NAB: Will Smith Film 'After Earth' Among Productions Coming to Audiences in 4K

Digital cinematography cameras including Sony's F65 and Canon's EOS C500 and EOS 1D-C will be a big topic at next week’s National Association of Broadcasters Show.

After Earth, Columbia’s upcoming sci-fi thriller starring Will Smith and his son Jaden, will feature a spaceship and other futuristic technologies.

One of them is the camera being used for filming.

After Earth, from director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), is one of the first productions to use Sony’s new F65 digital cinematography camera. It offers an 8K sensor and produces 4K imagery -- more than four times the picture information contained in HD.

The F65 and a string of news lensing technologies from manufacturers including ARRI, Canon and Red will contribute to advancements in digital cinematography -- a closely watched area going into the National Association of Broadcasters Show, which runs April 14-19 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Shyamalan recalled making the decision to use the F65 on After Earth, whose locations include the jungles of Costa Rica. “Our director of photography [Peter Suschitzky] wanted me to consider digital cameras for the film because we were considering anamorphic lenses and also because we were going to shoot in dark locations,” the director said. “It ended up that the picture [produced by the F65] was the warmest for me, which is what I look for in terms of the human quality -- which is strange because you don’t think that a digital camera would be able to convey the humanity. Since we’re shooting a lot in nature, you wouldn’t think that it could capture all the complexity of nature and still not impose on it a coolness or that detachment that digital for me does. It didn’t do that.”

NAB-goers will be watching for additional camera technology news from Sony and other manufacturers like Canon.

Canon said Thursday that it will preview a digital SLR camera with 4K support, the EOS-1D C, priced at $15,000. The company also is developing new cameras for its Cinema EOS system -- which was launched in November targeting motion picture production -- including a 4K-capable Cinema EOS C500 for use with EF-mount lenses and Cinema EOS C500 PL for use with PL-mount lenses. Both are expected to run about $30,000. A prototype of the EOS C500 will be at NAB.

The first camera in the Cinema EOS line, the EOS C300, already is in use by professionals including director-producer Felix Enriquez Alcala. Having used the camera on the NBC series Grimm, he suggested that filmmaking is not only becoming higher quality, it is getting “smarter.”

“The Canon is a smaller piece of equipment that does equally good work [as various more expensive digital cameras],” he said. “I think TV and cinema will change in no more than five years. Half of the equipment we use will be gone.”

As a result, he also believes the crews will be significantly smaller -- as will budgets.

Alcala said an episode of a one-hour drama can run $2.5 million to $3.5 million, but with developing technology like the Canon cameras, “I predict it will be a lot less.” He suggested that as a result, more content will be able to be produced.

As to what these developments ultimately mean, Michael Cioni, CEO of Hollywood-based postproduction house LightIron, said: “We measure by emotion, and we measure by dollars. People spend money on good-looking films and good-looking television.”

At NAB, these camera developments will in turn impact the rest of the technology chain.

Cioni noted that a string of manufacturers -- including Barco, Panasonic, Samsung and TVLogic -- will be at NAB showing 4K monitors for the set, the edit room and the home. “We are five minutes away from that happening, and NAB is going to show probably the highest concentration of 4K monitors ever," he said. Cioni adds that consumers seem ready for advancements, as evidenced by the new iPad display. “Consumers love saying this [display] is greater than HD.”

Cioni added: “4K PlayStation and 4K gaming has been announced. Anyone that thinks consumers won’t prefer 4K games for 4K televisions is definitely taking a very big risk.”

Interested in uber-high-resolution imagery? Japan’s NHK is developing an 8K camera and display system that is a jaw-dropping 16 times the resolution of HD.

NHK and BBC will testing this futuristic camera system during the London Olympics this summer.