Just when you think you’ve seen it all and been impressed after a year of FREE firmware updates released quarterly for the Sony PMW F5 and F55 CineAlta cameras – today Sony drops the bomb that they plan to include two very popular codec options, ProRes and DNxHD as a future option to these two cameras.
Sony’s XAVC codec was the standard core compression technology using the H.264 standard for the F5 and F55 offering the flexibility of HD, 2k, and 4k resolutions with frame rates up to 180fps. XAVC has already become widely compatible with a variety of software platforms (for a full software compatibility listing read article) however Sony customers have been asking for more flexibility towards legacy NLE software applications and workflows.
The advent of ProRes and DNxHD however will be amazing news for rental houses or owner/operators handing footage over to Avid or FCP 7 editors eliminating any need for plugins or separate transcoding processes. It will also offer better backwards compatibility for AutoDesk Smoke, Adobe Premiere versions prior to CC, and possibly other software applications which can ingest video. (ie. Cinema 4D, 3D Studio Max, Blender, Maya, etc..)
Although so far there is no word on pricing and information on timing has not been released, it’s fair to say with NAB 2014 around the corner more information will surface soon. The hardware upgrade will surely be an add-on card inside the body in order to facilitate the real-time encoding of the RAW image data into ProRes or DNxHD, etc.. no different than a BMD Hyperdeck shuttle can do internally.
Now more than ever have the F5/F55 cameras become the most versatile broadcast and feature film cameras of all time.
Kudos to Sony, it truly feels like every month is Christmas.
Now for some wild & plausible theories
Adding ProRes to the F5 & F55 is definitely going to impose a trade off between frame rate and resolution since combined ProRes will easily exceed the data-rate of shooting in 4k RAW mode. Which raises speculation if the upgrade will in fact require the AXS-R5 module for it since SXS Pro + cards are only rated for 1500Mbps while AXSM cards are rated at 2500Mbps. Then of course there are the new Sony AXSM – slim cards recently announced. They do not fit into the SXS slot, so what are they going to be for? The plot thickens.
Sony’s SXS Pro Plus cards are rated to handle 1500Mbps write speeds. Do the math and the max frame rate you’re going to get recording ProRes 4444 in 4k is just about 31.8 frames per second. Dropping down from 4444 to HQ gives you more to work with, so approximately 48 frames per second.
Ok but here’s where I break out the tinfoil hat and continue with my highly speculated theories… Sony’s AXSM cards are rated at 2500Mbps which can handle up to 4k 60p of Sony’s RAW. But do the math and it’s easy to see that if the R5 is used as part of the ProRes upgrade and we record ProRes 4444 in 4k to it the max frame rate is going to be something around 53 FPS. Now if the NEW AXS slim cards are going to offer even higher data rate throughputs then its possible that we can expect higher frame rates in the near future to work with ProRes… and maybe that’s why Sony has released them.
Update April 12 2014
Sounds like ProRes will be HD/2K max resolution and couldn’t catch the color sampling but Sony did say not all ProRes flavours will be available. Sounded like he said “422” at some point but he was very hard to understand..
For 4K Sony is sticking to its XAVC codec.