Panavision Exec Discusses Truth About 2K and 4K

When people reference the number of pixels on movie cameras, they are not literally saying the number of pixels, but rather the type of camera, explains Panavision senior VP of Advanced Digital Imaging John Galt. For example, 4K means the camera has 4096 red, 4096 green and 4096 blue photo sites. But Galt suggests that not all cameras are marketed accurately and distinguishes between “marketing” pixels and actual pixels.

“Now you know very well that you cannot take a 8.3 million pixel sensor and create 36 million out of that without interpolation,” he says. “You are up-converting, and there’s really no value to the up-conversion. There’s no new information.”

“So 4K is not these 8 megapixel or 9 megapixel or 10 megapixel CMOS images for the Bayer pattern where they add up all the pixels in a row and say hey, we got 4K,” he adds. “The great perpetrators of that mythology have been RED and Dalsa. That’s why I call these ‘marketing pixels.’ It’s intentional obfuscation. Because they really do nothing to improve image quality. They may improve sales volume. But they don’t do anything to quality.”

Galt explains that the difference between 2K and 4K actually is not that important because at 4K the audience would be hard pressed to see any additional detail. At true 4K there would be no difference between black and white, which creates sharpness, and humans could not differentiate between the two.

However, he is also in favor of frame rates faster than 24 fps. He explains that at 24 fps you can sometimes see a flicker from the projector. “That’s why I subscribe to Jim Cameron’s argument, which is we would get much better image quality by doubling the frame rate than by adding more pixel resolution,” Galt notes.

The Panavision exec “led the team that created the Genesis camera, was responsible for the F900 ‘Star Wars’ camera, and continues to play a leading role in guiding future digital cinema technologies,” explains Creative COW.

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