Is it time to go 4k?

Roy Leon

New member
Whether you are considering your options for you next TV Commercial, Music Video, or Corporate video you owe it to yourself to explore the 4k camera options. Everyone would like the best quality. However, budgets can limit it. Many might be surprised to find out the cost that goes with the 4k cameras is not that prohibitive. It is definitely true, especially now with newer, better, and less expensive cameras coming on the market. A warning, just because you have one of the 4k cameras, it does not mean the final product is going to be substantially better. Lenses, lighting, and your camera operator all determine the quality of the final piece. You must have the proper gear and crew to realize the quality increase. With that said, here are some benefits to going with a 4k camera.

First, what is 4k? The actual term is Ultra High Definition (Ultra HD) as oppose to just High Definition (HD). A typical HD Camera shoots in 1920 X 1080 pixels (or close to it). The Red Scarlet, a popular Ultra HD camera, shoots in 4096 x 2160 pixels. To sum it up, an Ultra HD Camera gives you 4 times the pixel output of an HD Camera, which means it is far more detailed and produces a sharper image. As another point of reference, the now almost completely irrelevant Standard Definition (SD) Cameras shoot at a resolution of 720 X 480 pixels.

Plainly put, Ultra HD is better than regular HD, much like HD was better than SD. This makes it easier to conclude that you will see major quality improvements. Here are other reasons to consider 4k:

Future proofing your content – The future is here with Ultra HD TVs already on the market. They are currently a little pricy, but you can expect prices to come down and more options to come on the market. Ultra HD players are currently being developed (no standard like Blu-ray), while YouTube and Netflix are already capable of streaming Ultra HD content. Expect broadcaster to follow suit. Even 4k smart phones are being developed like the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Reframing – Since most of the final video projects get down converted to HD, you'll have a greater ability to zoom in, crop, and manipulate your footage without degrading the quality. If you want the final video in 4k, you lose the value of this method, unless you are shooting with a camera that has a resolution equal to or greater than 5k.

Color Grading Made Easier – When cameras record highly compressed images in camera that often comes with the drawbacks of clipped highlights, crushed shadows and what is considered a "baked-in" look. Once the footage gets to post production, this can mean big problems. With 4k+ RAW files, you can make your own color choices from the source data, instead of trying to change colors that are baked into a .mov file. This can lead to much better results.

Green Screen Keying - With four times the data, your keying software should have an easier time differentiating the green pixels you want to key from the precise edge of the talent. It also makes mismatches between background and subject more obvious and motion tracking easier. There's a reason why chroma key shots are often done with UHD or higher cameras even if the rest of a movie is captured on a different (lower resolution) format.

There are more benefits I can bring up about 4k, but there are also some negatives such as price, storage, and the need to upgrade equipment to support it. Capacity and processing speed has doubled approximately every two years since the publication of Moore’s Law in 1965, some argue that it doubles faster. This means that technologies will always chase each other and that a data stream that may seem very difficult to handle today may be a smooth, simple process tomorrow. Overall, if you want to give your video, movie, or commercial a longer shelf life or you just want to keep up with the quality output of your competitors, then waiting to upgrade is not an option.

San Diego Ultra HD Production
Las Vegas Ultra HD Production
 

Videvo

New member
It's not quite time to go 4K yet. But if you have spare money, you might as well get into the scene early.
 

Tim Kolb

New member
It's not really all that "early"...

And...a small but important point, 4096x2160 is DCI 4K...3840x2160 is UltraHD (1920x2 by 1080x2). In Digital Cinema circles it matters, much like HD vs 2K.

The other distinction that gets lost in this discussion often is that 4K or UHD frame size is a separate issue from 'raw' sensor data. With several formats supporting 4K frame sizes now...ProRes, XAVC, etc...many shooters are acquiring a flattened image in the field for faster post production. Like HD (which has had options for shooting raw for a decade), most acquisition of UHD video will not be raw as it's adopted as a standard for simple efficiency reasons...corporate videos and local commercials, etc simply don't have the budget to allow for the extra workflow steps.

As far as shooting UltraHD is concerned, with any format I think that once you can buy a handycam that does it, it's mainstream. NAB 2014 showed a wide variety of cameras that record 4K or UHD frame sizes...in some cases for less than $5,000 USD.

In 2006, 4K was 'coming'.

In mid-2014, it's here.
 

Tim Kolb

New member
It's not really all that "early"...

And...a small but important point, 4096x2160 is DCI 4K...3840x2160 is UltraHD (1920x2 by 1080x2). In Digital Cinema circles it matters, much like HD vs 2K.

The other distinction that gets lost in this discussion often is that 4K or UHD frame size is a separate issue from 'raw' sensor data. With several formats supporting 4K frame sizes now...ProRes, XAVC, etc...many shooters are acquiring a flattened image in the field for faster post production. Like HD (which has had options for shooting raw for a decade), most acquisition of UHD video will not be raw as it's adopted as a standard for simple efficiency reasons...corporate videos and local commercials, etc simply don't have the budget to allow for the extra workflow steps.

As far as shooting UltraHD is concerned, with any format I think that once you can buy a handycam that does it, it's mainstream. NAB 2014 showed a wide variety of cameras that record 4K or UHD frame sizes...in some cases for less than $5,000 USD.

In 2006, 4K was 'coming'.

In mid-2014, it's here.
 
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