red configuration was essential to help filmmakers and broadcasters create the highest quality virtual reality content possible, adding that the demand to enjoy amazing 'like being there' VR experiences was set to expand.

Panoramic video

Both BBC R&D and Korea's ETRI have been showcasing panoramic video for wider applications that just VR. As trialled by BBC R&D at this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (above), panoramic video lets the viewer pan around a scene and choose what they want to look at.

Panoramic video is part of a growing set of experiments to add more personalisation to television, with BBC R&D's Venue Explorer also capable of adding information on competitors at the Games.

HDR video

Adobe has used IBC 2014 to discuss its thoughts to HDR video – and give a sneak peek at future versions of its video editing, VFX and animation tools: After Effects, Premiere Pro (above), Prelude, SpeedGrade, Audition and Story Plus.

The updates see a 'flatter UI' with support for hiDPI and touchscreens on Windows, new creative tools, support for more video formats, and improved project management.

Adobe is throwing its weight behind a move to see wider colour spaces being exploited both by content creators and broadcast hardware manufacturers, something backed by other industry experts.

“This show has been about where ultra high definition is going,” Bill Roberts, director of product management, video at Adobe told us in an interview. “It's not just the raster or the frame rate, but also the colour and light that can be transmitted to the home viewer.”

Roberts explained that Adobe was working with Dolby Vision on bringing high dynamic range to broadcast TV workflows.

“We had this in our sights three years ago with the acquisition of Iridas,” he explained. “We saw the two vectors - cameras that could capture more than 10bits of data, thus capturing more colour and light, and the use of HDR in the home, with us positioned in the middle. Now we're working with Dolby and our XMP is the transport solution for all that extended colour data.”

“Colourists already know how to use colour and light as a creative tool, but we wanted to drop the barrier for video editors, make it simple and part of the creative process so that they can start to use it. Our Direct Link, where you can go back and forth between Speedgrade and Premiere Pro, starts to do that. We've now got Curves in Speedgrade, which video editors are comfortable with, and we've also just altered our Layer Stack, so it acts just like Photoshop. The next wave of colour is going to be part of the creative process, rather than something you do at the end of the workflow.”

BBC confirms BBC Store to sell TV shows and boxsets in 2015

BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie (above) was the keynote speaker at IBC 2014, where he confirmed that the BBC's commercial arm going to launch a paid download service similar to the iTunes store in 2015. It'll focus on paid downloads, and there won't be a Netflix-style subscription offering.

The Store will to sell TV shows and boxsets that are no longer available for free streaming or timed-limited download after 30 days – in the same way that those shows are available through iTunes and on DVD and Blu-ray.

The BBC is also launching BBC Earth "in the next few weeks". BBC Earth is a site for viewers in and outside the UK that builds on the broadcaster's grand heritage for nature programmes and documentaries, but moving away from what Tim described as the kind of nature documentaries where "it takes three years to get one shot". BBC Earth's content will be faster-to-produce and cheaper – and include both video and interactive media – but it's also tailored to a Buzzfeed audience.

For more on this, read our full story on BBC Store and BBC Earth.


NHK's first demo of 8K, back at the CES show in Las Vegas in January

4K TV isn't a commercial reality yet, but Japanese broadcaster NHK is looking beyond that to 8K – which offers four-times the pixels of 4K (and 16 times that of HD). It's demoed 8K footage it captured at this year's Brazil World Cup, but also how it could be used more practically in the near future – for example for showing digital versions of artworks or historical information in a museum with extreme levels of detail.

Pro 4K cameras

4K broadcast might be a little way off, but there was no shortage of new kit for 4K acquisition on display at the show.

Sony unveiled the PXW-FS7, its first 4K XDCAM camera to feature a Super35 CMOS sensor. Capable of shooting in 4K Quad Full HD (QFHD) and super slow-motion Full HD, Sony is aiming the FS7 at documentary, music video, online content creators and corporate filmmakers.

Production models of the Cion, AJA's first foray into the camera market, were also on display at IBC. The CION supports 4K, 120fps and ProRes, while the AJA Raw CION camera format will also soon be supported in Premiere Pro CC.

It's a just a prototype currently but the GY-LS300 is an intriguing camcorder concept. It's a handheld video camera – not much bigger than a home user's camcorder – but it has a Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor that can record 4K at 24p, 25p and 30p (while recording HD or SD simultaneously).

The GY-LS300 uses Micro Four-Thirds lenses – as used on smaller digital SLRs and interchangeable lens cameras – and you can get a PL mount adapter for bigger lenses.

Pricing and availability will be announced at a later date.

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