Panavision Announces Digital 70mm Camera

The new Panavision digital 70mm camera (click for larger)

Medium format sensor can down step to 35mm

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

With RED, Canon and ARRI grabbing most of the digital headlines (not to mention the lineup of major films shot with digital cameras), it’s good to look at what happened to the camera company that used to dominate the film industry… Panavision? Largely absent from the film technology headlines of late, after its successful digital Genesis appeared nearly a decade ago, Panavision is poised to roar back with a forward looking 70mm digital camera and lens lineup that could put the company back in the digital saddle.

I confess, with all the talk over 4k, 48p/HFR and 3D, I’ve longed for the days when an epic blockbuster like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars premiered in 70mm.  I long for the heady days of driving over to the Avco Westwood or the Cinerama Dome to catch that stunning detail, dynamic rang me and bold color. There was truly nothing like it. And if you haven’t caught Lawrence of Arabia in 70mm glory, you don’t know what you’ve been missing.

And while films like The Hobbit and Skyfall have looked stunning in the high res of the RED and ARRI Alexa, I still think something has been missing , and I’m stoked that Panavision wants to bring 70mm back with a digital format. Imagine the dynamic range? Imagine the detail (who needs HFR)?

What’s under the potential hood of a DigiPan 70? Here are a few features:

  • On-board recording to a  1.5Tb SSD
  • Lighter Titanium body
  • Support for NxHD and ProRes, with RAW expected as well
  • Shooting down to 42mm and 35mm formats.
  • 70mm also provides metadata access for visual effects features that will streamline CGI workflow

One thing i’m not too keen on is talk that Panavision wants to develop a new codec, although some believe they’ll be pushing for an open source format. I hope so, because yet another proprietary codec in an already crowded field would be tedious in post.

But with a medium format sensor, Panavision is declaring it’s staying out of the Super 35mm war and its limits, and is going to be a big fish in a smaller pond.  The potential means that 70mm will deliver easy at 4k and likely 8k with a boatload of dynamic range.

And shooters who may be skittish after the hit-and-miss performance of HFR are sure to be thrilled with a sensor that will give them the detail that HFR promised without the animated pop-up book quality of the 48p image.

And with its titanium shell that makes it lighter than the ARRI Alexa, the days of having a small army of support crew to move a 70mm camera won’t return with its new larger format sensor (but why do all basic configurations have to look like a high tech security camera?).

But while some see this as the ultimate effects camera for today’s blockbusters, others point out the focusing pitfalls that have befallen full frame sensors. But Panny will address that with their own custom line I glass designed to maximize the perfmance of the format. So for me, I agree with NoFilmSchool who says that the DigiPan 70 may become one camera to rule them all.

Source: No Film School and Cinefii (more photos)

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.

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