The company also provided a spotlight demonstration of its new DP-V3010 4K Reference Display monitor, designed to provide “exceptional detail, color and gradation accuracy” for color-grading and postproduction professionals as motion picture, television and commercial production continues its transition to higher-resolution digital video and CGI formats. Hinting at Canon’s future plans to produce more hi-res production and post tools, Yuichi Ishizuka, executive vice president and general manager of Canon USA’s Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, noted, “These displays are the result of the enthusiastic response we received to the Canon Cinema EOS System of cameras and lenses, and we look forward to continuing to demonstrate our commitment to these markets with outstanding technology, quality and reliability to help creative professionals deliver and tell the stories as they envision them.”
On Nov. 11, Canon executives outlined the company’s history and technical achievements in a series of briefings. In his presentation on the Cinema EOS System, Ken-Ichi Shimbori, a group executive of Canon’s Image Communication Products Operations (ICPO), identified the 2008 unveiling of Reverie, a demonstration video shot with the EOS 5D Mark II DSLR (co-directed by Yoni Brook and cinematographer Vincent Laforet), as a key moment in the development of EOS technology. Shimbori identified high image quality, high ISO speed, compact design and low production cost as some of the primary reasons Canon was encouraged to develop higher-end EOS cameras (specifically, the C300 and C500) for professional users. In their separate presentation on the company’s lens products, Shimbori’s colleagues Naoya Kaneda and Yasunori Imaoka added that EOS users could also exploit the company’s extensive arsenal of high-quality lenses (87 models in all, including 73 in the EF Series and 14 in the EF Cinema Series), a competitive advantage Canon enjoys over some of its rival camera manufacturers.
The following day, to underscore the company’s in-house lens production, Canon hosted a rare tour of its Utsunomiya facility, which provides mass production of the company’s optical instruments, as well as technical support. Canon began producing EOS SLR cameras with interchangeable EF-mount lenses in 1987; since then, the company has built more than 90 million EF lenses. The growth of the company’s lens production has been exponential. By 1995, 10 million EF lenses had been produced, but that number doubled to 20 million in 2001, reached 30 million in 2006 and hit 40 million in 2008. Those numbers ramped up dramatically as digital EOS SLRs became predominant: 50 million lenses in 2009, 60 million by Jan. 2011, 70 million by Oct. 2011 and 80 million by Aug. 2012.
During the facility tour, the press visitors met the company’s “lens meisters,” observed the various stages of lens manufacturing and quality control, and received an overview of Canon’s human-resources development program for students pursuing a career in optics craftsmanship — a 9-month-long mentorship program that has produced 3,064 skilled workers since 1959.
Although Canon executives did not announce any new EOS cameras during the press tour, they did detail a series of new technical developments. Hiroo Edakubo, another group executive from Canon’s ICPO, reviewed some of the company’s recent undertakings, including firmware upgrades to
C-Series cameras that boost their maximum ISO setting to 80,000. Edakubo also outlined an optional upgrade to the EOS C100 to support Dual Pixel CMOS AF autofocus technology, for continuous autofocusing with Canon’s EF lenses. (In May, this upgrade will be available for the C300 as well.) He touted the improved signal-to-noise ratio in Canon’s high-end cameras (made possible by the company’s second generation of chip-noise reduction technology), as well as their wider dynamic range (credited to the Dual Pixel CMOS diode structure, which also helps to reduce “rolling shutter” effect). Edakubo added that while Canon launched its C-Series cameras mainly for motion-picture use, the company has been pleasantly surprised by their popularity for shooting other types of projects, including commercials and sports events. (Most recently, Canon was selected by NBC to provide more than 70 HDTV portable, field and studio lenses for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.)
During the press briefings, Masaya Maeda, managing director and chief executive of Canon’s ICPO, offered a general overview of the company’s business strategies, placing further emphasis on the company’s on-site development of image processors, lenses, software and sensors. In a one-on-one interview with AC, he conceded, “In the world of cinema, we’re still in the process of learning [and gathering] opinions and insights, [not only] from distinguished and great filmmakers but also independent filmmakers and students. I think we’re still at the stage [where we are] absorbing all of those insights so we can learn from them and [reflect] those suggestions” in new product designs and systems. With regard to the Cinema Series cameras, he added that “we anticipate that one day we will be there to meet that challenge to become the A camera,” and foresaw that any new technologies that the company develops for its high-end cameras would “trickle down” to the company’s lower-end camera models. He maintained that the development of higher-end cameras would require increased processing speed for semiconductors (in order to handle the sheer volume of digital data funneling through the workflow pipeline) and reasonable, energy-efficient power-consumption standards.
In a separate group-interview session, members of the company’s EOS team addressed a range of other topics, including questions about the ergonomics of Canon’s C-Series cameras and the ongoing need for productions to add third-party accessories to these cameras in order to meet the high-end requirements of cinematographers like Anthony Dod Mantle, ASC, BSC, DFF (Rush; AC Oct. ’13); Sofian El Fani (who used the C300 on Blue is the Warmest Color, which won the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival); and Shane Hurlbut, ASC (who offers a detailed assessment of the C-Series cameras in this issue’s coverage of the feature Need for Speed).
During the group session, ASC member Jon Fauer summarized the desires of many top cinematographers by suggesting that the C500 should be adapted for easier handheld work, with adjustable handgrips and shoulder mounts that would make the camera less reliant upon third-party rigs. Fauer praised the compact design of the C500, but also suggested that the next model should be more modular and offer an adjustable viewfinder. “It would be nice if you could interchange the lens mounts between Canon and PL mounts, or some other neutral mount system,” he added.
The EOS spokesmen conceded that the company “must be more flexible” in the design and engineering of future camera models, but stressed that Canon was still in the process of “collecting a lot of feedback from C-Series users. Our products are being used by many people in different and diverse manners, so compiling all of those comments and reflecting [those suggestions] in a new model is going to be very difficult. We knew from the beginning that the C500 would not [occupy] the high end [of the market] like the Alexa. For those people who are very used to using [high-end] A cameras and B cameras, this is not [an ideal design], but people who have been using the EOS system with DSLRs say this is the form they would like to see.”
ASC associate Eliott Peck, senior vice president and general manager of Canon USA, firmly asserted the company’s commitment to research and outreach, and its willingness to incorporate user suggestions into new camera designs. “We entered this business with a thirst to learn and to listen. Every different film and every setup is going to be a little different. We’ve sent our engineers and our technical people on set. [When] Ron Howard was shooting his film Rush, every day there was something new. We approach [those visits] to listen and to learn, to make adjustments and changes, [and to bring] that feedback on technical concerns and issues back to Canon Inc.”
Both Maeda and the EOS team confirmed that Canon would still be striking deals with third-party manufacturers to produce rigs and accessories for the C-Series cameras. “Regarding accessories,” Maeda stated, “of course if it is in the domain where we have the expertise, then we might produce them ourselves, but currently we have [partnerships with] a lot of dedicated, expert manufacturers of such rigs and accessories, so we would like to establish great working relationships with them to provide the best accessories [for our products].”
One area of new exploration was emphasized by Laurence J. Thorpe, a senior fellow at Canon who supervises professional engineering and solutions within the company’s Imaging Technologies & Communications Group. Thorpe emphasized Canon’s commitment to the ACES workflow standard, noting that the company had developed a new ACESproxy output that is now available via the C500 camera’s 3G-SDI monitor terminal. ACESproxy allows filmmakers to immediately grade raw footage using a compatible ACES monitor (such as Canon’s DP-V3010) and the ASC CDL system, providing an accurate representation of how the footage will look after being graded in the DI suite. Thorpe added that Canon’s support for the DCI-P3+ Color Gamut allows the C500 to capture a far wider range of color in raw mode than the current DCI-P3 industry standard for digital cinema projection, enabling an increased ability to faithfully reproduce more saturated elements. The DCI-P3+ gamut shares the same white point as DCI-P3, but accommodates a much larger color range that allows users to take full advantage of the large volume of color space available in ACES. “I think that’s going to be huge,” he concluded. “We’ve immersed ourselves in [the ACES] technical committee, which includes all the major manufacturers, and we’re way down the road in terms of the ACESproxy. There are great exchanges, we all understand each other, and we’re also playing in that workspace of ACES. We totally bought into it, we totally support it, and it’s the workflow of the future.”
— Stephen Pizzello