F4 Meet 4K
As part of the content partnership Sky produces exclusive video content in Ultra High Definition (Ultra HD) with the Fantastic Four including the transmission in HD and Ultra HD on Sky Germany. On 19, 20 and 21 December 2014 the Fantastic Four performed three shows in their native town Stuttgart. Sky brought TVN Mobile Production on board and together with the management of the Fantastic Four it was decided to use the concert on the 19th as a test run and to carry out the live production and transmission on the 20th.
With the support of Fraunhofer HHI/Rohde & Schwarz the native 4K signal was encoded in realtime in 35 Mbit/s HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) and transmitted via Astra 19.2 East with 50 progressive images/s live to four selected households across Germany. Each household was equipped with a 55-inch Sony BRAVIA Ultra HD television set. In addition the live signal was transferred in native 4K via fiber cable with a transfer rate of 12 GB/s to the ARRI cinema in Munich. Of course Sky down-converted the Ultra HD signal to HD and made the concert available live via the pay-per-view channel Sky Select.
The Ultra HD footage from the concert and exclusive behind-the-scenes materials will be used to produce a documentary film in Ultra HD for cinema release in February. In addition, the Ultra HD content will be used at point of sale for Sky and for Sony.
The Live Production in Ultra HD
TVN Mobile Production had send its TVN Ü2HD together with a staff of 23 technicians to the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle in Stuttgart. The concert was produced with ten Sony PMW-F55 Ultra HD cameras. The camera set included a camera on a crane (K1), a camera on a 18 meters rail-dolly (K6) and a camera on a 20 meters Blackcam rail running on the stage directly in front of the artists.
At the OBVan the ten camera signals were mixed by vision director Sven Offen on a Sony MVS-8000X. The 4K set-up in the OBVan included also a 4K VIZRT graphics engine. A dedicated focus was on audio. Sound engineer Stephan Thyssen was receiving 56 audio signals from the Fantastic Four and the band on stage. In addition 16 atmosphere microphones were hanging in front of the stage and in the middle of the event location. On a Lawo mc²56 Stephan provided a Dolby 5.1 surround mix for the UHD and the HD live transmissions and for the first time an Audio 3D 9.1 mix was produced which will become part of the BluRay production. For this purpose all microphone signals were recorded as well as all the 4K camera signals (on two Sony PWS-4400 multi-port storage units).
Gunther Hecker’s Visual Design Rocks For Fantastic Four
Gunther – one of Germany’s most innovative designers – is working with the band since 25 years. When Gunther’s name is on the design credits for a show, you know it’s going to be visually interesting, idiosyncratic and a bit ‘out-of-the-box’ with a few flourishes of the unexpected ... and so Gunther has created another epic stage, set, lighting and video design. Gunther is working closely with Lighting Director and FOH Systems Engineer Marc Lorenz on the “Rekord” tour where video is playing a major role in the visuals of the “Rekord” tour, and is completely integrated into the design from the outset avoiding all the current video and LED clichés! The video screens sometimes are used in a lighting role, with all the “regular” lights turned off and just the screens as the light source. During the show Gunther operated a HedgeHog4 to control the show. All the lighting (mainly Robe - see Robe BMFLs ‘on the Record’ for Die Fantastischen Vier Tour), sound (L-Acoustics) and video kit for the stage was hired by rental house satis&fy.
Live-Video/IMAG was used in about 70% of the show and the screens were active throughout. For the 4K UHD production Gunther and Marc worked in close collaboration with Sven to optimize the lighting and to specify additional lighting equipment necessary for the inclusion of spectator shots in the 4K live transmission. This equipment was controlled by a grandMA2 and only available in Stuttgart.
Alessandro Reitano, Director of Sports Production at Sky Germany and responsible for the 4K UHD production in Stuttgart: "It was just great to implement this production together with the Fantastic Four and to transmit their 'home game' live in Ultra HD. For the first time we have realized an Ultra HD and an HD production in one go and we are very happy with the results and particularly with the images. With tests like these we step by step come closer to a regular Ultra-HD operation."
The Fantastic Four presentation at the ARRI Cinema
Timm Stemann, Managing Director CONCON International and an expert for 4K and new technologies was at the ARRI Cinema in Munich and delivered the following impressions:
Projector and transmission
The Christie projector provided outstanding 4K images on the slightly curved screen and delivered excellent impressions of the live concert in Stuttgart. Really great was the transmission with 50p which virtually revealed no motion blur. Once there were problems with a failure of the first image quadrant and with the sound, but it was resolved within a few seconds. Overall, a great experience that I would not miss.
Depending on the camera positions and the lenses used we saw perfect but also improvable images. It was positively recognized that additional light was used for the 4K production (compared to the “normal” event production). Especially the pictures with lots of light movement were impressive.
Hand/shoulder cameras on stage(K5 and K8): Generally very exciting images of good quality. A deeper black could possibly be achieved with a matte box (to prevent from lateral light). Great was the experience as one of the Fantastic Four initiated a pan with his hand in front of a camera.
Motion Control BlackCam (K7) in front of the stage: Great pictures, focus due to the proximity and movement of Fantastic Four not easy.
Camera on tripod (K10) directly in front of the stage: Simply great pictures – improvement possible with a matte box.
Camera on Dolly (K6) in front of FOH: Delivered the best images of the entire transmission with a Fuji 25-300mm lens: Just impressive and outstanding. 4K is ideal for semi-wide shots. Powerful images with lots of details – you feel to be in the middle of the action, yet far enough away to see the whole environment, however not too far away to lose the mood.
Crane camera (K1) with a Fuji 19-90mm: Beautiful pictures, unfortunately sometimes focus problems.
Cameras at FOH (K2, K3 and K4) with Canon 95x box lenses: Compared to the other lenses less focus and brilliance in the images. May be it would be better to have only one camera at FOH with a large zoom range lens with PL mount.
Beauty-shot/Wide-Angle camera (K9): Unfortunately many heads in front of the camera with the negative effect of being thrown out of the mood.
Conclusion: Mainly K6 (PMW-F55 with Fuji 25-300mm lens on the Dolly) has produced impressive images which have made the show to a real experience. The camera positions were very well chosen and director Sven Offen has made a very good picture editing. The brilliant colors and the refresh rate was just great and the uncompressed images on a big screen have delivered the event like you would have been in Stuttgart. The construction site remains with the lenses. The box lenses deliver a noticeable compromise in image quality. If we compare the image quality with the Cine-high-end lenses from Fujinon, Angenieux, Canon etc. it must be said that these lenses deliver "soft", "warm" and "beautiful" images as well as impressive blurredness.
In the beginning the sound in the cinema was disappointing. The spectators in the cinema only could hear a gentle surround sound of the event location and the instruments. The chanting of the Fantastic Four was initially difficult to hear. However after the first 10 minutes this was improved quite a lot. An optimized sound is even more important for Ultra HD than for HD: High quality images demand high quality surround sound. After the spectators in the cinema started to sing and dance the live atmosphere immediately was occupying the cinema.
The transmission to the ARRI cinema has been a stand out event and definitely offers a lot of potential for future improvements. A next step could be the improvement in sound quality. The sound has to bring the live atmosphere at the event location into the cinema: your brain has to consider whether the screaming, whistling and singing along comes from your neighbors in the cinema or from the live broadcast. Live sound atmosphere combined with powerful Ultra HD images is bringing so much more added value on to the table and definitely is worthwhile the additional efforts and production costs: You can enjoy the live event with the advantages of the addition of detailed images of the actors which you are not getting when you are at the “real” event.
The tour continues throughout January 2015 and the Fantastic Four will play festivals in the summer.