Following NAB and CinemaCon, Sony talked with the press about its 4K production direction, this week on the Sony lot in Culver City.
“We are closing in on 100 movies that we have either made or remastered in 4K,” reported Sony Pictures Technologies president Chris Cookson. He cited examples such as Sony’s upcoming After Earth and Smurfs 2, shot with Sony’s F65 4K camera; restored films, such as Lawrence of Arabia; and movies lensed on 35mm film and scanned in 4K for finishing, including Moneyball and upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2, director Marc Webb’s sequel to his 2012 film. (Incidentally, Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man was shot in 3D, using Red Epic cameras on 3Ality 3D rigs.)
Visual effects are still be created in 2K resolution. “The render time is obviously greater [in 4K],” Cookson said. “Working on a budget, people make that compromise. … There are a lot of tools that can make [the imagery] selectively sharper. We try to match it seamlessly. To a large degree it is a manual process.”
During the visit, I had a chance to catch up with director of photography Curtis Clark (The Draughtsman’s Contract), who might write and direct another 4K short for Sony.
His shorts The Arrival and Eldorado were lensed with Sony’s F65 in 2011 and 2012 respectively, to help introduce the capabilities of the 4K camera to the cinematography community.
This time around, he is planning to use Sony’s new F55. (The F55 and F5 are the newest members of Sony’s family of 4K cameras; they started to ship earlier this year).
The F55 has already been used to shoot the pilots of Black List, Rake, and Gaffigan for Sony Pictures Television.
SPT tapped the F65 for 12 one-hour episodes of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, 12 half-hour episodes of Save Me for NBC, and 22 half-hour episodes of the Untitled Michael J. Fox series. These series are being finished in 4K.
Sony wants to make 4K programming available, and is also looking to future proof its series. “It’s important to us that they can stand up to the market 10-15 years from now,” Cookson said.
At the moment though, Sony is the only studio implementing 4K production for series television.
While "Ultra HD" TVs were launched by major set makers this year at CES, there is currently no method in place to deliver a steady amount of 4K programming to the home. Stakeholders would first need to address moving parts including production costs and broadcast standards--as well as a business model.
Keith Vidger, Sony’s business development manager for digital cinema production, said that he hopes 4K broadcasting could be 3-5 years away—a goal that numerous stakeholders would say is too ambitious though early adopters have been working in this direction. For instance the Japanese government has reportedly committed to launching an Ultra HD satellite service in July 2014.
Vidger added that there's “a fairly big sporting event we are hoping to be a part of in South America next year.” (Behind the Screen previously reported that Sony is eyeing the 2014 FIFA World Cup as an event to showcase 4K broadcasting.)