Inside Canon: Why You Can’t Ignore 4K, or Even 8K, Technology

In part two of this two-part series, Canon looks to expand its market with a new 4K reference display and a lens designed for photographing 8K resolution imagery.
Courtesy of Canon

Read part one of this two-part series here.

TOKYO — During a recent press visit to Canon’s Shimomaruko headquarters, arranged by Canon, the company showed its newly-unveiled 30-inch 4K reference display. Today, HD makes up most of Canon's professional business, but the company has a wider "4K World" initiative to provide 4K-supported tools from cameras to display. With the 4K display, Canon also hopes to take on Dolby’s professional reference monitors, particularly in high-end post.

Canon’s DP-V3010 is a 10-bit display with 18-bit processing, a 16:10 aspect ratio, and 4096 x 2560 resolution. The company explained that it has an IPS (in-plane switching) LCD panel with full array RGB LED scanning backlight technology. Slated to ship in Q1 for $40,000, the reference monitor is aimed at uses including color-grading/ digital intermediate work, CGI/animation/visual effects, and editing/finishing suites, as well as on-set workflows.

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“The 4K market is expanding and we see it as an up-and-coming market opportunity,” said Shinichi Yamato, chief of display products at Canon. “4K monitors are still limited in use, but as an early entrant to this business will be able to capitalize on the timing of the release of this product and catch up with Dolby."

During the visit to its headquarters, Canon previewed the display in a 4K screening room. The company put together a side by side demonstration, allowing guest to compare the accuracy of the display by showing the same imagery simultaneously projected using a 4K Christie projector on a Stewart screen. The demo impressed guests, including a couple cinematographers who were in attendance.

Canon has its eye on digital cinema, emphasizing that the monitor supports the DCI spec in terms of color gamut, resolution and contrast ratio. It also plans to support the ASC CDL and ACES workflows.


Inter BEE and 4K/8K

Canon also displayed the monitor at Japan’s recent International Broadcast Equipment Exhibition, or Inter BEE, which is considered among the world's largest broadcast equipment shows (behind NAB and IBC). We attended the opening day of this event during the press tour, and there was a steady stream of floor traffic examining the new 4K monitor, and overall 4K was a big topic.

Select broadcasters around the world have already started to test 4K to varying degrees, including KCTA in South Korea, BSkyB in the UK, Sky Deutschland in Germany and Sky Italia in Italy.

In Japan, a launch of 4K (four times the resolution of today's HD) and also 8K, which is 16 times the resolution of HD, services is on an aggressive schedule. 

During his Inter BEE keynote, Toshiyuki Minami -- deputy director-general of the information and communications bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications -- urged Japan’s broadcast community to cooperate so that it can get there “as early as possible."

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To get there ahead of other nations moving toward Ultra HD, notably South Korea, Japan hopes to have some 4K broadcasting in place for next year’s FIFA World Cup, and also intends to move up its planned start of 8K broadcasting, which earlier had been targeted at 2020.

“NHK said they wanted to start test broadcasting for 8K in 2020, but that is an important year with the Tokyo Olympics so we insisted that they needed to make that earlier. Plans are to be experimenting at next year’s FIFA World Cup, and to have started test 8K broadcasting by the 2016 Rio Olympics,” Minami said.


8K Testing

Demonstrations of Japan public broadcaster NHK’s “Super Hi Vision” 8K system have already wowed attendees at events such as the Consumer Electronics Show and the National Association of Broadcasters Show. It really is a different experience. Some of the test footage includes the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (a test conducted by NHK with the BBC). Viewed on a large enough screen, one could even see the individuals in the audience in the stands—yes, it contains that much resolution.

At Inter BEE, Canon was more focused on 4K and technologies such as the new reference monitor. But while Canon isn’t talking about 8K in great detail, it is working on it.

The company has already developed a zoom lens for NHK’s 8K camera system—already part of the experimental phase and plans are to use this lens as part of an 8K trial at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Signaling a wider Canon strategy, Edakubo told The Hollywood Reporter: "For production we believes that there’s a need for improvement to technology, including the 8K camera."

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Underscoring an argument that resolution alone will not attract consumers, he added: “It’s not enough to improve resolution, we need to improve dynamic range and frame rates. This is going to be a bigger issue. We are studying 8K and we believe our effort to study 8K will have impact on our 4K development as well.”

On a final note, sometimes you pick up information in an unexpected place. In Japan, I learned the origin of the name Canon during a tour of Kenninji Temple in Kyoto (Canon has contributed to the restoration of the Temple).

The predecessor of Canon was called Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. But in 1934, the company produced what was said to be the first prototype of a 35mm camera with a focal plane based shutter, which was dubbed "Kwanon," the name of the Buddist Goddess of Mercy. The spelling and name was soon changed to ‘Canon.’

Twitter: @CGinLA