First-of-Its-Kind Digital Camera System Tested

Both Sony Electronics and Panavision say they will soon deliver the first prototype 24-frame-progressive high-definition camera system to Lucasfilm for testing prior to its being used in shooting the next two Star Wars films. The companies say that this announcement signifies the beginning of a new era in high-definition digital cinematography.

Lucasfilm says it plans to test the camera system for the next few months in anticipation of its use in the production of Star Wars: Episode II, scheduled to begin production next June. As announced at NAB '99, Sony, in collaboration with Panavision, say they have developed a digital hi-def camera system tailored for use in moviemaking. The system married the new 24-frame, progressive-scan, 1920x1080 digital camera developed by Sony with a special new series of 2/3-inch lenses and accessories specifically developed and manufactured by Panavision to meet the desires of cinematographers in digital motion-picture production.

The companies claim that, over the past 18 months, a broad series of tests have been conducted by Lucasfilm, Panavision, and Sony to confirm the key imaging and functional parameters required by Lucasfilm. These include specific definition of lens complements, widescreen aspect-ratio management, system operational needs, supporting accessories, and audio requirements. Evaluation of the overall quality of 2/3-inch, 1920x1080 HD digital acquisition and the HDCAM digital recording format, and their transfer to 35mm motion-picture film, constituted a core element of the test.

According to Laurence Thorpe, vice president of acquisition systems for Sony Electronics' Broadcast and Professional Company, the project is a continuation of a working collaboration launched 10 years ago, when Sony and Panavision began mutual exploration of high-definition imaging for both movie-making and the production of high-end television programming.