IS THE UAS INDUSTRY PREPARED FOR 8K? DO WE WANT 8K?

In 2004, Sony released the world’s first low-cost HD camera, known as the HVR-Z1U. The camera featured a standard 1/3” imager, squeezing 1440×1080 pixels (anamorphic/non-square) pixels on to the sensor. This was also the world’s first pro-sumer camera using the MPEG2 compression scheme, with a color sample of 4:2:0, and using a GOP method of frame progression, this new technology set the stage for much higher resolutions and eventually, greater frame rates.

It’s “father,” was the CineAlta HDWF900, which offered three 2/3” CCDs, which was the industry standard for filmmaking for several years, capturing big hits such as the “Star Wars Prequel Trilogy”, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”, “Real Steel”, “Tomorrowland”, “Avatar”, “Spykids” (1 & 2), and so many others.  The newer HDV format spawned from similar technology found in the HDWF900, and set the stage for extremely high end camera tech to trickle down into the pro-sumer space.

Overtime, camera engineers identified methods of co-siting more pixels on small imagers, binning pixels, or using other techniques to increase the capture resolution on small surfaces. Compression engineers have developed new compression schemes which brought forward AVC (h.263), MP4(h.264), and now HEVC/High Efficiency Video Codec(h.265), and still others soon to be revealed. 

Which brings us to the present.

We have to roughly quadruple megapixels to double resolution, so the jump from SD to HD makes sense, while the jump from HD to UHD/4K makes even more sense. Following that theme, jumping to 6K makes sense, while jumping to 8K is perfect theory, and nears the maximum of the human eye’s ability to resolve information.

At NAB 2018, Sony and Blackmagic Design both revealed 8K cameras and in that time frame others have followed suit.

During CommUAV and InterDrone, several folks asked for my opinion on 6 and 8K resolutions. Nearly all were shocked as I expressed enthusiasm for the format.

    “It’s impossible to edit.”

    “The files are huge.”

    “No computer can manage it.”

    “There is no where to show 8K footage.”

    “Human eyes can’t resolve that resolution unless sitting very far away from the screen.”

    “Data cards aren’t fast enough.”

And….so on.

These are all the same comments heard as we predicted the tempo of the camera industry transitioning from SD to HD, and from HD to 4K.  In other words, we’ve been here before.

Video cameras are acquisition devices. For the same reasons major motion pictures are acquired at the highest possible resolutions, and for the same reasons photographers get very excited as resolutions on-camera increase, so should UAS photographers. Greater resolution doesn’t always mean higher grade images. Nor does larger sensor sizes increase quality of images. On the whole, higher resolution systems usually does translate into higher quality images.

Sensor sizes are somewhat important to this discussion, yet not entirely critical. The camera industry has been packing more and more pixels into the same physical space for nearly two decades, without the feared increase in noise. Additionally, better noise-sampling/reduction algorithms, particularly from OEM’s like Sony and Ambarella, have allowed far greater reduction in noise compared to the past. Cameras such as the Sony A7RIV and earlier offer nearly noise-free ISO of 32,000!

Sensor sizes vary of course, but we’ll find most UAS utilize the 1/2.3, or the 1” sensor. (Light Blue and Turquoise sizes respectively, as seen below). 


“Imagine an UAS equipped with an 8K camera inspecting a communications tower. Resolution is high, so small specs of rust, pitting, spalling, or other damage which might be missed with lower resolutions or the human eye become apparent with a greater resolution.”


Why Does Higher Resolution Translate to a Superior Finished Product?

Generally, we’re downsampling video or photos to smaller delivery vehicles, for but one reason. In broadcast, 4:2:2 uncompressed color schemes were the grail (no longer). Yet, most UAS cameras capture a 4:2:0 color sample.  However, a 4K capture, downsampled to 1080 at delivery, offers videographers the same “grail” color schema of 4:2:2!

As we move into 6 or 8K, similar results occur. We gain the ability to crop for post editing/delivery to recompose images without fear of losing resolution. This means that although the aircraft may shoot a wide shot, the image may be recomposed to a tighter image in post, so long as the delivery is smaller than the source/acquisition capture. For example, shooting 4K for 1080 delivery means that up to 75% of the image may be cropped without resolution loss.

 

As the image above demonstrates, it’s quite possible to edit 8K HEVC streams on a newer laptop. Performance is not optimal without a great deal of RAM and a good video card, as HEVC requires a fair amount of horsepower to decode. The greater point, is that we can edit images with deep recomposition. Moreover, we have more pixels to work with, providing greater color correction, color timing, and depth/saturation.

For public safety, this is priceless. An 8K capture provides great ability to zoom/crop deeply into a scene and deliver much greater detail in HD or 4K delivery.

The same can be said for inspections, construction progress reports, etc. Users can capture at a high resolution and deliver in a lower resolution.

Another benefit of 6 and 8K resolutions is the increase in dynamic range. While small sensors only provide a small increase in dynamic range, a small increase is preferable to no increase. 

To address other statements about 6K and 8K resolutions; They human eye has the ability to see around 40megapixels, age-dependent. 8K is approximately 33megapixels. However, the human eye doesn’t see equal resolutions across the surface. The center of our eye sees approximately 8megapixels, where the outer edges are not as deep. High resolution does provide greater smoothing across the spectrum, therefore our eyes see smoother moving pictures.

BEYOND THE HUMAN EYE

Going well-beyond the human eye, higher resolutions are applicable to “computer vision,” benefiting mapping, 3D modeling, and other similar applications. Generally speaking, more pixels equals greater smoothness and geometry. As technology moves deeper into Artificial Intelligence, higher resolutions with more efficient codecs become yet even more important. Imagine an UAS equipped with an 8K camera inspecting a communications tower. Resolution is high, so small specs of rust or other damage which might be missed with lower resolutions or the human eye become more visible with a greater resolution. Now imagine that greater resolution providing input to an AI-aided inspection report that might notify the operator or manager of any problem. Our technology is moving beyond the resolution of the human eye for good reason.

DATA STORAGE

Files from a 6 or 8K camera are relatively small, particularly when compared to uncompressed 8K content (9.62TB per hour). Compression formats, known as “Codecs” have been improving for years, steadily moving forward. For example, when compressions first debuted in physical form, we saw Hollywood movies delivered on DVD. Then we saw HD delivered on Blu-ray. Disc formats are dead, but now we’ve moved through MPG2, AVC, AVCHD, H.264, and now H.265/HEVC. In the near future we’ll see yet even more compression schemes benefitting our workflows. VVC or “Versatile Video Codec” will be the next big thing in codecs for 8K, scheduled to launch early 2022.

Unconventional h.264 and H.265/HEVC are currently being used as delivery codecs for compressed 6 and 8K streams. 8K has been successfully broadcast (in testing environments) at rates as low as 35Mbps for VOD, while NHK has set the standard at 100Mbps for conventional delivery.

Using these codecs, downconverting streams to view OTA/Over The Air to tablets, smartphones, or ground station controllers is already possible.  It’s unlikely we’ll see 8K streaming from the UAS to the GSC. 

U3 Datacards are certainly prepared for 6 and 8K resolutions/datastreams; compression is what makes this possible.  The KenDao 8K and Insta 8K 360 cameras both are recording to U3 cards available in the market today.

It will be some time before the average consumer will be seeing 8K on screens in their homes. However, 8K delivered for advertising, trying to match large format footage being shot on Weapon, Monstro, Helium or other camera formats may be less time-consuming when using 8K, even from a smaller camera format carried on an UAS (these cameras may easily be carried on heavy-lift UAS).

Professional UAS pilots will benefit greatly from 5, 6, or 8K cameras, and should not be shy about testing the format. Yes, it’s yet another paradigm shift in an always-fluid era of aerial and visual technology.  There can be no doubt that these higher resolutions provide higher quality in any final product. Be prepared; 2020 is the year of 5, 6, and 8K cameras on the flying tripods we’re using for our professional and personal endeavors, and I for one, am looking forward to it with great enthusiasm.

 

*Want to know more about codecs, compression/decompression, optimizing capture and data for streaming, or a greater understanding of how to create the best visual images without all the hype and mystery? Ask about training and classes in “Cracking the Camera Code” seminars found online, in our training facility, or in your offices.

 

By | November 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Night sUAS (Drone) CSI Demonstration – RENO

FoxFurySundance Media GroupPix4D, and public safety personnel have created a demonstration workflow for aerial capture of virtually any type of night forensic scene. This team will setup a mock crime scene investigation, by creating a homicide scene in the North parking lot at Peppermill Resort. The purpose of this free demonstration is to showcase how drones (UAVs / sUAS) are used to capture forensic evidence at the scene, in the dark, and use the data captured to create a map in 2D and 3D for law enforcement use.

FoxFury CRI Lighting Solutions will be used to illuminate the surrounding area to aid with photo and video capture of the crime scene. The SMG team will pilot an Autel Evo and a Yuneec H520 to capture color-correct aerial images to be processed in Pix4Dmapper LIVE onsite into a 2D map. The SMG team will share how the placement and level of lighting are key components to the workflow as well as using Ground Control Points to assist in accuracy for the post-production process in Pix4D.

 

This workflow is relevant for virtually any type of night scene capture.

 

Cameras are permitted. Please; no photography during drone flights.

With special thanks to the City of Reno for their support in presenting this demonstration and to the Peppermill Resort for hosting our demonstration.

 

 

 

By | August 13th, 2019|0 Comments

FoxFury High CRI Rugo Lighting Instruments

Last week I acquired a set of the new high CRI FoxFury Rugo 2’s. Although I was first introduced to the Rugo as a tool for UAS flight and photography, these new hi CRI Rugo 2 units captured my  interest and excitement. I’ve purchased several sets of the older Rugos (5700k) units, and they’re terrific for drones or basic, backfill, accent, or action cam lighting. They’re a bit too cool for scene lighting without corrective gel or filters. The CRI rating of the Rugo 2 is 92, which displays color more accurately and naturally than other LED lights.

Having access to these new Rugo 2 lights with the high CRI was exciting, as they represented yet another “shrink” in my portable imaging kit.  The size is the perfect tool for keeping on the camera full-time, whether shooting video or photos. Flashes aren’t always optimal for size, space, nor balance and the Rugo 2 allows everything to come together for the ideal compact system.

My first experience with the high CRI Rugo 2 instruments was in setting up a product shot and I was immediately knocked out at how quickly the shot came together. Before I laid out my plans for a product shot, I tested the Rugo 2’s on a toy that has a broad dynamic range (seen below in the unedited Pixel 3-captured images). One aspect that greatly impressed me was that regardless of battery status, the color did not shift (as common with most low-cost LED systems). The lights also run very cool to the touch, even after being powered up for three hours.

Liking what I saw in the final test images I decided to try them on a video interview, and again, impressed with the final result of the evaluation.

The lights pictured below are supported by very inexpensive, extremely lightweight flash stands typically found in a photographer’s kit, vs a videographer’s kit. They are essentially disposable at a cost of around $15.00 each, but are easy to pack on a plane. The Rugo is sitting on a ball swivel, the same type one might put a flash head.  This allows the Rugo 2 to tilt and angle.

 

 

LENSES

One of the features that makes the Rugo 2 so flexible is that the Rugo 2 has three lenses, aka “Tri-Lens®” technology. These three lens positions allow for a tightly-focused spot light, diffused, and flood light from one instrument. The lens may also be removed for situations where control isn’t critical. Removing the lens also offers a slightly more powerful light beam.

BATTERIES

When the battery is expired, the Rugo 2 has a clip/lever that allows the battery pack to be removed, and a fresh battery connected. This ensures wait-free production. For me, this was a huge step up, given the other battery powered instruments I’d worked with all have internal batteries, which required re-charging before use.  Batteries are inexpensive, and I recommend having a few spares on hand if the shoot is expected to go beyond three hours. Additionally, the Rugo’s flash for purposes of anti-collision lighting on a drone/UAS system.  Battery life is dependent on intensity, but generally runs in the 3, 2, 1 hour lifespan. On the lowest setting, the batteries may last as long as 6 hours. Recharges take approximately 2.5 hours, but charge faster when using upgraded USB charging systems and cables.

MOUNTS

The Rugo 2comes with a standard quarter/20 mount, as well as a Go-Pro style mount. Additional mounts are available for various kinds of drones, bikes, etc.

FLEXIBLE

The high CRI Rugo 2 also has a new power button; (look for the orange switch) this means that the instrument not only provides strobing, but also can be put in 60 feet of water, making it ideal for the underwater photography or underwater accent lighting kit. They are so small, I carry a couple in my day-to-day backpack for accent lighting, primary lighting when shooting with my mobile phone, and for when I need a flashlight.

For years, we drove around a production van similar to this one from my friends at New York Rentals. Essentially a five-light kit, three cameras/tripods, and sound kit, this required a van filled to the roof with gear. We also had a 6K lighting system that carried in a 14′ box truck with distribution and lunchboxes. With the Rugo2, those days are long gone.

Image result for production, grip equipment, van

These new Rugo 2’s from FoxFury enable me to carry essentially the same amount of lighting power and flexibility in a small case that can be carried on to any airplane, or carried on my back as a backpack, with a similar five lights, four-channel audio kit, three cameras/tripods, and a few assorted gels, C47’s, and small accessories in one kit/case.

While I was in New York teaching a class on drone imagery, it was fun to meet one of the Fire Department New York staff photographers, and I noticed on her belt, a Rugo 2 light as well.

Comparing notes, we both found how much we appreciated the small size, long battery life, and multi-lens, multi-intensity options of this new lighting instrument. She commented on the durability noting “I dropped this thing down a 75′ elevator shaft, and it didn’t miss a beat, and even provided some interesting back lighting while I was shooting.” It’s true the Rugo 2 light, like all FoxFury products, are made for durability.

SUMMARY

  • Warm color 
  •  Interchangeable Battery
  • Up to 6 hours battery life
  • Lightweight/small/cool running
  • Three lens options
  • Stand-ready
  • Virtually indestructible/Waterproof (60′)
  • No color shift (CRI 92)
  • Affordable

For the corporate producer, these lights are ideal for small in-office interviews, headshots, product shots, underwater glamour, and many other creative spaces. I simply cannot imagine going back to large-package light kits weighing over 80lbs when I can carry five FoxFury Rugo 2 instruments, and five stands in a backpack weighing less than 10lbs while achieving not only the same amount of illumination, but more valuable are the greater options with the lenses, intensities, and swappable battery packs.

FoxFury High CRI Rugo 2 LED light compared to older PhotoFlex halogen

Watch for a video coming soon on the video viability of the FoxFury high CRI Rugo lights!

Here are some photos from a recent Photowalk I did with the WPPI folks, with all lighting from the Rugo 2’s.

Mobile Phone grabs from a by-stander (apologies for out of focus areas, I didn’t shoot these, they are courtesy of someone on the photowalk

 

 

By | November 7th, 2018|Production, Technology, Training, Uncategorized, Video|Comments Off on FoxFury High CRI Rugo Lighting Instruments