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Otis Grapsas

Drama uncompressed Digital Cinema OPEN system

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You might have heard of Drama, an uncompressed digital cinema camcorder I have prototyped. In order to take the project further I decided to expand its scope.


The user interface and image development software used for my Drama prototype digital camera system is now fully compatible with any GigE Vision compatible camera head. These cameras are high quality CCD and CMOS heads that connect to a computer using a gigabit ethernet cable and stream fully uncompressed 12bit raw video. They use 12v power and typically support a very wide voltage range. They come with a C-mount lens mount.


These heads come in:


Kodak 2/3" 1080p CCD

Sony 2/3" 1080p CCD


Sony 1/3" 720p CCD

A multitude of other sensors for special applications, 4:3 formats for scanning film, very high resolutions, medium format for stills, etc.


System requirements for 1080p 12bit raw capture:


2.8ghz dual core windows xp or later laptop with gigabit ethernet port (every laptop has it these days).

High quality SSD second drive (not the OS one) or a good 2x2.5" raid0 HDD or single SSD drive connected to an existing esata port or through expresscard or expresscard sata adapter. Of course, one can use any SATA system, including 10TB Raid towers.

Any video card will work, intel embedded or anything else.

Any audio input will work but a good USB sound card with preamps is recommended for high quality. The sound is recorded in sync and embedded to the video files. 200 euro will get top quality phantom powered preamps and full monitoring and routing options in this competitive market. USB mixers are also compatible.


The cost of such a laptop including 1000gb eSATA HDD RAID0 storage for hours of 1920x1080/24p/12bit RAW recording is about 1,000 euro. The datarate for 1080p/24 12bit RAW is 600mbits/sec.


Monitoring is provided on the laptop screen in a similar fashion to a tethered SI-2K mini. A small external VGA monitor can be used or course and it can also be touchscreen. The user interace is identical to that of my digital cinema camera prototypes. Fast, friendly and cinematography oriented with full camera control, transport and powerful non destructive metadata manipulation. It is designed for touchscreen operation but a mouse can also be used. A good 8" LED monitor with USB touchscreen is about 200 euro. It's more practical and the laptop can have its lid closed.


The estimated cost for a Drama software and camera head package is from 2,000 to 5,000 euro depending on the camera head chosen. That includes OLPF installation to the head.


An upgrade to the Drama portable system enclosure which is a small rugged PC, it's very low noise, it uses internal HDD/SSD storage, has multiple monitoring outputs, Anton Bauer battery support, aux power outputs, industrial quality connectors etc will be available for an approximate 3,000 euro.


Everything about the system is open, upgradable and available on the open market from multiple vendors. Even the camera heads. No vendor specific media, monitoring, interfacing etc.


An upgrade to a future sensor will cost approximatelty 1,000 to 3,000 euro and will be a drop-in replacement. There is a lot of development effort from Sony, CMOSIS, Kodak and others, especially in the CMOS department. The old camera head can be sold to the astronomy enthusiast community to further reduce upgrade cost, traded in or used with a new license of Drama software to form a second camera system.


The system includes full functionality of the Drama Digital Cinema software. Image and video proxy or full quality batch output, the Drama color processing and dynamic look up tables, metadata, film emulation, color control, real time color preview etc. It massively improves the image quality of any machine vision head, because it includes 6 key calibration technologies unique to the Drama software and targeted to the specifics of each individual sensor. These technologies improve the RAW level performance of the camera heads. The camera heads will be individually calibrated using Drama calibration software for optimum performance after the OLPF filter is added. Even though the machine vision camera heads are high quality designs, the vendor processing quality varies depending on their intellectual property investment and skill. Drama solves this problem by complementing or replacing it with processing provided by the Drama software.


2/3" C-mount prime lenses with 5megapixel spec, low distortion and large apertures are 200 to 300 euro each.


So, it is:


1,000 for a laptop including 1,000GB eSATA storage.

2,000 to 5,000 for Drama software, a camera head, OLPF installation and calibration.


A maximum of 6,000 euro for a complete laptop based system including lots of storage.


Optionally, 3,000 euro upgrade for a Drama deck if you decide to upgrade from the laptop to a full system.


DIY systems are fully compatible of course, as long as they use Windows and the specs are right. For about 1,500 euro one can put together a system that is smaller, more practical than a laptop, has internal storage and uses Anton bauer batteries.

Edited by Otis Grapsas

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About tethered operation:


The camera head can be used at very large distance from the laptop or other system recording the RAW video. 20m is practical with a high quality ethernet cable.


The 8" touchscreen can also be used at reasonable distances. If it's for monitoring only, with a 12v battery you can take it to 20meters with good vga cables. In this case, someone will have to start and stop the recording from the laptop. With a USB touchscreen, 4m is the practical limit due to the USB limitation. With special USB cables, this distance can also be increased to 20 meters.


The weight of a camera head is a maximum of 300gr and an 8" VGA touschreen monitor is about 700gr.


On most laptops, the external monitor can duplicate the on screen image, so the laptop can be used as a second monitor. Both monitors will show the full camera settings and video preview. Great for avoiding mistakes.

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You mean an one piece camcorder? Yes, that's the standard Drama. The tethered system setup is a way to reduce cost.


A tethered Drama will be about 5,000 if one already owns a good laptop.


A Drama camcorder will be about 8,000 euro with 3 hours of recording.


The Ikonoskop dII that uses one of the Kodak sensors I use is 8,000 euro with C-mount and a card reader but also requires 2,000 euro per hour of recording. 14,000 euro for camera with 3 hours of recording.


You know how body pricing is for Alexa, Red etc and how expensive the storage is.


You mean HDMI for monitoring? HMDI can be easily added, but it will not be a signal that can be recorded for production output. VGA is more affordable in large cable runs and uses more affordable monitoring vs SDI or even HDMI. It can also achieve the native 4:3 format Drama uses for monitoring in 1:1 pixel precision which is critical for focus and image and user interface clarity. The Drama monitor output is just for preview and includes camera settings and user interface. A problem with raw cameras is that they require very intensive calculations for production quality output. I don't know of any RAW camera that produces a good output in real time. Shooting a test chart reveals that it's a fast debayer with fast downsampling.


My prototypes use 800x600 monitor outputs with 800x450 video preview on the top and no overlays. All info and user interface is isolated on a 800x150 strip below the video image. Screen space is very valuable on small touchscreen. Being able to use the full image width allows eliminating zoom modes that make the image smaller when the user interface is usable.

Edited by Otis Grapsas

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With the latest tests, we can also skip the 2.5" RAID0. A single HDD is finally fast enough.


A single 2.5" HDD properly configured will safely do 90 minutes 1920x1080 24p/12bit raw (400GB) for 50 euro.


The equivalent 400GB 90minute 2.5" SDD costs 800 euro.


On a laptop, the single HDD/SSD can be installed in a HDD/optical bay caddy. Every laptop has one these days.

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This is what a camera head of this type looks like.




Notice the GigE ports. 1 or 2 depending on the camera. 1 is required for 1920x1080x24/25p/12bit 2 for slow motion.


The companies make a tripod mounting plate and the cameras usually include additional M2/M3 threads for mounting equipment or for creative camera mounting/installation


This specific company also make a serialy controlled Canon-EF lens mount. I haven't used one yet, but it should be easy to control from the computer for apperture changes. It can also drive focus electronically. Due to 2x crop factor of the 2/3" Kodak, an 70-200 lens makes a 140-400 academy 35 equivalent .


The 2/3" GigE Vision cameras always come with a standard c-mount, so they need adapters for PL mount:




For C-mount, Fujinon makes some very affordable large aperture (f1.4 and f1.8) 2/3" lenses (about 200-250 euro each):




It's a standard c-mount so it will also adapt to any lens that allows mechanical aperture control. Nikon F-mount etc.

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And here is how it appears to the user in preview mode, on touchscreen or laptop screen.




The main screen allows single click changes to film emulation model, white balance, saturation mode, shutter, ISO and frame rate. It also provides exposure aid, pixel zoom control and full transport. Other panels get into detailed setup, bulding presets, video and proxy rendering, etc.


It's designed so that the user will rarely have to leave the main panel.

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