by Olaf von Voss | 22nd November 2016
Since the annual Inter Bee (International Broadcast Equipment Exhibition) is taking place in Sony’s home country, it’s time to catch up with the company and chat about their latest developments. How about X-OCN – their new compressed raw codec – announced half a year ago, for example? Sony’s X-OCN Codec It’s been a while since its initial announcement, but the newly developed X-OCN codec by Sony seems to be very promising. The first and only application for this codec for the time being is with the so-called AXS-R7 recorder module, which is designed especially for the Sony PMW-F5 and F55 range of cine cameras. You can read all about this recorder in this article. As a tiny refresher, X-OCN stands for eXtended tonal range Original Camera Negative, and if you’re thinking of RED’s signature compressed RAW workflow called REDcode, it’s actually not that far off. X-OCN offers 16-bit of latitude straight from the sensor but it’s capable of outputting significantly smaller filesizes than pure RAW footage. The Sony F5 camera with an AXS-R7 recorder attached. For now this is the only way to record X-OCN. As time went by, news about X-OCN quickly became quiet. Blackmagic announced DaVinci Resolve support for this new codec, but other than that, nothing. At this years Inter BEE – taking place in Chiba City, Japan – our very own Johnnie Behiri took the opportunity to talk with Sony’s Yutaka Okahashi about this promising codec and its possible future applications. X-OCN in Mirrorless Cameras? Since X-OCN is a high-end codec, it seemed unlikely to see this technologly implemented in Sony camera models further downstream, such as their popular mirrorless lines of cameras. Anyone interested in a Sony A7s II with compressed RAW recording? Well, Mr. Okahashi mentions exactly that… after a little push from Johnnie. But it seems it could be possible to implement such high-end technology in the somewhat lower end cameras (from a F5 perspective) in the future. For now, though, these models live in a X-AVC universe. This codec comes in different flavours, caters 4K as well as HD and is widely implemented in NLEs. But it is a compressed format, far off from RAW. If we think of the $7,000 Sony AXS-R7 recorder as a proof of concept, maybe things will get interesting in the not too distant future. What about forgetting compressed formats altogether and going all in, with the full sensor latitude in a pocket-sized camera? Now that sounds like a bright future, indeed. Let’s hope that Sony is listening. As Johnnie puts it: The rule is very simple. If you don’t make it, somebody else will make it.” What do you think about his type of codec? Does it seem promising to you or are you happy with the current compressed formats available in mirrorless cameras? Let us know in the comments below.Read more
by Olaf von Voss | 17th August 2016
Not long ago, Blackmagic Design released version 12.5 of its famous grading software DaVinci Resolve. It’s only been two months, and the company has already unveiled an 12.5.1 update, which contains some very interesting features under the hood: native Quicktime decoding on Windows machines and support for the all-new Sony X-OCN format. DaVinci Resolve 12.5.1 and Quicktime The 12.5.1 update doesn’t add as many new features as the 12.5 release did (please refer to our article on that release), but it contains some very promising features under the hood. On Windows machines, you will no longer need to have Quicktime installed if you want to decode ProRes *.mov files. Now, that’s huge! A while ago, Apple announced to cease support for Quicktime on Windows (see our article), so this development is a much needed step towards native Quicktime handling without the need of installing outdated (and therefore vulnerable) Apple Quicktime libraries just for that purpose. However, there seems to be one confusing UI glitch. You can set the “optimized media” to ProRes encoding, but you won’t be able to output ProRes files as a delivery format. It seems to be just a UI thing, actual ProRes encoding still demands for installed Quicktime libraries on Windows. Please refer to the Blackmagic Design Forum to read about this issue. Maybe the next major version of DaVinci Resolve will solve this whole Quicktime issue once and for all? IBC is around the corner, at least… Sony’s Future of RAW, the X-OCN Format With its brand new “bolt-on” AXS-R7 recorder for the Sony F5 and F55 cameras, the Japanese company has started exploring a new era of RAW recording. The X-OCN (eXtended Original Camera Negative) promises to preserve the full 16Bit latitude of the sensor while achieving a much smaller footprint in terms of bitrate (read all about it in our previous post). Sony F55 with attached AXS-R7 recorder module Blackmagic Design did a pretty good job in quickly adapting to this development, as DaVinci Resolve 12.5.1 already supports this new format natively. Full List of Features As always, the update comes as a free download for both the regular version as well as for the studio version. Here is a list with all the improvements and upgrades in this new DaVinci Resolve 12.5.1 release: Edit Improvements Improved 2-up and 4-up, multicam and playback performance when using QuickTime ProRes on Windows Added menu items to allow selection of clips based on Flag, Marker and Clip colors on the edit timeline Added ability to import and export duration markers using EDL Added the ability for clips to snap to their own markers when adjusting In and Out points Improved consistency of edit functions when Timeline is in full screen mode Added support for box wipe mode for offline reference wipe Added ability to extract AAF import log information as timeline markers Color Improvements Improved performance for Spatial Noise reduction in Better mode Improved listing of attached and timeline mattes in the node graph with support for alphabetical listing Added ability to apply grades from a reference wipe using the viewer context menu Added ability to align keyframe timelines of color grades using playhead position and wiped still frame Next node and previous node operations now loop around the node graph The ‘displayed’ node graph now automatically updates when the current still is changed Swapping nodes now also swaps the node labels Rippling grades now also copies node labels, Power Window labels and node cache settings Shift Up + Next Still will now append grade from the current still on the advanced control panel (Studio version) Added support for left eye and right eye grades for the timeline node graph (Studio version) Added ability to convert a mono timeline into stereoscopic 3D (Studio version) Added ability to convert a mono clip into stereoscopic 3D (Studio version) Added support for sequence and node render caching for stereoscopic clips and timelines (Studio version) Added compensation for stereoscopic slip when exporting timecodes in ALE (Studio version) Added support copying DolbyVision grades using stills and middle click (Studio version) Improved 3D and Qualifier panel layout in dual screen mode Improved behavior to stay on the same frame when joining two clips Resolve FX Improvements Added ResolveFX Generate Color (GPU accelerated) Added ResolveFX Tilt-shift Blur Added support for anamorphism in ResolveFX Lens Blur (Studio version) GPU acceleration support for ResolveFX Lens Flare (Studio version) Ability to adjust Shadows/Midtones/Highlights in ResolveFX Film Grain in all compositing modes (Studio version) GPU acceleration support for ResolveFX Emboss, Waviness, Vortex, Ripples, Dent, Mirror Improved ResolveFX Scanlines and added various composite modes Ability to view the ResolveFX Scanline layer without the background Improved border behavior for ResolveFX Gaussian Blur, Directional Blur, Mosaic Blur, Radial Blur and Zoom Blur Added support for horizontal/vertical ratio in ResolveFX Glow Added support for pan and tilt on ResolveFX Prism Blur Improved performance for ResolveFX Light Rays Improved performance for ResolveFX JPEG Damage Media Improvements Added new Import Media options to File menu and Media Pool context menu Added support for stereoscopic 3D clips in Media Management (Studio version) Added support for display drive names in Media Storage on Windows Addressed issues with open file location from Media Pool on Linux Added Source Name tag support for filename without extension Added support for automatically setting pixel aspect ratio for anamorphic ARRIRAW MXF clips Codec & Format Improvements Added support for ProRes decode on Windows Improved QuickTime decode and encode performance on Windows Support for UHD H.264 renders on Windows Improved QuickTime decode and encode performance on Linux Added support for HEVC (H.265) decode on Linux Added support for alpha channel in DNxHR 444 Added support for the Sony X-OCN format Added support for various AAC encode parameters on macOS Added support for QuickTime AAC audio encoding on Windows Added support for encoding QuickTime Photo JPEG files Added support for decoding AVCHD files from the Sony NEX-FS700 camera Added support for V-Gamut in RCM for improved Panasonic camera image handling Added ARRI LogC to Linear and Linear to ARRI LogC LUTs in VFX I/O Addressed decoding of last frame in some Panasonic AVCHD clips Improved handling of AVCHD .MTS clips Added support for RED SDK v6.2.1 General Improvements Alpha-numerical listing of codecs and format in the Deliver and Media Management pulldowns When running DaVinci Resolve in window mode, the mac OS dock is now visible Improved latency for remote grading (Studio version) Improved handling of dissolves and overlapping clips in DolbyVision metadata export (Studio version) Improved behavior when creating render jobs on locations without write permissions General performance and stability improvements Source: Blackmagic DesignRead more
by Olaf von Voss | 9th August 2016
Sony has just announced another milestone in their lineup of external recording devices. This time, the buzz is about the successor to the AXS-R5 recorder, which is designed to be used with the Sony PMW-F5 or F55. The AXS-R7 recorder module has a unique new feature in addition to the pre-existing linear 16Bit RAW capabilities: it is able to record a new 16-bit X-OCN compressed RAW format. The Sony AXS-R7 and its Original Camera Negative Format Evolution tends to produce strange effects, indeed. Not long ago, RAW was the buzzword when it came to high quality acquisition. Being able to record unaltered, well, “RAW” information straight from the sensor just seemed to be the holy grail in terms of image quality. The downsides? Well, the resulting massive file sizes significantly slow down the workflow in post. Shoot, edit, deliver? Better forget that unless you have access to some kind of supercomputer. Sony’s new X-OCN is short for eXtended tonal range Original Camera Negative. Now, that is certainly a clunky term, but the underlying technology promises to produce a raw sensor-level quality just as you would expect from a RAW file, but packed into significantly smaller files (read: lower bitrate) and therefore, greater ease of use in your given post workflow. It’s actually pretty much the same as what RED is doing with its REDcode compressed RAW format. The Sony AXS-R7 recording module It comes in two flavors: ST (standard) and LT (lite), and both of them only differ in the bitrates used while maintaining the full 16Bit latitude of the incoming sensor data stream. The ST flavour promises to be visually indistinguishable from the company’s RAW format. The LT version aims for fast-paced workflows while still maintaining the sensor’s full latitude. note: The X-OCN ST bitrate is only about 70% of the RAW bitrate State of Play It all sounds pretty awesome, but there have to be some downsides, right? Well, of course! First of all, there’s the price tag, which hasn’t been published as of yet. Its predecessor, the AXS-R5 retails for $5,350, so don’t expect the AXS-R7 to be any cheaper than that. Plus, you’ll need AXS type storage media, which also comes at a price. A 512 GB AXS card will dig a $1,800 hole in your wallet. Please refer to the chart below to see which media is needed for different resolutions and frame rates: The other major downside is that the new X-OCN format is only available in the PMW-F5 and F55 with the AXS-R7 recording module attached. It’s a highly integrated hardware upgrade and certainly not something you could pimp your existing Sony camera with. Conclusion The lesson is clear: Sony takes aim at the signature RED workflow with the introduction of the AXS-R7 recording module. It certainly comes at a price, but maybe we’ll see the fruits of this development in other cameras down the road. The concept of getting the most of the RAW sensor data while maintaining reasonable file sizes is certainly welcome! At least as long as these file sizes are requesting tremendous amounts of computing power. you’ll need AXS media in order to record the new X-OCN format with the AXS-R7 recording module The AXS-R7 is not here yet, but will be available in September at the latest. There will be an update for Sony’s RAW viewer software in order to support the new format, and I’m sure many of the major color grading software developers, such as DaVinci Resolve, will follow. What do you think? Are you enjoying editing RAW files or do you prefer already processed data like ProRes? Could this new RED-like compressed RAW workflow be an alternative that works for you? For more information, please refer to Sony’s official site.Read more
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