April 10, 2014

For-A focuses on 4K future

An updated FT-One high-speed 4K camera, a new extraction system to take HD windows from 4K images, and a 4K virtual studio system, are just some of the things that For-A has introduced this week at NAB, where it now boasts products for every stage of the 4K workflow — from capturing, processing, switching, and viewing, to recording.

Its new VRCAM3 sensor-less virtual studio system uses 4K chroma keying for higher quality results, and generates a much bigger image so that it retains its quality when you zoom it.

It links computer graphics to camera motion simply by connecting it to a 4K camera (without the need for any motion sensors to track camera movement). Then, using images extracted from the full 4K graphic, its Brainstorm rendering engine produces HD output in real time.

It means that high resolution is maintained when digitally zooming 4K source material, and chroma keying should be really precise. When the system’s virtual camera functions are used, the graphics are kept in sync with extracted material in real time.

Slow motion upgrade

For-A was the first company to bring out a full 4K (4096x2160 pixels) super slow-motion camera, and has announced an updated version of the FT-One. It can store 9.4 seconds of full 4K resolution images at 900 frames per second. This is then stored on one of two hot-swappable SSD cartridges, each of which can store 84 seconds of full 4K at 900fps. 

The new FT-One-Opt comes with optical fibre I/O connections built in to make system configuration and setup easier, particularly when the production calls for the camera to be used far from the base station.

A single output channel can provide Quad HD (four 1080p 3G-SDI) outputs, while the other output channel provides down-converted HD-SDI for live viewing and playback.

To allow FT-One users to frame and extract specific HD images from the full 4K picture, it also has the touchscreen-driven ZE-ONE 4K zoom extraction system, which includes a 16-channel embedded audio delay processor. 

Given that there is hardly any real need for 4K broadcasts today, this means that a broadcaster can use the 4K camera for slow motion shots covering a large area of the pitch and then zoom in to extract just a quarter of it (in HD - pictured above), to playback, making it a lot easier to capture the relevant piece of the action - and then dynamically pan with the action as it unfolds even if the real camera hadn’t been moved.

HD to 4K upconversion

Anyone working in 4K will probably need to integrate HD video with their Ultra HD output, for which For-A now has the URC-4000 super resolution 4K up converter, which turns HD video into 4K in real time using I/P and resolution conversion technology developed by FOR-A.

It uses spatiotemporal frame interpolation, in which both spatial (positional) and temporal (timing) changes in images are detected using a high precision system that can recognise any movement on a pixel-by-pixel basis. It is claimed to reduce any aliasing from conversion, and to restore the resolution of still image areas. Resolution is further improved through multi-scale nonlinear enhancement. Up conversions are regularly done for high-end material (such as movies - both Skyfall and The Avengers were shot using Arri’s Alexa using the full 2.8K sensor and recorded in uncompressed Raw, and then up-converted to 6K for IMAX cinemas), and are increasingly successful, so having small units like the URC-4000 will mean that anything shot on good quality HD today (preferably at a high frame rate as that is easier to convert), should have a future in 4K.

Also new is the MV-4200 compact (2RU) multi viewer that accepts 4K signals, and is capable of handling up to 68 inputs and 8 outputs, while the new MV-42HSA and MV-1620HSA multi viewers include 3G Level A/B support and 4K to HD down-converted output. The MV-1620HSA accepts up to 16 channels of mixed 3G/HD/SD-SDI/analogue composite signals for monitoring on up to two screens, and can also be cascaded with other units to display up to 64 sources simultaneously.

Ultra Sensitivity Camera

Amongst its other new products, For-A also has a new camera from its subsidiary, Flovel. The FZ-B3 ultra high sensitivity HD digital camera can capture colourful images in a moonlight, or even starlight environment (where most high sensitivity cameras will give grey or even green images - mainly of noise), with a minimum illumination of just 0.003 lux and a signal-to-noise ratio of 55dB or better.

It is a three-CMOS version of Flovel’s popular single-sensor FZ-B1 ultra high sensitivity camera, which is claimed to be “1600 times more sensitive than normal camera” - it has a minimum illumination of 0.005 lux and S/N ratio of 48dB or better, so the FZ-B3 is a significant improvement.

By David Fox

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