At BandPro in Burbank, the Digital Cinema Society held its meeting to take a closer look at Silicon Imaging’s SI-2K. BandPro CTO Michael Bravin said that although the company has been a Sony-only house for a long time, they wanted to add this

The SI-2K

The SI-2K

camera when it was ready. “It was used on Slumdog Millionaire—and now we’re riding that wave,” he said.

Sinclair Fleming from the Silicon Imaging engineering group introduced the basics about the Si-2K: it’s 2K DCI-complaint with 11 f-stops dynamic range; a universal lens mount; embedded Iridas Speedgrade color correction software and embedded SiliconDVR software.

Silicon Imaging spent eight years developing HD CMOS cameras and recorders, for industrial and other uses. They showed the first direct-to-disk RAW wavelet cinema camera at NAB 2006. In 2007, as a joint venture with P+S Technik, they launched SI-2K

Silicon Imaging's Sinclair Fleming

Silicon Imaging's Sinclair Fleming

Fleming pointed out that the camera’s direct-to-disk RAW recording offers12-bit uncompressed images, up to 100Mbytes/s. Cineform RAW is visually lossless wavelet, that can offer up to 4-hours on a commodity16-GB drive hard drive. “There’s no compression until you decide what to do on the record platform,” said Fleming. “The modularity of the system is tied to the fact that the gigabit Ethernet connects to a computer. Silicon DVR runs on top of a PC or Mac, reading the gigabit Ethernet and providing visualization, focus assist, exposure metering, dual displays, and touch-screen interface. And it records out to commodity disks.”

The touch-screen interface is based on a major development effort. “It represents that we’re not from your industry and didn’t understand the requirements you needed to function–so we asked,” said Fleming. “Many key users who told us what it needed to do and needed to have. The camera hasn’t really changed. But interface has changed and the features have changed dramatically.”

With Cineform compression, the user can output to DPX, ProRes, DNxHD with Look Control. “Nothing is baked in so you don’t have to make decisions that throw away data,” he said. “You can take the Cineform RAW files off the disk and drag-and-drop them onto an editing timeline without proxies. At the time you de-mosaic, you can decide your color decisions and the complexity of the process.

“It’s a workflow that makes sense,” he continued. “Throwing a camera into the market without a workflow behind it is misery for the users. With the SI-2K,you have the ability to shoot, edit and deliver the content from the beginning.”

The SI-2K has found a home already in specialty applications including 3D stereoscopic filmmaking. “Because of its small size, you can place it in a parallel rig without a beam splitter,” said Fleming, who reported that Dark Country 3D is being shot with the SI-2K. “The cameras can be synchronized at the touch of a button.”

The camera is also used for 2K resolution 360-degree photography. Max Penner and Paradise FX synched nine cameras (clips are available on the Silicon Imaging website).

DCS president/founder James Mather, who said he has used the camera quite a bit, next introduced cinematographer Ulf

Soderqvist, who has been using the camera for three years to shoot three indie features, many commercials and industrials. “What I like a lot is the look,” he said. “It has a very wide latitude. I also like the ease of taking your files and just dropping them into your preferred PC/Mac platform. Cineform recording is absolutely fabulous. Just drop it right on the timeline and there it is.” Soderqvist also described how he used Iridas Speedgrade to work with a look on set. “Communication with the colorist back home has become a lot easier,” he said. “You’re able to deliver something to show the director/producer how it

Cinematographer Ulf Soderqvist

Cinematographer Ulf Soderqvist

looks. And you can throw it out because it’s non-destructive. Also, I can run it on my Mac; I don’t have to buy a PC. The last few pieces I shot, it’s been very smooth.” Soderqvist also showed how he controls his camera through his iPhone’s WiFi. “I can access the keyboard and name my files,” he said. “Logging on this camera is an editor’s dream. You create a folder with each new project.”

Soderqvist pointed out that the camera is so small, he can put it in a backpack and go. He liked its versatility with accessories and handles, as well as the viewfinder. “An optical viewfinder developed by P+S Technik also just came out, so I haven’t used it yet,” he said. “I’m using the screen and getting used to it. I still use the meter; the screen is just for framing.”

The SI-2K is daylight-balanced; Soderqvist said he rates it at 160 ASA. “The gain you have on this – it’s amazing,” he said. “You’d be surprised how little noise you’re bringing home. With an HD camera, I’d never touch the gain because I knew I’d bring noise home. But with the SI-2K, it’s like pushing your neg a little bit.”

In the field, said Soderqvist, he records to an off-the-shelf USB hard drive or two CF cards. “It’s IT-centric through a computer,” he said “It’s basically a computer head connected to a computer. SI hasn’t locked you out with proprietary hardware. You can use whatever serves your purpose.” Bravin noted that BandPro will create a configuration of the camera with an Apple Mac mini.

In answer to a question of what frame rates the SI-2K can go, a BandPro’s technician said, “It depends on the resolution: 1280×720 gives you 85P frames, and you can go to 150 frames with 960×540. And, yes, you can go time-lapse.”

Soderqvist also likes the camera’s histogram. “The workflow is so strong,” he said. “You can choose an AVI or Quicktime wrapper. The platform also works with Avid, not just FCP.” Bravin noted that drag-and-drop to Avid timeline will happen soon. Sinclair pointed out that, with the Cineform partnership, you can shoot 12-bit with absolutely no compression. “That’s a lot of data,” he said. “The Cineform RAW compression is what facilitates commodity bandwidth devices.”

Bravin reported that “more and better” is coming in terms of recording dual streams. He also said that, after NAB, BandPro will do seminars on how to operate the camera from a DIT and assistant standpoint. “But it takes ten minutes to figure it out,” he said. “If you can DIT on an F-23, for example, you can do this.