Saturday, March 17, 2007

One more nail in the coffin

What do the movies X-Men, X2, Contact, Rambo III, The Karate Kid III, and Batman & Robin have in common? Director of Photography David Stump, who says about The RED Camera, "The RED Mysterium sensor has finally pushed digital acquisition past the timeless 35mm barrier in resolution and clean color fidelity."

What he's not saying it how it's going to affect still photographers. At 29.97 FPS, the previous standard, and with a smaller chip, HD was "almost there" in replacing still photography at major news and sporting events. It would have required special merging software to take two frames that were shot at 1/30th and merge them into one sharp image.

Now, at 1/60th of a second, AND with 11.4MP, you can bet for certain that the 2008 Superbowl and ensuing Olympics will be shot primarily with these cameras, and were *I* the holder of the TV rights to the broadcasts, I would be looking to monetize key-moment stills from my events, and talking with, say, a major sports wire service to license out those images from their 15+ cameras at each game.

Yes yes, TV would need an amendment to their contract, probably, for the rights to sell still images, but once say, CBS put a number on that, the leagues would take that number to commercial photo agencies and dictate a pay-to-cover scenario. This will then leave, at best, local-to-the-team newspaper coverage, who would then have to pay careful attention to NOT allowing the commercial photos to get too much play, or risk their own independant access/credentials.

This means that the glory of covering "the big game" is fading fast. What little assignment money that remains will come from smaller college games, and events where TV is not covering, or is covering with antiquated equipment. So, in about a year, pay close attention to the TV guy next to you, it may be his corporate parent company that you are competing with, along with the skycam Red HDTV images never before seen in print, as well as the rest of the unseen cameras around each stadium, that is your competition!

How much are these cameras? According to Engadget, "the initial batch of $17,000 pre-orders are long gone...", and they go on to say (in this article) " all starts with the $17,500 RED ONE base can add your choice of the $1,250 Basic or $2,750 Premium production packs...$1,650 RED ONE Power Pack featuring 2x RED BRICK 140Wh batteries and charger, a $1,950 RED Electronic Viewfinder, and the $1,700 5.6-inch LCD. Optics accessories include a $3,500 B4 lens adapter and both Canon and Nikkor 35mm photo mounts costing $500 each. There are also several RED branded media accessories for CF, SATA disk, and something called the "RED RAM 64GB" for $4,500 -- extortionate if that's just a RED-branded SSD in an external housing. But hey, no one said that a 4k resolution and 60p frame rate would come cheap."

Well, that about makes this camera as costly as a standard Sony or JVC professional betacam. In other words, it's not some boutique $100k camera that no broadcast operation could afford, it's something that costs the same as the cameras they are using now. Wikipedia has more technical information about this 4520 x 2540 pixel camera.

Want less size and 1920x1080 pixels (that's 12.8" x 7.2" at a standard 150dpi for newspapers)? Check here for a much smaller 60fps.

If you're a photographer shooting major sporting events, this is going to be one more (really big) nail in the coffin, as with major tv news events. Evolve and survive, or keep doing what you're doing how you're doing it at your own peril.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

You sir either need a good editor or a change in discipline, because you cannot write coherently. Please try to be a little more straight-forward regarding your point.

Anonymous said...

Either take a deep cleansing breath or subscribe to a good literary magazine. A blog, in context, is not an edited literary product. I've go an impression of what may be coming, from a source I respect. The rest, I'll research on my own.

Ed Araquel said...

I'm a stills photographer and I think you're missing something crucial when you say this will replace stills photographers at sporting events.

Most sports I know require either a higher speed than 1/60s to capture peak action or 1/15 or slower to be a bit more artistic to show motion blur...none of which will happen when you're shooting with basically a really high definition TV camera. Sure you can get shots of people standing still or emotional reaction shots from the players/audience with this camera but I still believe true stills "still" need to be done with a still photographer and still camera.

Rob said...

This would be fantastic, except I can't help thinking that this is non-ware (not quite vapour-ware, but still not in physical existence yet). I mean, why not have real pics or a vid of someone using the thing rather than 3D renders of it.

Anonymous said...

Who cares?

Sports photographers have been cutting off their noses in spite of their faces for years. Many of them doing these games for spec. or for photo credit or for the "coolness" of being there.

No tears from me; they get what they get.......

Anonymous said...

Who cares?

Sports photographers have been cutting off their noses in spite of their faces for years. Many of them doing these games for spec. or for photo credit or for the "coolness" of being there.

No tears from me; they get what they get.......

Jonathan Stokes said...

So even if the technology of video has got to the stage where the technical quality of still frames are usable in print or web. The compositional qualities of the two different formats is entirely different.

TV or film footage of sporting events, relies much less on tight compositions to make the pictures strong and engaging. The pictures are usually framed quite loosely and often from above, but because the action is moving on-screen the viewers eye is drawn to the portion of the image where the action is taking place.

With a still image, the whole approach is entirely different. It is critical that the frame needs to have a strong composition for it to work, usually with a very narrow depth of field and from a lower angle.

Try pressing the pause button next time you watch a game. Pick an exiting moment. Even if the quality of the picture was there, and you cropped the image, to make it tighter; the picture would not be anything like as good as the images taken for the purpose of being stills, by a pro still photographer.

Conversely, if you were to film through the viewfinder of one of the sports photographers covering the event, even if they were the best sports 'tog in the world, the footage you'd get wouldn't be suitable for TV or film coverage. You would get the occasional excellent second of footage, punctuated by minutes of the unusable stuff, where the lens is to too tight, too loose, back focused, cluttered background, players facing the wrong way, etc...

The two methods of coverage require an entirely different approach, and an entirely different set of creative, journalistic and technical skills.

Or am I missing something?

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