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Techniscope sized HD sensor?


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#1 Trevor Swaim

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 03:06 PM

A sensor that is the same size and shape of a Techniscope film frame would seem to me to be a "best of all worlds" solution to many issues. As is usually the case I am no doubt missing something.
What I am thinking is this a sensor 22mm wide and 9.47mm high, 1080 pixels high and 2517 pixels wide. This would allow one to have a 2.33:1 ratio image with a very high pixel count for the resolution junkies. A standard 1080 16x9 image would be easy to extract from this by simply cropping the sides and would result in an "usable" sensor area in this case that is actually larger than normal 2/3" chips. Another huge advantage of this image size is the ability to derive a 1080p high cinemascope ratio image using normal 35mm spherical lenses. I am not suggesting this for "pro level" cameras mind you this would be a "solution" for the higher end prosumer cameras in the sub 10k range.

Now please do tell me why this is a bad idea, as I am no doubt overlooking something.
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#2 Rob Vogt

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 03:19 PM

I was thinking about this the other day for some reason. The reason I came up with was that the manufacturers aren't making these cameras for narrative storytelling. They're making it for people who want home-movies, businesses that make training or corporate videos, and for broadcast. None of which really use the techniscope aspect ratio, and so they are more concerned with making better 16:9 cameras because they see a market for it. I'm not saying one doesn't exist, but companies like Sony and Panasonic ect. are more concerned with keeping their major contracts happy than making something that deviates from their business model.
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#3 John Sprung

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 03:58 PM

The main issue is the economics of the chip business. In film you save 50% of stock and processing by going techniscope. But in chip making, it's very different. It would probably cost more rather than less.

The first chip of a new design costs tens of millions of dollars, and they're tens of cents each to make thereafter. To amortize the cost of a techniscope size chip over the number they could sell is very likely not as good a deal as making Red sized chips, and just using the middle of them. But in that case, why not give you the option of using the whole chip?

I'm not sure if Red has the option to record only a 2.39:1 subset of the chip, but if they do, that would be exactly what you need. If not, shoot their 4K mode, and crop it in post.




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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 04:55 PM

If you already have cameras with sensors that are 2.9K, 4.5K, etc. wide, then what difference does it make if they are 16x9 and have to be cropped vertically to 2.39? The horizontal resolution stays the same either way, so you aren't gaining anything by making the sensor only be 2.39 in shape.

The only reason 2-perf makes sense at all in 35mm is that it is half the real estate and therefore half the costs of raw stock, processing, etc. over 4-perf. But you don't necessarily save half the money by shooting on a camera with a sensor that is half as tall. You may save on data amounts by only recording a 2.39 image over a 1.78 image but that could easily be a software setting for a 16x9 sensor.
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#5 Paul Bruening

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 05:01 PM

I love it when you guys talk 2-perf. It gets me all tingly.
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#6 Trevor Swaim

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 11:48 PM

The main issue is the economics of the chip business. In film you save 50% of stock and processing by going techniscope. But in chip making, it's very different. It would probably cost more rather than less.

The first chip of a new design costs tens of millions of dollars, and they're tens of cents each to make thereafter. To amortize the cost of a techniscope size chip over the number they could sell is very likely not as good a deal as making Red sized chips, and just using the middle of them. But in that case, why not give you the option of using the whole chip?

I'm not sure if Red has the option to record only a 2.39:1 subset of the chip, but if they do, that would be exactly what you need. If not, shoot their 4K mode, and crop it in post.
-- J.S.


If you already have cameras with sensors that are 2.9K, 4.5K, etc. wide, then what difference does it make if they are 16x9 and have to be cropped vertically to 2.39? The horizontal resolution stays the same either way, so you aren't gaining anything by making the sensor only be 2.39 in shape.

The only reason 2-perf makes sense at all in 35mm is that it is half the real estate and therefore half the costs of raw stock, processing, etc. over 4-perf. But you don't necessarily save half the money by shooting on a camera with a sensor that is half as tall. You may save on data amounts by only recording a 2.39 image over a 1.78 image but that could easily be a software setting for a 16x9 sensor.


Yeah, a Red one type camera would be a very workable alternative, however there you are talking $17,500 for the body, then you need to add batteries, viewfinders, lenses, etc. I am talking about a company making, essentially, a Digital cinematography camera for the masses. The scarlet might be exactly the camera that I would want, but who knows what, when or how much that will be.

I shoot a lot of ultra low budget films and even though I try to talk the producer/director out of it they almost always want to crop a 16x9 1080p or 720p image to get 2.35:1 . Now I am a realist and I know that the chances of these films ever getting any kind of theatrical release is next to zero. But I am also a dreamer and want a camera that will give me the best image quality I can get, while still remaining flexible and maintaining a simple easy to use workflow for the editor. I guess what I am saying is that I really don't care about the size of the chip what I care about is the quality of the image. If I shoot in 16x9 I want to be able to shoot an honest 1080p, If i shoot in 2.35:1 I really am not interested in losing resolution, I went through that whole BS with the DVX and PD170 era of cameras with their crop mode.

Something with the form factor and price range of a JVC hd100/hm700 or Sony EX series camera but with a large "constant height" chip and slightly less compression would be the bees knees... I guess I just long for the day of being able to buy a camera and use it for 20 or 30 years before really feeling like I "need" to upgrade, rather than every other year. If I felt like I could buy a digital camera that would last me for a really long time I would have no problem with spending the 20k or so to get one.

What John said about a cost/return ratio for the manufacturer makes a lot of sense and is no doubt one of the main reasons we have not see and most likely will never see this chip.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 12:40 AM

The problem is that as soon as you get out of a 1920 x 1080 recording format, you are out of a standard HD video recording and into some sort of RAW data camera like the RED. Which also puts it out of most common consumer uses, and therefore possibly beyond the mass production and sales that are necessary to make it cheap to sell.

Also, I'm not sure why the quality from cropping 1920 x 1080 to 2.39 is so bad when it's been done on major Hollywood movies shot in 1080P such as "Superman Returns". For some reason, that quality level isn't good enough for a low-budget movie? In fact, most Hollywood movies, for better or worse, are shot in Super-35 and go through a 2K D.I. that is then cropped to 2.39, so the resolution isn't much higher than cropping 1920 x 1080 to 2.39 -- 2048 x 857 versus 1920 x 803. So again, I'm not sure why a super low-budget movie shooting on camera equipment that costs under $10,000 has to look better than most Hollywood movies.

And you're forgetting the whole 3-sensor versus single-sensor issue. A 3-sensor camera where each sensor is 1920 x 1080 would probably produce similar resolution to a single-sensor camera that is 3K across because RGB will have to be generated from a Bayer-filtered image. So you're basically back to the same problem, i.e. cropping 3K RAW Bayer to 2.39 isn't necessarily going to be higher in resolution than cropping a 3-sensor 1080P recording to 2.39.

Honestly, the resolution of a good 1080P recording cropped to 2.39 is fine for low-budget filmmaking. And if the 1080P camera has three sensors for RGB, then you'd have to build a single sensor camera with a lot more horizontal resolution to have a significant leap in final RGB resolution. So your idea of a single-sensor camera with a sensor that is 2517 x 1080 isn't really going to give you better quality than a 3-sensor 1080P camera cropped to 2.39, it may even be worse in resolution. Or be in the same ballpark, in which case, what's the point? The truth is that any single-sensor camera that is 3K RAW or under in horizontal resolution is more or less a 2K/1080P camera in practical resolution. Which is fine.
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#8 Trevor Swaim

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 03:17 AM

I get why its not available and I will agree that it isn't necessary. All I am saying is that it would be nice to have. I think we are getting crossed up between need and desire. I don't need a camera that is capable of 1080p, or even 720p I shot a lot of movies on a DVX100, and they looked nice. But why limit ourselves? A super low-budget movie shooting on camera equipment that costs under $10,000 doesn't have to look better than most Hollywood movies, but it would be nice to have that option. To be honest it would just be nice to get a camera that is actually made just for narrative filmmaking in this price range, rather than overpriced fixed lens consumer cameras or ENG type of cameras.
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#9 Chris Millar

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 04:44 AM

Off topic ? if so then say so...

But I'd personally like a huge sensor - large format sizes, 7x17" for instance (yes, inches) - but, keep the resolution low (1080, 2K, 4K whatever)... I don't need all that data, I just like the idea of using LF lenses - Tilt/Shift, ultra low DOF - yes, issues in pulling focus, call it a special purpose system ... a seamless array of older technology sensors might work and keep it cheap - one can dream.

I remember Red announcing some flavor of a MF sized pano sensor that could do 30fps (?) - but if I recall the res was ridiculous.
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#10 Chris Millar

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 04:47 AM

To be honest it would just be nice to get a camera that is actually made just for narrative filmmaking in this price range, rather than overpriced fixed lens consumer cameras


EX1 ?
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 11:08 AM

I'm just trying to correct the misperception that a single sensor that is 2517 x 1080 is going to give you a higher-resolution 2.39 image than cropping a 3-sensor 1920 x 1080 camera image to 2.39.

As for wanting a sensor that is 35mm in width (22mm to 24mm wide), basically you should wait for the S35 Scarlet or try these DSLR cameras that shoot video, unless Canon or Sony decides to start making video cameras with single 35mm sensors soon.

Basically RED is the company for you if you are looking for a narrative-type digital cinema camera at lower costs.
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#12 Rob Vogt

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 11:23 AM

Off topic ? if so then say so...

But I'd personally like a huge sensor - large format sizes, 7x17" for instance (yes, inches) - but, keep the resolution low (1080, 2K, 4K whatever)... I don't need all that data, I just like the idea of using LF lenses - Tilt/Shift, ultra low DOF - yes, issues in pulling focus, call it a special purpose system ... a seamless array of older technology sensors might work and keep it cheap - one can dream.

I remember Red announcing some flavor of a MF sized pano sensor that could do 30fps (?) - but if I recall the res was ridiculous.


would the 617 Epic or scarlet brain be enough for you???
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#13 Trevor Swaim

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 11:51 AM

EX1 ?


A camera designed for filmmaking would, to me, have to be at least be compatible with a standard mattebox. The sony is so slanted toward ENG/run and gun that the onboard microphone interferes with said device. Even if you can get a mattebox that does physically not hit the microphone itself then the filter stages are next to impossible to load or manipulate. A camera designed from the ground up for narrative filmmaking should be compatible with industry standards, the EX-1 isn't even close. It can make some very pleasant images though.
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#14 Trevor Swaim

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 12:08 PM

I'm just trying to correct the misperception that a single sensor that is 2517 x 1080 is going to give you a higher-resolution 2.39 image than cropping a 3-sensor 1920 x 1080 camera image to 2.39.

Unless by some miracle one the projects I shoot manages a film out. :lol:

As for wanting a sensor that is 35mm in width (22mm to 24mm wide), basically you should wait for the S35 Scarlet or try these DSLR cameras that shoot video, unless Canon or Sony decides to start making video cameras with single 35mm sensors soon.


Yeah the Scarlet is most certainly on my radar, as are the rumors of a Canon S35 XL series camera. I guess I have seen to many artifacts and other sensor/processing related issues with the video from DSLRs to really be able to be excited about them. I wouldn't mind a D90 for stills though as I have some nice old AIS nikon glass.

Basically RED is the company for you if you are looking for a narrative-type digital cinema camera at lower costs.


And that is cool, but again who knows when the scarlet will be out.

I have a camera "for now" I want a camera "forever"...
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#15 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 12:49 PM

A camera designed for filmmaking would, to me, have to be at least be compatible with a standard mattebox. The sony is so slanted toward ENG/run and gun that the onboard microphone interferes with said device.


You can remove the mic from the 2/3" Sony HD cameras. The downside is that they can get rather long when fully rigged.
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#16 Trevor Swaim

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 03:32 PM

You can remove the mic from the 2/3" Sony HD cameras. The downside is that they can get rather long when fully rigged.


I guess I don't follow. The EX1 is a 1/2" chip camera, and even the brand spanking new EX1R doesn't have a removable mic. The 2/3" 350 is $22,000 and is pretty much a straight up ENG camera. That is the lowest cost 2/3" chip camera I know of in sonys lineup. Am I missing something?
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#17 Chris Millar

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 08:18 PM

would the 617 Epic or scarlet brain be enough for you???
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Well sure I'd take what I can get - but what is the 6x17 cm sensors resolution ? I'd rather it low.
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#18 Rob Vogt

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 10:01 PM

I believe, and don't hold me to this, but the scarlet is projected to be 3k and the Epic as 5 or 6k
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#19 Trevor Swaim

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 11:28 PM

Well sure I'd take what I can get - but what is the 6x17 cm sensors resolution ? I'd rather it low.


The last spec that Red had on the site was IIRC 28k for the 617.
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#20 Chris Millar

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 11:42 PM

The last spec that Red had on the site was IIRC 28k for the 617.

I remember a number like that as well ...

ugh... oh well - heres where my HD knowledge falls apart - but you could use them in 'parallel' to reduce noise ? or some form of HDR ? eventually ending up with 4k or whatever ...

Still, $$$ !

I want a sensor that size but simply a scaled up version of current (or older) technology - same res. just physically bigger, (larger pitch) not sure about the actual size of the photosites and what effect that has on aliasing etc... Keen to learn ;)

It might even be cheaper than the equivalent res smaller sensor

Am I making any sense ?
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