We see ourselves in a place where UHD has become pretty ubiquitous, and can be recorded and viewed on a cell phone. So the natural question is: what next? One approach is to pursue higher resolution, with 6K and 8K capture options. Another is to smooth out motion by increasing the frame rates to 60 or 120 frames per second. Separately we can increase bit depth and color range to allow HDR imaging. Sony has definitely focused on that last approach, and is showing off all sorts of HDR displays, with some pretty impressive demos. Digital imaging technology has greatly improved in that regard recently, but I still have not wrapped my head around how all of the new HDR developments relate to one another. They are also pushing IP based video solutions, in conjunction with Evertz Aspen standards, and their own IP Live branding.
While Canon has been touting an 8K solution for the future, most of their recent EOS products have focused on increasing framerates to 60p. The new 80D and the Cinema EOS C100Mk2 and C300Mk2 can all record 1080p60. The C300Mk2 also records 4Kp30, while the 1D-X MarkII is unique in that it can record full 4K at 60 frames a second. Canon has also released a couple of boxier cameras with lower resolutions, leading to larger pixel sites with much higher low light sensitivity. The ME200S had an 8 Megapixel 4K sensor with a 200K max ISO, while the more extreme ME20F has a 2 Megapixel 2K sensor, with a 4 Million max ISO. The M200S still only outputs HD, using the extra pixels for full color reproduction without debayering. While their dark room demo didn’t effectively highlight the technology, some of the ME20F footage they were showing did. They had shot helicopter footage at night around Tahoe, that looked nearly as bright as daylight, and while the snow on the ground may have helped with that effect, but it was impressive none the less.
Something interesting I saw at the Convergent Design booth, which is new to me, is that they took the Quad SDI for their 4K Odyssey recorder, and added the ability to input 4 streams of HD. It records each stream, as well as allowing you to record a live switched version with fades and such, all controlled from the touch display. The only strange thing, is that it records all the data as a single frame interleaved ProRes file. Their utility allows the separate streams to be broken out during the copy from the device to your system. This is kind of the opposite of their utilities that used to combine and interleave the frames from the dual SSDs on their previous recorders.
Blackmagic Design had a variety of new products and updates on display, but the most unique and interesting one is their Duplicator 4K. It encodes H.265 files from an SDI input, and saves the resulting files on up to 25 SD cards att once. It supports recording up to UHDp60, and can be stacked to increase the number of cards recorded. The intent is for live event records to be made available to customers, who can buy an SD card copy of an event to play on their 4K TV or computer. It will be interesting to see whether or not SD card content distribution catches on, but the cards are getting cheap enough to make it feasible.
NVidia only had one announcement this week, releasing the Quadro M2000, which extends the lower end of their Maxwell based line, with 768 CUDA cores, and 4GB RAM, supporting 4 DisplayPort 1.2 outputs. It is roughly equal to the consumer GeForce 950. I am still waiting eagerly for the next generation of Maxwell graphics cards to be released sometime later this year. The Tesla P100 just hinted to what is coming in that arena.
One interesting change that we will see happening throughout the technology industry is widespread adoption of Thunderbolt 3 on PC systems. All modern Macs have Thunderbolt, but there is very low market penetration on the PC side. It is hard to find a system with Thunderbolt support even if you are specifically looking for it. But with the release of 40Gb/s Thunderbolt 3, Intel is repositioning the technology to get it into as many systems as possible. It shares a physical port with USB3.1 Type-C, which is already a confusing change from three previous generations of USB. But USB3.1 is still more backwards compatible that Thunderbolt, requiring only a Type-C cable instead of a $100 conversion box, which is required to use existing Thunderbolt2 devices. I think wide spread acceptance will be great, and will open up all sorts of new options for high end content creation. I really like my Aorus X3, but it is lacking high bandwidth I/O support, which Thunderbolt provides. It allows 10GbE networking, Fibre Channel, eSATA, 4K video I/O, or even external GPUs to be connected to a laptop if needed. Currently those options aren’t available without Thunderbolt connectivity. I would not consider buying a laptop without Thunderbolt at this point. It is useful on desktops as well, but the PCIe slots offer an alternative unavailable on laptops. So Thunderbolt will be much more significant to laptops and notebooks than desktop workstations.