ARRI  -  CineAlta  -  Panavision  -  Red One  -  Viper FilmStream




Sony's CineAlta 24P HD cameras are a series of professional digital video cameras that offer many of the same features of a 35mm motion picture film camera.

CineAlta is a brand name used by Sony to describe various products involved in content creation, production and exhibition within a digital cinema workflow. Now Sony's products branded by CineAlta include camera, camcorder, recorder, cinema server and projector.

CineAlta cameras record onto tapes, professional discs or flash memory cards. They have the ability to shoot at various frame rates including 24fps and have a resolution of up to 1920 x 1080 pixels.

In 2000 George Lucas announced that 'Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones/Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones/Attack of the Clones: The IMAX Experience' [ph by David Tattersall] would be the first major motion picture to be shot 100% digitally. Sony and Panavision had teamed up to develop the High Definition 24P camera that Lucas would use to accomplish this and thus the first CineAlta camera was born: the Sony HDW-F900.

Sony CineAlta F23 [without digital recorder]

The F23 camera system is the pinnacle of Sony's 2/3" CineAlta line of 24P acquisition products for digital television and motion picture content creation. With cinematographers in mind, the F23 was designed to provide the highest picture quality with a wide color gamut and over 12 stops of exposure latitude. The F23 also features cinema camera style controls, a robust B4 lens mount, and a ergonomic chassis design that accepts traditional film camera accessories. In addition, the SRW-1 HDCAM SR recorder can be directly docked on either the top or tail of the camera system, or tethered by dual link HD-SDI cabling for mounting flexibility. When the SRW-1 is equipped with the optional HKSR102 board, the F23 can record overcranking, undercranking, slow shutter, and interval recording. The F23 also captures in full 1920 x 1080 progressive in either 4:4:4 RGB color, or 4:2:2 YCbCr.

Sony CineAlta F35

In addition to the F23, Sony has introduced [in November 2008] the new CineAlta F35, a Sony version of Panavision's Genesis, which was equipped with 3 pieces of 35mm CCD and PL lens mount.

The 35 refers to the size of the sensor as in the F23 [2/3 inch]. The new F35 shares the same body as the F23 but features a single Super 35mm size CCD sensor and will enable cinematographers to use 35mm PL-mount optics. The F35 will be a 1920 x 1080p HD camera and will deliver 4:4:4 picture quality, variable frame rates of 1-50fps and an extraordinary dynamic range between the highlights and shadows. Like the F23, the F35 is also designed to record on to an HDCAM SR recorder, which can be docked directly on to the back or top of the camera, or connected remotely via cable.

The F35 is designed to extend Sony's CineAlta line up not to replace the F23. The F23 and F35 will address distinct production environments and both will co-exist together. Some cinematographers are committed to 2/3 inch lenses while others prefer 35mm.

Sony is also working on developing a complete 4K digital system based around their 4K digital projector although this will not be available until 2009 at the earliest.


The Viper FilmStream Camera, with three 9.2-million pixel Frame Transfer CCDs, captures a 1920 × 1080 pixel image. In addition to uncompressed RGB output, the Viper is also capable of outputting RAW sensor data, which allows for more control in post-production. The camera has a unique feature known as Dynamic Pixel Management, which allows the camera to change its aspect ratio by vertically ganging pixels. This allows the cinematographer to shoot at different aspect ratios without cropping the image [thus losing resolution] or using anamorphic lenses. The Viper lacks on-board recording. The signals from the camera may be recorded to either tape or disk, depending on what mode the camera is used in.

The Viper is a product of Thomson S.A. Thomson was founded in 1879 by Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston. In 1893 their French subsidiary, Compagnie Française Thomson-Houston, was founded. From this French company the modern Thomson S.A. evolved. In 2000, Thomson acquired the Dutch Philips Professional Broadcast and in 2002 the American Company Grass Valley Group. These combined forces, under the brand name Grass Valley, produced the Viper FilmStream.

The Viper was first used on the short movie 'Indoor Fireworks' [2003; dir by Rudolf Buitendach; ph by Marc Felperlaan], though the first feature shot entirely with the Viper was 'Silence Becomes You' [2004-05, Stephanie Sinclaire; ph by Arturo Smith]. Other Viper films: 'Collateral' [2003; Viper + CineAlta HDW-F900 + film; dir by Michael Mann; ph by Paul Cameron & Dion Beebe], 'Miami Vice' [2005; Viper + CineAlta HDW-F900 + film; dir by Michael Mann; ph by Dion Beebe], 'Zodiac' [2005; dir by David Fincher; ph by Harris Savides], 'Killer Pad' [2006; dir by Robert Englund; ph by David Stump; 'Killer Pad' is being shot with two Viper FilmStream Digital Cinematography cameras in FilmStream mode, which provides the greatest available latitudes and image quality available in today's digital equipment. The FilmStream signal is being recorded to the S.two DFR [Digital Field Recorder] digital disk recorder. This allows for the use of digital look up tables on set and for immediate playback and review of each take during the production], 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' [2006-07; dir by David Fincher; ph by Claudio Miranda], etc.

One of the Viper's strengths is its ability to shoot with extremely low light levels, which allowed much of 'Collateral' to be shot on the streets of Los Angeles at night without the need for substantial supplemental lighting equipment.

While the Viper is designed to produce full resolution RAW images in 4:4:4 log data, it can also produce 4:4:4 RGB video images. Cinematographer Tom Burstyn used the Viper in the 4:2:2 HDStream mode for the first season [2004] of the tv-series 'The 4400'.

After aborted attempts to create a film-style video camera in the 1970s and 1980s, Panavision joined the digital revolution in July 2000, establishing DHD Ventures in partnership with Sony. The new company's objective was to raise the quality of high definition digital video to the standards of top-level Hollywood motion-picture production. This cooperative venture was established largely at the instigation of George Lucas to serve his designs for the 'Star Wars' prequels. The collaboration resulted in the Sony HDW-F900 CineAlta HDCAM high definition video camera [also called the Panavision HD-900F after being 'panavised'].

'In 1997, Panavision and Sony announced their collaboration on the development of a 24 frame, progressive capture digital high definition camera suitable for use by filmmakers to create images for the motion picture screen. Panavising the Sony HDW-F900 camera required a disassembly of the stock camera and replacement of the top cover, carrying handle, bottom supports and mounts with more robust and flexible mounts and handles. Also, a complete new faceplate, lens lock and iris rod support system have been installed. A newly designed Ultraview Viewfinder with enhanced optical performance and easier to use controls replaces the standard viewfinder. These changes and more were made in order to produce a film friendly system that utilizes many of the standard Panavision accessories, such as the follow focus, matte box, heads, etc.

In addition to the mechanical modifications to the camera, a unique optical pre-filter gives you better color matching with film emulsions and enhanced resolution for blue screen effects cinematography.

Historically, 525 and 625 line video systems were constrained in their performance by almost everything but optics. However, with the introduction of the first progressive output 2/3", 2 million pixel [per color] CCD camera it was immediately apparent that optics were going to be critical to maximizing the performance of a Digital Cinematography System.

The 2/3" CCD imager is actually only 11mm in diagonal [as compared to the 27.5 mm diagonal of a 35mm motion picture film frame]. Therefore, for any given screen size, the 2/3" CCD will require 2.5 times more horizontal magnification than a 35mm film frame. This required that our new Primo Digital lens series be designed to have 2.5 times the performance of our best cine lenses. All Primo Digital lenses are optimized for maximum image quality at fast maximum apertures of T1.6-1.9 [F1.45-1.75], thus enabling depths of field similar to 35mm cine formats.' [From the Panavision website.]

The new system was used in the making of Lucasfilm's 'Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones/Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones/Attack of the Clones: The IMAX Experience', described as 'the first digital major feature film'.



The next step in the evolution of the digital cinema camera also involved collaboration between Sony and Panavision; this time, Panavision participated in all stages of development. The aim was to create a system that could use the entire range of the company's 35mm spherical lenses. This led to the 2004 introduction of the Genesis HD camera. Its Super 35mm film–sized recording area made it focally compatible with regular 35mm lenses, giving it a true 35mm depth of field. The electronics were manufactured by Sony. The chassis and mechanics were designed by Panavision.

'For the cinematographer, shooting with Genesis means no compromise on depth of field control, portability, sensitivity, dynamic range or color. Genesis was designed as a Panavision camera. It uses the same Primo lenses and the same accessories as our film cameras. The Genesis Super 35mm sensor is a 12.4 mega pixel, true RGB sensor, with the same number of pixels for each of the three primaries, unlike Bayer pattern cameras that have half as many red or blue pixels as green ones. Genesis was designed with digital intermediates in mind. It offers a unique gamma and colorimetry that enables seamless intercutting with all 35mm film emulsions. Genesis shutter angles range from 3.8° to 360° and frame rates from 1-50fps. The 360° shutter is new territory for film cinematographers, yielding one more stop of exposure, with increased motion blur. Genesis can record either to the new Panavision Solid State Recorder SSR-1 [uncompressed 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 recording - 21 minute capacity in 23.98 fps 4:4:4 SP mode - 43 minute capacity in 23.98 fps 4:2:2 LP mode], or to the Sony HDCAM-SR videotape recorder [4:4:4 RGB recording - maximum 50 minutes recording per cassette at 24fps]. Both units dock directly [top or rear] to Genesis, ensuring a totally portable package without cables to external recording devices.' [From the Panavision website.]

Doph Russell Carpenter with the Genesis - "21"

The Genesis was first used on 'Superman Returns' [2005; Genesis + film; dir by Bryan Singer; ph by Newton Thomas Sigel] and 'Flyboys' [2005; dir by Tony Bill; ph by Henry Braham].

See also: Motion Picture Cameras - Panavision

See also: Film Formats - Panavision

Arriflex D-21 - The Film Style Digital Camera

The Arriflex D-21 [successor to the D-20] combines leading edge digital technology with film camera features that have been refined over ARRI’s 90-year history. It allows directors and cinematographers to shoot in the same way as they would with 35mm film, while taking advantage of the immediacy and economy of digital acquisition.

Through ARRI Imaging Technology, the D-21 produces brilliant images with a cinematic look and feel. D-21 images have a high dynamic range, high contrast and the most film-like color reproduction of any digital motion picture camera.

Incorporating a rotating mirror shutter, optical viewfinder and compatibility with existing film accessories, the D-21 is immediately recognizable as an ARRI camera and film crews feel comfortable operating it. Further film style features include variable frame rate and robust construction.

The D-21's single, Super 35-size CMOS sensor exhibits the same cinematic depth of field as 35mm film and the camera's industry standard PL lens mount accepts the same unequalled variety of spherical lenses as used on 35mm film cameras. Since the D-21 is the only digital high-end camera with a 4 x 3 aspect ratio sensor, it can make full use of anamorphic lenses.

The ARRIRAW format enables the D-21 to output RAW uncompressed data. Alternatively – or simultaneously – the camera can output an uncompressed HD signal that works perfectly in the established HD infrastructure.

While most digital cameras use electronic viewfinders, the D-21 is equipped with the same optical viewfinder as all other ARRI cameras. Thus the D-21 viewfinder always shows an image area larger than the image being recorded, and it can be used even when the camera is not powered up.

Light entering the taking lens is diverted by a spinning mirror shutter and generates a bright, magnified full color image in the viewfinder. This direct light path, free of any electronic image processing, ensures fatigue-free viewing as well as zero delay, a crucial feature when shooting fast action, where a delay of even a few frames can be very confusing.

Most crucial of all is the fact that an optical viewfinder shows an image larger than that being recorded and therefore allows the operator to see not just what is in frame, but also what is just outside the frame. This safety area permits meticulous composition and helps the operator prevent unwanted objects from entering a shot.

See also: Motion Picture Cameras - ARRI

The Red Digital Cinema Camera Company was founded in 2005 by Jim Jannard. The company's main product is a digital cinematography camera called the Red One. The camera is capable of recording compressed image data at resolutions up to 4096 x 2304, directly to flash or hard disk based digital storage. The camera body is priced at $17,500, far below most comparable products, and as a result it may make high-resolution digital cinematography accessible to many more productions.

Announced in 2006 and released in 2007, it is the first camera produced by Red Digital Cinema Camera Company.

Red One body

The Red One body – designed for flexibility and functionality. Weighing in at 10 lbs, this is a streamlined package specifically designed to maximize your shooting options. Matched with a 35mm PL lens mount, it allows you to take advantage of the world’s finest optics. Red One's modular design means you can upgrade as we add new features and accessories, as well as benefiting from performance improvements with each new free firmware upgrade.

Typical high-end HD camcorders have 2.1M pixel sensors and record with 3:1:1 color sub-sampled video at up to 30fps. Red One offers the Mysterium, a 12 megapixel Super 35mm cine sized [24.4 x 13.7mm] CMOS sensor, which provides 4K [up to 30 fps], 3K [up to 60 fps] and 2K [up to 120 fps] capture, and all this with wide dynamic range and color space in 12 bit native RAW. In addition, you get the same breathtaking depth of field and selective focus as found in film cameras using equivalent 35mm PL mount lenses. Mysterium boasts greater than 66db Dynamic Range thanks to its large 29 sq. micron pixels. And 12,065,000 pixels deliver resolution that can only be called Ultra High Definition.


Shoot lightweight EFP style or load it up to shoot a feature film. Options include Red-Rail mounting accessories that 'grow' the camera body. The Red One body and Red-Rail components provide numerous mounting points to allow hundreds of optional Red and third party accessories. Choose between the convenience and durability of recording directly to Compact Flash, in-camera, or outputting signal to Red Flash Drive or Red Drive [RAID] for even longer recording options.

Doph Geoff Boyle with the RED on the tv-series "Wallander" 

The Red One is not a HD camera; it is like a large digital SLR [single-lens reflex] camera, except it captures metadata at 24-30fps at 4K, 60fps at 3K, and up to 120fps in 2K resolution.

Filmmakers who consider their work art had better become technicians fast if they intend on using the Red One, as it does not have the color palette tool in the creation of the nuanced finessed brushstrokes you are accustomed to getting from film. You simply cannot be green if you want to go Red. The Red One currently uses a CMOS digital sensor capturing images at 4520k pixels of resolution by 2540k pixels of resolution. It is retrofitted with a film PL mount, which means its digital sensor is able to gather light, utilizing and taking advantage of the finest optical quality film lenses ever made. This gives the Red One the equivalent characteristics of 35mm film's narrow depth of field in terms of focus.

The most exciting aspect of Red One technology is that it enables you to watch and approve dailies instantly, whereas film needs to be processed and scanned in order to be outputted and viewed. Furthermore, the Red One's proprietary hard drives allow up to 3-hour takes compared with 10-minute takes in traditional film. Without a doubt the Red One's tapeless workflow acquisition is unparalleled in facilitating post-production schedules and budgets, but at what cost visually?

On film shoots you are able to overexpose your negative, blow out the highlights and recover them later. Personally, I overexpose film negative by two-thirds of a stop in order to get a thicker negative, in other words more image information. There is an assumption that with Red One the look is not 'baked' into the RAW files when you shoot, and that with color correction software you have infinite information to manipulate. Not true. The Red One is not immune to digital exposure rules and it has a hard floor for the blacks and a hard ceiling for the whites. If you blow out the pixels on a Red One digital sensor they will 'hard clip,' leaving you with no image information to manipulate. The reason digital cameras have limited exposure latitude is that they capture information in a linear color range space, as opposed to film which captures information in a logarithmic color range space. The human eye perceives contrast, light and detail logarithmically, so it is no surprise audiences still have a natural disposition toward a 'filmic' versus 'digital' look so deep into our digital generation. In defense of the Red One I will say its wavelet compression and 12-bit color space do hold highlights in a fairly pleasing and organic manner for a digital camera, but nothing has ever compared to the controlled and pleasing manner negative film's highlights roll over the exposure curve.

So here's the rub: On digital cameras many filmmakers skew toward slight underexpose in order to preserve highlights. Although underexposure in the digital world is a fantastic technique for both protecting whites and achieving great-looking velvety blacks, this is not the case with the Red One. When you underexpose the Red One you essentially waste linear bits of metadata the camera could have captured. When you open up underexposed Red One footage in the RAW conversion, you end up with digital noise, milky blacks and posterization. Posterization is the undesirable concept of spreading too little continuous information too far apart in a digital camera's linear range, resulting in bands that run across the image, particularly at the points when two colors without sufficient tonal information meet.

So what is the solution to nailing exposure on the Red One? [From article by Daron Keet on the P³ Update website.]


In June 2010, Jim Jannard, founder of RED, posted a statement on his forum:

We have a bug. Seems like a major one. We need your support at a very difficult time. I am asking for that now.

EPIC and Scarlet are complicated cameras. Probably the most complicated cameras ever attempted. We have a crack team on it. The amount of development for this program is unprecedented. But somewhere in the complication... we have a bug. It has held us up now for two months. We have working cameras, as you know. But we aren't going to release anything until the cameras are done and bug free. And we have stumbled on an issue that has caused us considerable grief. It is unexpected and it has us baffled.

We have been a "lucky" company up to this point. The moon and stars lined up for us for the RED ONE and the RED ONE did all we asked. The M-X sensor is incredible... as you know. Our new ASICs for the EPIC and Scarlet are complicate times a million. And they work. Another miracle. Everything was late but on track. Then we hit a snag.

We have an army working on this. 24/7. Trust me when I tell you that we have been humbled. I have questioned our aggressive goals every day.

So what does this mean? Obviously another delay. To compound matters, the company that was to make Scarlet has made an incredible announcement recently and has significant issues. You can probably figure out who this is. [The Taiwanese company Foxconn closed their Chinese factory.] This will force us to find a new manufacturing partner for that product. When we 1st got wind of this, we decided to make EPIC in the US, hoping that the company would find a solution in time for Scarlet production. That now seems unlikely so we are now scrambling for a new partner.

I have started two companies... Oakley and RED... and have never seen anything like this in 35 years of business. We will get past these obstacles. No question about it. But we are going to need patience from our customers.

I will promise to keep you informed. Good news and bad. We have added a new SWAT team to help... over 20 people whose sole job is to find the problem and solve it.

RED has pushed the envelop in every way. We have pushed ourselves and our competitors. We have laid out a roadmap for everyone what the future of image capture should be. I can only hope that counts for a bit of your consideration.

- EFP: Electronic field production is a television industry term referring to television production which takes place outside of a formal studio, in a practical location or special venue.

- CMOS: Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor is a major class of integrated circuits. CMOS technology is used in microprocessors, microcontrollers, and other digital logic circuits. CMOS technology is also used for a wide variety of analog circuits such as image sensors and data converters.

- HD: High-definition video generally refers to any video system of higher resolution than standard-definition video, most commonly at display resolutions of 1280 × 720 [720p] or 1920 × 1080 [1080i or 1080p].

- Chroma subsampling is the practice of encoding images by implementing more resolution for luminance information than for color information. It is used in many video encoding schemes, both analog and digital. Because of storage and transmission limitations, there is always a desire to reduce [or compress] the signal. Since the human visual system is much more sensitive to variations in brightness than color, a video system can be optimized by devoting more bandwidth to the luma component [usually denoted Y'], than to the color difference components Cb and Cr. The 4:2:2 Y'CbCr [Y' is the luma component and Cb and Cr are the blue and red chroma components] scheme for example requires two-thirds the bandwidth of 4:4:4 R'G'B' [= Red, Green & Blue]. This reduction results in almost no visual difference as perceived by the viewer.

- CCD: A charge-coupled device is an analog shift register, enabling analog signals [electric charges] to be transported through successive stages [capacitors] controlled by a clock signal. Charge coupled devices can be used as a form of memory or for delaying analog, sampled signals. Today, they are most widely used for serializing parallel analog signals, namely in arrays of photoelectric light sensors. This use is so predominant that in common parlance, CCD is [erroneously] used as a synonym for a type of image sensor even though, strictly speaking, CCD refers solely to the way that the image signal is read out from the chip.

Digital color cameras generally use a Bayer mask over the CCD. Each square of four pixels has one filtered red, one blue, and two green [the human eye is more sensitive to green than either red or blue]. The result of this is that luminance information is collected at every pixel, but the color resolution is lower than the luminance resolution.

Better color separation can be reached by three-CCD devices [3CCD] and a dichroic beam splitter prism, that splits the image into red, green and blue components. Each of the three CCDs is arranged to respond to a particular color. Some semi-professional digital video camcorders [and most professionals] use this technique. Another advantage of 3CCD over a Bayer mask device is higher quantum efficiency [and therefore higher light sensitivity for a given aperture size]. This is because in a 3CCD device most of the light entering the aperture is captured by a sensor, while a Bayer mask absorbs a high proportion [about 2/3] of the light falling on each CCD pixel.

- Pixel: A pixel [short for picture element, using the common abbreviation 'pix' for 'pictures'] is a single point in a graphic image. Each such information element is not really a dot, nor a square, but an abstract sample. With care, pixels in an image can be reproduced at any size without the appearance of visible dots or squares; but in many contexts, they are reproduced as dots or squares and can be visibly distinct when not fine enough. The intensity of each pixel is variable; in color systems, each pixel has typically three or four dimensions of variability such as red, green, and blue [RGB], or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black [CMYK].

[From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.]