It seems as if 4K has become the latest entertainment technology hype on the internet, on TV and in your local electronics store. There is plenty of information available which explains the benefits of 4K for consumers, but is it really being understood and can anyone fully appreciate it? This is particularly true in the B2B-driven imaging and machine vision environment and in the context of commercial applications and surveillance. How does having greater resolution affect the quality of a virtual reality experience, enhance the content of a television documentary, improve video communication or protect our borders and our security? In addition, is it really possible to see 4K resolution on a TV, tablet or phone? These are very important questions that should be asked when planning a move to 4K technology.
The benefits of 4K resolution
It is pretty evident what 4K technology brings to any application and that is resolution. A higher resolution allows more detail to be seen in the video stream, creating sharper, more colorful images. This becomes more obvious when it is combined with technologies and features that enhance the picture quality and allow for even greater detail and response. This is what Sony VIS provides with its latest generation FCB-ER8300 block camera.
When a high resolution is combined with correspondingly high-quality lenses, it is possible to create amazing images. The Sony FCB-ER8300 camera does this by using a super-resolution zoom lens that provides up to 20x zoom. The camera blends optical and digital zooming seamlessly to produce crystal-clear images that show the details of objects in the far distance (up to 144x).
Based on advancements in sensor technology and Sony’s extensive experience in building sensors and cameras, the FCB-ER8300 exploits the enhanced sensitivity to provide improved sharpness and color reproduction, especially under low light conditions. The increase in sensitivity means that the camera’s exposure and gain settings are not pushed to such a great extent, which reduces the effective noise in the images and produces higher quality video when minimal ambient light is available.
Another highly innovative feature of the Sony FCB-ER8300 block camera is a new noise reduction algorithm that can vary on the basis of a single video frame. By looking at many areas of the scene (hundreds 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 with low frequency data, such as clouds in the sky, greater noise reduction is applied. In high-detail and high-frequency areas where there are large numbers of borders, transitions or changes within the scene, less noise reduction is needed.
The benefits of 4K technology are immensely valuable for imaging applications and, in particular, for data analysis. They also benefit virtual reality, broadcasting, video conferencing and surveillance applications.
How virtual reality becomes real with 4K
To obtain the fantastic, realistic images needed for virtual reality (VR) devices, such as the gaming glasses produced by pioneering Facebook-owned start-up Oculus Rift, excellent quality video is needed. High-resolution, high-quality video is essential for these applications because they have to supply enough information to immerse the viewer in the virtual adventure. The location of the projection screen only a few inches away from the viewer’s eyes does not allow for many imperfections in the image, which makes starting with a good video feed very important.
The 4K video created by the FCB-ER8300, combined with its noise reduction algorithms, provides the highest quality images for virtual reality that can easily be cropped to fit the VR projection screen, with little loss of detail. The consistent images that the camera produces also make 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 as if they are fully immersed in 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 provided the cut shots that were needed to transition between scenes, give context to the actors’ speech and help create flashbacks in films and TV shows. Having plenty of high-quality, consistent B-roll footage is important for any film, TV drama or documentary, because it helps enhance their quality and engage the viewers even more.
Capturing this vital footage in 4K is becoming a must. It is not only essential in the broadcast and film industries. It can also be important for any business looking to promote itself, its products, its people or its processes in the media. 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 it over the “talking heads”, giving a visual context to the dialog. The FCB-ER8300 is the ideal means of providing this high-quality, broadcast-standard video quickly and easily. Its integrated lens, super-resolution zoom, high speed, accurate focus algorithms and low noise technology all provide the flexibility needed for video producers to obtain the shots to fill their B-roll inventory. The higher resolution video produced by this camera allows editors to crop and zoom the video stream more precisely to achieve the desired output video resolution, whether that is standard HD or the smaller tablet or phone screen sizes needed for the internet, without any loss of detail or any additional noise.
High-resolution video conferencing
For manufacturers of professional or home video conferencing systems, following the newest technology standards and integrating high-quality video cameras into their solutions is very important. It provides a more realistic experience for the participants, making them feel as if they are in the same room. It also offers a USP and a competitive edge. It could be grandparents watching and interacting with their grandchildren halfway around the world or two business power brokers negotiating in real time. 4K technology is the way to provide the video detail to see expressions on faces or to include a larger audience in the feed both 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 enables their colleagues to 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 enabling the operator to focus their attention on a subject or an object. The compact design of this camera makes it less obtrusive in the working environment, which ensures a more natural conversation between all the parties involved without that feeling of “being watched”.
Improving security and safety with greater detail
Given the violent world we live in, it is becoming increasingly important not only to be able to see threats in real time but also to assess them quickly and react to them appropriately. Older analog NTSC cameras only allow security personnel to identify a potential area of concern. These cameras do not have enough resolution, focus, zoom or quality of video to identify the threat 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 the professionals to assess the situation correctly, recognize and detect the potential threat and respond 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 than can be seen in one image at once. Finally, the low light performance of this block camera makes it ideal for the challenging lighting conditions which are common in the security and surveillance market. It allows security officers to detect and assess risks in a changing lighting environment, for example when the camera is mounted outdoors or in a security hallway with outdoor windows and fluorescent lights where the light levels change throughout the day.
Integrating the video feed provided by the camera into more advanced security software recorders can also improve the detection of imminent hazards and dangers. This specialized software can scan the larger resolution video feed looking for faces of interest, detect abandoned packages, recognize stolen items such as artifacts, statues and paintings, and identify suspicious behavior, for example people moving against the flow in a secured hallway. Once these threats have been assessed by the software, an alarm can be sent to the security team who can validate the event and react accordingly while storing the video evidence from the period before and after the incident occurred.
4K is not just about resolution. When it is combined with high-quality image capture, low noise, state-of-the-art optics and built-in image enhancement algorithms, users are given an improved experience which allows them to become fully immersed and engaged in what they are viewing. The Sony FCB-ER8300 exemplifies this with its high-quality video streams, excellent noise reduction algorithms, high-speed focus and integrated analog and digital zoom capabilities. This makes it the obvious choice for applications of this kind and for anyone who needs reliable, high-quality 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 extend to all aspects of vision, including software and hardware design, image quantification, calibration and processing, optics and lighting.