4K seems like the new entertainment technology hype on internet, TV and any local electronics store. There is enough information that explains the benefits 4K for consumers, but it is really understood and can anyone fully appreciate it? Especially for the b2b-driven imaging and machine vision environment, for commercial applications and surveillance: How does having more resolution affect the quality of designing a virtual reality experience, improve producing the content of a television documentary, improve video communication or protect our borders and security? Besides that, can you really see 4K of resolution on a TV, tablet or phone? These are very important questions that should be asked when planning a move to 4K technology.
Benefits of 4K Resolution
It is pretty evident what 4K technology brings to any application, simply put, resolution. More resolution allows more detail to be seen in the video stream creating sharper, more colorful images. Where this becomes more evident is when it is combined with technologies and features that enhance the picture quality and allow for even more detail and response. This is what Sony VIS provides with their latest generation FCB-ER8300 block camera.
When combining high-resolution images with matching high quality lenses, amazing images are created. The Sony FCB-ER8300 camera does this by using a super resolution zoom lens that provides up to 20x the zoom. The camera blends optical and digital zooming seamlessly to produce crystal-clear images with high detail of objects that are far away from the camera (up to 144x).
With the advancements in sensor technology and Sony’s extensive experience in building sensors and cameras, the FCB-ER8300 leverages these gains in sensitivity available in these devices to provide improved sharpness and color reproduction, especially under low light conditions. This increased sensitivity means that the camera’s exposure and gain settings are not pushed as much thus reducing the effective noise in the images providing higher quality video when minimal ambient light is available.
Another very novel feature of the Sony FCB-ER8300 block camera is a new noise reduction algorithm that can vary itself based on a single video frame. By looking at numerous regions in the scene (100’s of different locations in the frame), the camera’s circuitry is able to assess the image to determine the level of noise reduction that should be applied. For areas that have low frequency data, like clouds in the sky, a stronger noise reduction is done. In high detail/frequency regions where there is a lot of edges, transition or changes in the scene, less noise reduction is performed.
The benefits of 4K technology are super-useful for imaging applications and especially better data analysis and in Virtual Reality, Broadcasting, Video Conferencing and Surveillance Applications.
How Virtual Reality Makes It Real With 4 K
To get the fantastic, realistic images needed for virtual reality (VR) devices like gaming glasses from known pioneer and Facebook-owned start-up Oculus Rift, they first need to start with great quality video to provide the amazing backdrops to the VR experience. High resolution, high quality video is a necessity for these applications as they need to provide enough information to immerse the viewer into the virtual adventure. Having a projection screen only a few inches away from the eyes does not allow for much imperfections in the image either so starting for a good video feed is very important.
The 4K video created by the FCB-ER8300, combined with its noise reduction algorithms, provide the best quality images for virtual reality that can easily be cropped to fit the VR projection screen, with little loss in detail. The consistent images that the camera produces also makes it easy to blend and stitch streams of video from multiple cameras seamlessly giving a full 360° x 360° x 360° view that really makes the audience feel and react like they are fully immersed into the VR world created by the programmers.
Using 4K Video for B-Roll Footage in Broadcasting Documentaries
B-roll footage is a term that comes from the days when video was shot on film rolls. These rolls of film provide the cut shots that were needed to transition between scenes, provide context to the actor’s speech and help create flashbacks in films and TV shows. Having plenty of high quality, consistent B-roll footage is an important part of any film, TV or documentary as it helps enhance their quality and engage the viewers further.
Capturing this important footage in 4K is becoming a must. Not only is it important in the broadcast and film industries it can also be important for any business looking to highlight itself, its products, its people or its processes in any media (news, internet, etc…). Having a good stock of readily available B-roll footage allows media outlets to quickly produce high quality documentaries that can be supplemented with this stock video by superimposing them over the “talking heads” giving a visual context to the dialogue. The FCB-ER8300 is a great product to provide this high quality, broadcast standard video, quickly and easily and with its integrated lens, super resolution zoom, high speed and accurate focus algorithms, and low noise technology, they all provide the flexibility needed for video producers to gather the shots to fill up their B-roll inventory. The higher resolution video produced by this camera allows editors to more precisely crop and zoom the video stream to fit the desired output video resolution, be it standard HD or smaller tablet/phone screen sizes needed for the internet without any loss of detail or introducing any additional noise.
High Resolution Video Conferencing
For manufacturers of professional or home video conferencing systems, following the newest technology standards and having high quality video cameras integrated in there solutions is very important. It provides a more realistic experience for the participants, making them feel like they are in the same room and offers a USP and competitive edge. It could be grandparents watching and interacting with their grandchildren half way around the world or two business power brokers negotiating in real time, having the video detail to see expressions on faces or to include a larger audience in the feed, 4K technology is the way to do this efficiently and effectively.
The integrated super resolution zoom lens in the FCB-ER8300 allows the users to really get up close and personal with their grandchildren or their colleagues to really see them in great detail. The higher 4K resolution allows for digital pan and tilt capabilities without the need for mechanical servos that are prone to failure and lag while still allowing the operator to focus their attention on a subject or object clearly. The compact design of this camera makes it less obtrusive in the working environment providing for a more natural conversation between all parties without that feeling of “being watched”.
Improving Security and Safety with More Detail
With all the violence around the world these days, it is becoming more and more important to be able to not only see threats in real time but assess them quickly and react to them appropriately. Older analog NTSC cameras only allow security personnel to identify a potential area of concern. There is not enough resolution, focus, zoom or quality of video in these cameras to really ascertain the thread and react accordingly.
The Sony FCB-ER8300 block camera addresses these issues in many ways. First of all, the 4K resolution provides the detail needed by these professionals to assess the situation correctly, recognize and detect the potential threat, and react appropriately to keep the public safe. The integrated super resolution zoom and the digital pan and tilt capabilities allow authorities to pick out targets in the scene and assess them in detail to determine their threat level. The full field of view provided by the camera along with the 4K resolution provides situational awareness of a larger area of interest allowing for greater surveillance coverage that can be seen in one image at one time. Finally, the low light performance of this block camera makes it ideal for challenging lighting conditions that is common in the security and surveillance market to allow security officers to detect and assess risks in a changing lighting environment, like when it is mounted outdoors or in a security hallway with outdoor windows and fluorescent lighting that has a lighting environment that changes throughout the day.
Integrating the video feed provided by the camera into the more advanced security software recorders can also provide greater detection of pending hazards and dangers. This specialized software can scan the larger resolution video feed looking for faces of interest, detect abandoned packages, recognize stolen items like artifacts, statues or paintings, and identify suspicious behaviour, like people traveling against the flow in a secured hallway. With these threats assessed by the software, an alarm can be sent to the security team to validate the event and react accordingly while storing the video evidence both before and after the incident happened.
4K is not just about resolution. When it is combined with high quality image capture, low noise, high quality optics, and built in image enhancement algorithms, users get an improved experience allowing them to become fully engulfed and engaged in what they are viewing. The Sony FCB-ER8300 exemplifies this though its high quality video streams, excellent noise reduction algorithms, highs speed focus and integrated analog and digital zoom capabilities making it an easy choice for these applications and others seeking reliable, excellent 4K images.
About the Author
Darren Bessette is the Engineering Services Manager at Framos Technologies Inc. He has been creating, developing and supporting vision solutions for clients for more than 16 years. His knowledge and experience has touched all aspects of vision including software and hardware design, image quantification, calibration and processing, optics, and lighting.