Last March Sony announced the Digital Motion Picture Center, a converted stage on the Sony Pictures lot that the company hopes will be ground zero for transitioning the entertainment industry into the use of 4K cameras and projectors — ones that it hopes will bear the Sony logo, of course. Sony Electronics VP of Professional Solutions Satoshi Kanemura walked a group of journalists through the facility recently, providing a sneak peek at what it has to offer.
The heart of the DMPC's efforts is a free weekly workshop it will be offering starting today, June 6th. During the workshop, filmmakers will be shown Sony's 4K digital workflow, which consists of capturing footage with its F65 CineAlta camera — which actually features an 8K sensor — while using the company's Trimaster 4K OLED displays for monitoring footage on stage. Sony has also partnered with a number of third-party companies, including Avid and Blackmagic Design, who have provided equipment on site to help complete the post-production process. The end result is then ready for projection in the facility's screening room on a Sony SXRD 4K projector.
A special set provides a variety of challenges
Footage is shot on a standing set, created with the aid of director and cinematographer Curtis Clark. It's an intentionally-hostile environment for capturing images, utilizing multiple light sources of varying color temperatures, and running the gamut from bright backlights to shadowy, neon interiors — all in a single location. Not only does it provide the opportunity for cinematographers to experiment with Sony's equipment under different conditions, but it clearly speaks to Sony's confidence in the abilities of its high-end professional cameras, despite pressure from the likes of the Arri Alexa and Red's Epic.
Past the hype, however, 4K ultimately comes down to how the image looks. The screening room was shown off with the short film El Dorado, shot by Clark on the F65, and there's no denying the detail and vivid colors in Sony's 4K footage. That said, there were imperfections. A noticeable judder was present in several tracking shots — an issue that could potentially be resolved by a move to 48 fps — and several close-ups and CG effects demonstrated the unforgiving harshness that comes with such clarity (not dissimilar to how high-definition television revealed never-before-seen imperfections in actors and news anchors).
Sony's own private halo effect
Of course, these are all issues of execution, and ones that the DMPC workshops themselves will likely help resolve. With Sony having already introduced a 4K home projector to go along with the upscaling Blu-ray player it showed off at CES — to say nothing of the over 12,500 Sony 4K projectors installed in movie theaters worldwide — the company is clearly hoping to use increased 4K adoption as its own private halo effect. If the end result is more great-looking entertainment captured at higher resolutions, however, it's hard to see efforts like the DMPC workshops as anything but a boon for entertainment professionals and consumers alike.