BBC’s Green Light for DSLRs Is On Hold

Posted on Sep 3, 2010 by Alex Fice

The Road To Coronation Street airs September 16Following our story on the use of the Canon 5D Mk2 on a BBC drama – transmitted on September 16, 9.00pm BBC 4 – we got a call from the BBC Technology department today asking us to emphasize that DSLRs were not on the approved camera list for the BBC but were being looked at for use on a ‘case by case’ basis.

Ian Potts who is an Executive Producer at the BBC and part of the approval process explained the BBC’s approach to these new cameras: “Cameras like the 5D and the 7D are going through our R&D departments and our simulations but at the moment they are not cleared for use mainly because of their aliasing issues. Moire patterns are also a concern but these aren’t new and cameras like the Arri D20 and D21 also show them. But the fact that the 5D produces a 22 megapixel image then brings that down to 2 for video without the necessary processing and filtering does concern us but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

“The images are very clean from the programme and it has passed our ‘tech test’. I’m just about to see it and will probably give it my approval as well. But it still has to go through our transmission chain and might not make it on to our HD channel.

“We are very interested in this camera and have taken the view to approach all requests to use the Canon DSLR’s on a case by case basis which means production have to send in camera tests without any grading and post route tests with grading. If we then felt the picture quality met the required HD standards we might agree to allowing the DSLR as the prime camera. This is how we approached ‘Coronation St’ and it was very touch and go as the early tests revealed unacceptable aliasing, but after much bouncing back of SR tapes between Manchester and TVC which ran into the first days of the shoot we found a camera setting that seemed to work. On this basis we gave them approval to use the 5D but reserved the right not to show the film on the HD channel if it fell short of BBC HD’s standards.

“To confirm the show has passed tech review and will tx on the 16th Sept 21.00 BBC 4 & BBC HD”.

There was a screening of the programme at BAFTA in London last night and a Q&A with the production team followed. All were pleased with the look but as the projection was from an uncompressed master judgement will be reserved until the TX date. Interestingly when Ian mentioned to the producer of the show that the camera wasn’t yet approved she was quite shocked.

Ian went on to say that at the moment the BBC is in the process of a massive tendering project to approve new HD cameras for use at the corporation and anything less than 50mb/s data rate is being looked at unfavourably. Results from the tender should be published next month.


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