Camera Class: JVC Anticipates A 4K Future with the GY-HMQ10
The great irony of JVC’s new GY-HMQ10 camera is that you can easily spend far more on a display device to see the 4K images it records than the camera itself costs. (The camera is priced at just under $5,000.) JVC describes the GY-HMQ10 as “the world’s first handheld camcorder capable of capturing and recording real-time video at four times the resolution of full HD (3840 x 2160) images at 24p, 50p and 60p.”
Perhaps as important as its resolution, the camera’s JVC Falconbrid LSI chips allow it to display those Quad HD images in real time, without the de-matrixing (debayering) most 4K cameras require. That means it can be used not only to acquire 4K images in the field but as a live presentation tool in conference rooms, auditoriums and even sporting events.
JVC assistant vice president of marketing communications Dave Walton, who presented the GY-HMQ10 at JVC’s NAB Show press conference, predicts that it probably won’t replace the main camera on major digital cinema shoots. That is partially due to the fact it has a fixed 10x zoom lens and is unable to accept interchangeable cinema-style lenses.
“However, cinematographers may use the GY-HMQ10 as a second camera or in documentary situations where they need an unobtrusive camera setup,” Walton notes. “Even if you are doing a 2K production, it can be a very valuable tool for recording images at a resolution that can be archived for later use when 4K becomes commonplace.”
Digital pros have been clamoring to get their hands on the JVC GY-HMQ10 even before they saw it in Las Vegas at the NAB Show in April. Phil Goetz, an account manager and veteran of two GY-HMQ10 shoots at Texas Media Systems in Austin, arranged to receive delivery of the company’s first GY-HMQ10 on April 3, two weeks earlier than its official shipping date.
Goetz considers the camera a great deal for its price, but he’s learned that you need to light subjects carefully to get the most out of the 4K resolution. “The GY-HMQ10 needs a lot of light,” Goetz says. “That’s because it records 8.3 megapixels on a single 1/2.3” back-illuminated CMOS sensor. That’s a chip just over one-half inch in size. The video demonstration shot with the GY-HMQ10 we put online [www.vimeo.com/txmedia] was shot at +9 dB of gain. But people with a lighting kit or who are shooting outdoors should do fine with it.”
Goetz has also learned that the GY-HMQ10 pulls a lot of power, but it’s got a capable battery from IDX. “The camera is not underpowered, which is a good thing because it can generate some heat,” he says. “The camera actually has fans inside the front and rear of its body, circulating air through some vents, but it’s not a problem because they are totally silent.”
Down in Miami, Carlos Sezumaga, general manager of the sales/renting/consulting group Enhanced View Services, made a point of bringing the very camera that Dave Walton demonstrated at the NAB Show home with him.
The camera records its 4K-resolution footage onto four SDHC cards: the image is separated into four quadrants, each recorded onto a separate SDHC card. When playing back from the camera, all four memory cards are accessed in sync, and output may be either 4K or downconverted to HD. Since no 4K field monitors exist yet, Sezumaga views footage by tapping into one of the GY-HMQ10’s four HDMI ports and outputting a downconverted HD signal.
Sezumaga uses JVC’s 4K Clip Manager software, a Mac-compatible utility available for free download that combines the four recorded files into a single file compatible with 4K editing systems. Once the camera is connected to a Mac computer via USB cable, the utility recognizes the four memory cards in the camera and generates a single thumbnail for each scene. Right-clicking on the thumbnail begins the conversion to a single 4K ProRes file suitable for editing in Apple Final Cut Pro X. If camera thumbnails are dragged to the HDD, all of the associated files are automatically copied to the destination.
“We can then view the video on our 27” Apple Cinema monitor,” Sezumaga says. “The Apple display’s resolution is 2560 x 1440, which means the 3840 x 2160 4K image is larger than the monitor’s available pixels. But if you compare it to the 1080 output, you can clearly see how much additional resolution is provided by the 4K picture.”
Sezumaga stores the contents of the cards on a Thunderbolt-equipped Promise Technology Pegasus RAID and is editing projects shot on the GY-HMQ10 in ProRes HQ in 4K resolution on an Apple Mac mini running FCP X.
One feature of the GY-HMQ10 that really impressed Sezumaga is its time-lapse capability. “Just go into the time-lapse menu and you can select from many different intervals,” he says. “With its 4K resolution, each frame you snap is a marvelously large still picture. I experimented with shooting a vivid sunset at five second intervals for two hours. You could see the clouds disappearing into the night with Van Gogh colors and the stars coming out in great detail. Just beautiful.”
Another early adopter of the JVC GY-HMQ10 in Florida is Barry Fellman, a director/photographer at the Center for Visual Communication, which provides visual arts resources to government and non-profit organizations. He is using the 4K camera to create a documentary for the Miami Science Museum about the rejuvenation of the mangrove ecosystem in South Florida.
“I have a still photography background,” Fellman says, “so I appreciate the controls on the GY-HMQ10 that let you set the shutter speed and the aperture manually, and also select either 60p or 30p.”
Fellman feels the camera lends itself to even the most demanding field use. “The small form factor is great, making it easy to get the camera into places difficult to access,” he says. “And I really appreciate that the lens shade can be shut with the flick of a button. We never know when water will be splashing around us in the Biscayne Bay shoreline, so this helps us keep the lens clean.”
He makes extensive use of the three user preset buttons on the camera. “I’ve dedicated one of them to change the camera’s monitor to zebra mode to check exposure, and another one to display the peaking function to help focus the camera,” Fellman says. “The third one is set to enhance the macro imagery capability by shortening the close-up distance at the telephoto end of the zoom. Since I am often a one-man crew, predefining access to these capabilities simplifies a field shoot.”
Up in Seattle, Monte Cline uses his JVC GY-HMQ10 on high-end corporate productions for his company, rocketGoose. Now that one of the rental companies in town has started to stock Sony VPL-PW1000ES 4K projectors, he loves being one of the few local shooters who can provide them with 4K material.
Cline suggests keeping an ND filter with you when using the camera outdoors because the lens can shut down only to f/4.5 when the zoom is fully extended. “When I’m shooting a waterfall in bright sunlight with a slow shutter speed, I find an ND filter that can fit the 46mm mounting ring can be invaluable,” he adds. “Because of the way the lens hood is affixed, you need to use as thin a filter as possible to make it fit.”
Cline recommends recording to 64 GB SDXC Class 10 cards when shooting 4K, and he has a tip about their use. “Label your cards A/B/C/D,” he says. “You need to make sure they go back into the same slots in which you formatted them. Otherwise, the camera won’t want to accept them.”
JVC recently presented concept demos of a 4K camera that uses a 1.25” sensor and interchangeable lenses. Price and specs haven’t yet been revealed, but it seems the GY-HMQ10 story will continue to get better.