November 19, 2015

Here's Why You Might Want to Think Twice Before Shooting Your Next Film in 4K

Indie Film Hustle Don't Shoot 4K Podcast
It's time ask yourself a difficult question: do you really need to shoot in 4K?

On his new site, Indie Film Hustle, veteran filmmaker Alex Ferrari is tackling questions like these, questions that pertain more to the scrappy underdog filmmakers out there than the folks with multi-million dollar budgets. And through his podcast, which is booming in popularity these days, Alex is sharing his brash, no-nonsense approach to low-budget filmmaking with the masses.

In a recent episode, he goes after one of the sacred cows of modern digital filmmaking — 4K acquisition — and makes a compelling case for why indie filmmakers should think twice before assuming that 4K is the right choice for their production. Check it out:

Ultimately, the entire point of this episode is to get you thinking about something that might otherwise go unquestioned. Thanks in no small part to tech blogs and the constant, never-ending stream of 4K and high-resolution news, there's a notion out there that 4K is just the way of the world in 2015, and that all filmmakers should be shooting 4K now. In truth, however, we're still far from living in a world where 4K is the absolute standard for shooting, post-producing, and distributing video content. The world is moving in that direction, no doubt, but it's just not there yet.

In the meantime, it's important to ask yourself a few questions in order to determine if 4K is 100% necessary to what you're trying to accomplish. Are you choosing to shoot high-resolution because you're aiming for theatrical distribution, or is it out of some vague notion that 4K acquisition equates to a more professional looking film? Have you taken into account the additional costs of a 4K post-production pipeline? Can that money be put to better use, say by increasing the production design budget? How will your audience consume your film? If the answer is "computer screen," does it really make sense to shoot 4K?

Ultimately, you won't find Alex arguing that resolutions of 4K and higher can't be useful. They absolutely can. However, as independent filmmakers, it's a best practice to work smart and not bite off more than you can chew. If shooting in 4K will cost you more money and slow down your post-pipeline, and then end up in front of an audience who wouldn't be able to tell the difference, does it really make sense?      

Your Comment

55 Comments

This rationale would make perfect sense if we were talking 6K or 8K, but 4K isn't very expensive when considering the cost of a GH4 or any number of cheaper 4K cameras such as the GoPro 4 or the Sony RX10M2. True, maybe the final product will live on a computer screen in 1080p, but you're really going to be glad you were able to reframe shots and do faux camera moves with those extra pixels. I'd shoot 4K 100% of the time and not look back. What it ultimately comes down to is more choices in post and the more choices the better.

November 19, 2015 at 8:38PM

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The extra costs associated with 4k are an issue for lower budget productions because the VFX and colour grading guys generally prefer to handle uncompressed versions of the footage you shoot. And uncompressed 4k is enormous and requires extremely large amounts of fast storage.

If those people have that then they likely have extra costs that they have to account for, which means increased rates.

November 21, 2015 at 6:01AM, Edited November 21, 6:02AM

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Exactly. GH4 4K and even the new A7 4K models sport very conservative file sizes in 8bit. Great stepping stone cameras without getting into RAW, 10bit and massive file sizes.

November 23, 2015 at 9:58AM

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Caleb Pike
Shooter, Educator
262

Its a myth that film is a safe storage format. There are countless examples of degrading films what were stored as well as humanly possible. Star wars was almost lost about 15 years ago before they remastered it and you can bet that was stored as well as possible.

November 19, 2015 at 9:31PM

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I'm relatively new into the film scene, but still makes me wonder how many people wrote articles like this talking about 1080p back when it was young. Also his comment about most people are watching this on iphones/tablets/laptops while true, only 30% have screens larger than 1080p (look it up, not sure NFS policy on links in comments). I say shoot 4k if you have the bandwidth. Even if you don't have the bandwidth you can make proxies. It isn't as expensive as people make it sound. Panasonic g7 $800, get a speedbooster if you so desire or use mft lenses. I bought a t3i 4 years ago and have shot over 30 weddings and 20 commercials. It has definitely paid for itself and it cost me $650.

November 19, 2015 at 10:59PM

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"If shooting in 4K will cost you more money and slow down your post-pipeline, and then end up in front of an audience who wouldn't be able to tell the difference, does it really make sense?"
Did you video shoot in 4k, with a rebel t3i? Or did i miss something?
Say you did with some other devices, that's probably because your audience/clientele know the difference and i'm sure you must've reflected their preference in your charges.

November 22, 2015 at 7:40AM

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Emeka Akwuobi
Filmaker/Editor and other stuff
173

Don't forget the "if" in that statement.

November 22, 2015 at 7:56AM, Edited November 22, 7:56AM

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Emeka Akwuobi
Filmaker/Editor and other stuff
173

I agree. I co-produced a documentary in 2002 (Prisoner of Paradise) and we made the decision to do a standard definition output instead of HD even though the film was shot in High Def. We saved a bunch of money, but I regret it now... The film got an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary but it'll be tough to get the film noticed today because it's in standard def. We could go back to the original elements but it would be a huge time investment.

Better to pay the money up front and have a master that will have a longer shelf life. That being said, don't do it if the extra effort/money/time takes away from your story...

November 27, 2015 at 12:40PM

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David Eberts
Director / Producer
93

I listened and read this article a couple weeks ago. Completely out of touch with the current filmmaking reality. Hard drives are ridiculously inexpensive now-a-days, and a GPU capable of 4k go for as cheap as $500. I am not arguing that anyone needs 4k to make a good film. But in most instances it is not going to break the budget.

November 19, 2015 at 11:05PM

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You don't even need a $200 GPU for 4K. An i7 cpu would serve you much better.

November 20, 2015 at 3:23PM

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A hard drive will only handle compressed forms of 4k which is fine for editing from proxies but not so great when you're at the latter stages of post and require pristine uncompressed versions of the footage.

When you start handling uncompressed forms (like a 10 bit 4k DPX sequences) then you'll need a storage array with a minimum data rate exceeding 1000 MB/s. For reference an average HDD generally does anywhere from 80 - 120MB/s.

That equipment will cost you.

November 21, 2015 at 6:06AM, Edited November 21, 6:09AM

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Resolution is a tool just like the camera itself. It will be different for every job. Use it when you need to use that tool. Don't let someone on the internet tell you what to do, just because they have a beef with the industry or status quo.

November 19, 2015 at 11:28PM

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There are hidden costs and complications shooting with high end cameras like ARRI and RED, also BMD files could fit into that category as it applies to workflow. Having said that, there are different 4ks in the world.. Like someone mentioned even in camera 4k on a gh4 looks incredible and very easy to work with..
The future is here, why not use the tools in front of us?

November 19, 2015 at 11:29PM

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I think bitrate matters more than resolution when it comes to the challenges associated with higher quality footage. I've been editing 90 hours of 4k footage from a gh4 on a relatively modest PC without problems, because the gh4 bitrate is only 100 mbps. I can fit all 90 hours on a hard drive that costs $130. So there isn't a significant added expense in that equation, and having the 4k source footage to work from has given me a lot of freedom in post-production that saves time and money in the long run.

Enormous, raw or prores files are another matter. I could certainly see it being the case that 1080p could be more practical to work with on a Blackmagic Production Camera if your budget is very modest.

November 20, 2015 at 12:10AM

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Philip Heinrich
Director, Producer
926

Hi, Philip.

Could you list the specs of your PC? I'm interested in editing 4k footage, but I'm not sure if my PC can handle it.

Also, what's your preferred NLE?

Thanks.

November 20, 2015 at 12:35PM

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Glenn Bossik
Videographer
500

A nice CPU, like an i7, would serve you well. Hell, I was able to handle 4K on a 3 year old $1000 laptop because of the processor.

November 20, 2015 at 3:24PM

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I'm using Premiere, currently CC but I've used CS6 without problems in the past. I have an i7-2600k 3.4 ghz processor and 16 gb of ram. Running Windows 7 currently. I also use a GTX 590 video card, which helps only if CUDA is enabled in Premiere (for a while I didn't have that ability due to using an older version of Premiere, and I was still fine with the gh4 footage). All that hardware was kind of expensive and near the best when I built the PC in 2011, but from what I can tell you could match the capabilities of such outdated hardware more cheaply now.

For what it's worth, I couldn't play back the video in full resolution in Premiere without a bit of lag, but quarter or half was usually fine and all I needed on a display that is not 4k to begin with...

November 20, 2015 at 4:07PM

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Philip Heinrich
Director, Producer
926

Thanks, Philip.

November 20, 2015 at 4:10PM

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Glenn Bossik
Videographer
500

LinusTechTips built a machine for dramatically speeding up 4K workflow. And it worked. It worked really well. But it will cost some good money for you to do it.

10 minute video gives the details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0qtu5NXhuQ

November 21, 2015 at 7:22PM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
664

At that bit rate 4k is pointless. Even Ultra HD (not DCI spec 4k) bluray discs have a slightly higher bit rate than that. And that's compressed for delivery.

November 21, 2015 at 6:15AM, Edited November 21, 6:18AM

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Although I like having it, it's true that gh4 4k doesn't look great if you're looking at it in its full detail, partly because of the bitrate. I'm essentially treating it like 2k resolution footage with a bit of flexibility.

November 21, 2015 at 7:26PM

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Philip Heinrich
Director, Producer
926

Most of the things said in this podcast are completely out of touch with the times, was this recorded in 2009 when NLE systems were freaking out over Red One footage? When this guy said "you can't tell the difference between 4k and 1080" I'm not sure what that means. It's what is possible with the added 4k resolution and color depth in post that make the difference in the final product, 1080 doesn't give you that edge in many situations. Even down scaled from 4k the image is over-sampled so the clarity is difference is very noticeable. (how does Alex Ferrari not know this owning a post house?). As for the indie filmmaker, (as mentioned in other posts) you have the gh4, black magic 4k, Sony a7II, etc. all incredibly lightweight and scrappy depening on how it's built, it's a pickup and shoot situation with these cameras. We now also have software that allows you to edit with 4k, 5k, even 6k files without transcoding on a tiny Mac Pro laptop with Adobe CC! Resolve color corrects directly onto 4k resolution. I mean I guess the question is how "indie" are we talking here? Like someone who doesn't have a buddy with a GH4 and enough thought in their head to invest in (now standard) software to edit 4k? I'm going to stop here because I'm getting a headache but damn!

November 20, 2015 at 12:18AM

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4K = much better looking 1080P on YouTube.

The way I see it, if your camera and computer can handle it easily, there's no reason not to use it. Unless you're looking at shooting 4K 50 or 60P, which the cheaper cameras can't do yet.

November 20, 2015 at 3:55AM

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Glenn Thomas
Music video director and editor.
69

The developments in digital cameras (incl 4K etc.) are part of an evolution that has been taking place since people starting shooting moving images on B&W around 1878. New developments have always met resistance. (transition from silent movies to "talking" film, introduction of color, etc.).

I am sure that in a few years we'll see an article stating that creating movies using virtual reality tools should really be questioned and people are better off to stick to classical 4K technology.

November 20, 2015 at 4:09AM, Edited November 20, 4:09AM

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Erwin Hartsuiker
CineVideo-NL videographer
484

What nonsense about film being the only way to store movies for up to 150 years? All that after emphasizing how "Tons" of video world wide is not even 2k! Confusing..

November 20, 2015 at 5:03AM

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Virani
Content developer
199

What's confusing? Film is the only way to store content for a long time without having to go back and create a new master. Fincher, who's one of the biggest advocates of digital, has said that he himself has archived music videos in his basement that will never be played because there's simply no hardware support to play legacy media.

November 20, 2015 at 5:26AM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
942

150 years for film? Huh, that's nothing for modern tech like M-DISC (aka stone disc) which is good for archiving on 100 GB Blu-rays for up to 1,000 years. http://www.mdisc.com

November 20, 2015 at 5:17AM

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Razor
VFX Colorist
502

Interesting tech. Thanks for posting the link.

November 20, 2015 at 9:13AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32551

I don't want to offend anyone but this just looks like more procrastination to me. I watched The Look of Silence the other day on DVD, so standard definition, and it was still a billion times better as a film than the annual super hero crap getting churned out of hollywood. Things change, tech changes etc etc and we've only lived in a fully consumer society for about 60 years so we'll see a lot more things changes and always faster and designed to make you spend your cash.

Really we need to be pulling in favours, writing ideas down on paper, spending money on actors or contributors depending on what you're doing, and making films if that is your art form. It's important to consider the tech you want/need but it should take up a tiny percentage of time compared to the rest of it.

November 20, 2015 at 5:39AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
600

I'm staggered at how some people seem to have missed the point here. Yes, the cameras themselves are not THAT expensive, it's the increased expense that goes along with those large files farther down the line. And the article is headlined "why you might want to think twice" - not "shouldn't." Yes, you do get the option to reframe and do pseudo-movement, and those are powerful options, but equally (and I'm not including camera money here, just data processing money) you could shoot 2K or even 12-bit 1080p and you will save n awful lot of money on purchasing cards, drives, DIT time and equipment, Masters storage and backups, post house processing time etc... That money could easily pay for extra shoot time or more edit days or more time in the grade or maybe a professional composer or better/more lenses for the shoot or VFX to tidy up shots etc... Now this may have all been budgeted for, or maybe you'd rather forgo those options for 4K and the flexibility it brings, and that's a perfectly valid decision, but the point the podcast makes is speak to a post supervisor and get all the info needed to make that decision sensibly. The idea that just because a 4K camera is within your budget it by default becomes the best choice to shoot on is crazy.

November 20, 2015 at 5:56AM

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Evan Crichton
Editor
82

The reason the podcast advice doesn't make sense for indie filmmakers is because we have to do everything, most of us can't hire anyone to help. We are our own post house/vfx/colorist/editor and with a decent iMac working with 4K is not an issue.

This podcast should be changed to why you shouldn't shoot raw instead of 4K, as most of his advice is based on file size/bit rate of raw/prores 4K cameras like blackmagic and red.

Doing VFX in 4K is usually easier than 1080P because you have more info, not sure why any VFX artist would hate you for it? It may increase rendering time a bit but that's part of the job isn't it?

If your shooting any feature film today, 4K should be heavily considered for future proofing purposes. The first 4K bluray is coming in a few months, within 3 years most Americans will upgrade automatically when they need a new TV.

Since you're probably not shooting on film with the ability to rescan at 4K and up, using at least a DCI 4K camera is your best bet at the film looking good in 5 years. Though is 10 years it will look like crap if you didn't shoot film.

November 20, 2015 at 7:40AM

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The extra cost of shooting 4K footage is highly dependent on the camera and the media you shoot with. Shooting 4K ( or higher res ) with a RED camera can be expensive, but if you look at alternative 4K cameras it's not a big deal.

I shoot 4K with a Panasonic GH4, where recording 5 hours of 4K footage costs me $100 US for two Lexar 128GB SDXC 600x cards. ( two 1000x cards cost $130 )

A 6TB SATA hard drive currently costs $230 US, so again it's pretty low cost to store 4K work-files when editing.

If you don't shoot with a RED camera then 4K production is not that big of a deal.

November 20, 2015 at 9:20AM, Edited November 20, 9:21AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32551

Everyone has an opinion on cameras these days, but in my experience (on shorts at least) you should absolutely get the most bang for your production buck, especially when the object is to make yourself stand out from the pack by shooting a film that's supposed to professional.

I shot a film last year on my plain old Canon t3i at 1080p and it looked just fine. This past month I hired a small local outfit with a RED to shoot my new project, and the difference in image quality cannot be overstated. We shot eight pages of script in a single twelve-hour day and every single frame of it looks amazing. I'm not all that much of a technical guy, but I can tell all budding filmmakers out there that 4k and above are definitely the way to go.

Several hours of R3D files at that resolution took up less than half of a Western Digital one-terabyte drive that I bought at Staples for $60, and I'm now doing all of the editing/post on this film by myself on a two year-old Lenovo laptop with a standard GPU and a month-to-month subscription to Adobe Premiere Pro CC. So far, so good. The democratization of filmmaking in action.

Ferrari's larger point--that "camera porn" and the fetishization of gear above all other considerations--is absolutely correct. Just as you can't make a good film from a bad script, you can't make bad acting or clunky dialogue better by shooting them with a high-end camera, and it's all a complete waste if you're not willing (or able) to put in the time and effort necessary to maximize the capabilities that such a piece of gear offers you. The onus on the indie filmmaker to be the jack of all trades is understandable given our lack of money and a dearth of competent, available, interested collaborators, but we do ourselves a great service by recognizing that we can't possibly master all of the necessary skills to make a good film on our own, no matter how hard we work at it. But we do have to recognize what really counts in filmmaking--a good story that's told in such a way that it's not undermined by an obvious lack of technical skill or attention to basic detail.

Your camera is merely a means to an end. I spent a year and a half writing the feature film script on which my current short is based and I know that I'm still not done polishing it yet. But I took the time to find a couple of good actors who understood the scene and what was at stake, while trusting that a couple thousand dollars for a good camera and a crew who knew their stuff would be money well spent.

You have to work from the inside out (story and the actors to bring it to life) instead of the outside in (a ridiculously high-end camera that you can barely turn on, used to film your two non-actor buddies improv'ing a scene in your mom's kitchen that you hope will go viral on YouTube and have everyone in Hollywood picking up the phone.)

Archiving and preservation are a different story, but there are plenty of ways to keep your work viably extant in the coming decades. For now, I think that most of us just want to shoot something that we can be proud of and that gets us some attention. Leave the concerns about AFI lifetime tributes to the future.

November 20, 2015 at 6:11AM

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There are tons of benefits to shooting 4K, this guy is kind of silly. It's about during production. You get more freedom with 4K.

November 20, 2015 at 10:24AM

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Darren Orange
Director/Producer
146

It is kind of funny that the title reads "Why filmmakers should not shoot 4k" but then he talks about all the recent projects he has worked on in 6k lol.

November 20, 2015 at 11:59AM

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In reality only 1.5% of all viewing is done on phones, and that number is not really growing. If you look at feature films, the number goes down to near zero. This is an annoying, persistent urban myth. Look at it this way, who do you know who watches feature films on their phone?

November 20, 2015 at 12:18PM

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Robert Ruffo
Director/DP
275

Ok this guy clearly knows his stuff and I pretty much agree with what he is saying for the most part. Yes story is everything as is the acting... if you don't have either of those then yes what the point of shooting it at 4k, 6k or 8k! But I brought an old RED One MX not because it was 4k but because it was a seriously well sorted, tried and tested tool designed to get as close to traditional cinema 'film' as possible.
So what am I saying? It is nothing to do with the 4k aspect it is to do with the colour science, dynamic range bit rate etc. that the camera uses. It's these things that make a camera stand out from the competition.
Kodak worked out many years ago that to scan film to digitise the image you only needed 2k of resolution to get the same quality of a 35mm projection.
Having RED made me up my game of filmmaking, it made me shoot a scene as if I were using a 35mm film camera. RED needs to be lit properly to get good images, unlike my Sony FS100 where you can shoot in ridiculously low light and still get a reasonable image.
So from a filmmakers point of view, correct you don't need 4k! BUT shooting on top end cameras CAN help you improve your cinematography skills which in turn can help in your storytelling..... If your really into owning kit to go and make movies, buy the best camera you can afford and don't worry about it!

November 20, 2015 at 12:20PM

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Gary Rogers
Director of Photography
8

Actually, according to Kodak you need to scan film at least at 3K and downscale in order to get a good looking 2K image with good dennsity and without grain aliasing. Same with shooting digital 4K for 1080p.

November 20, 2015 at 6:36PM

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Ezi Seel
513

Gh4 4K @ 100mbit = 1080 @ 25mbit or AVCHD. thats the math once you work it out. the compression of 4K @ 100mbit is pretty hard on the image. when its all said and done, and you shrink it to 1080, it looks like good 1080 - sharp, reasonably clean. in which case I'd rather deal with 1080 @ 100-200mbits from a C series camera. That said, even 4K @ 410mbit is not a big deal to work with, drive space is cheap enough. The cost of 4K in ProRes or h.264 iFrame might be a couple hundred dollars when its all said and done for the extra drive space. So its really not a budget concern. You will need a reasonably modern computer to edit it easily but thats something you probably already have.

I'll also add I have a 4K monitor and you CAN see the difference. I also have watched a lot of 4K originated material in projection and again.. you CAN see the difference. So if you want sharp, 4K does make sense. 6K or 8K, not so much.

As for compression, h.265 is the answer. Its just getting going for delivery.

I suppose the more interesting point of film for long term archival purposes is more interesting. typical 500 ISO stock used for shooting is barely 1080/ 2K res, but a fine grain 100 or 50 ISO stock used in a lab for printing should have a 4K-ish res on a good day with everything going right. However, before you need to worry about that you need to make a film that will have enough success and interest that such an archival format will even be a consideration.. and the cost won't be an issue.

November 20, 2015 at 12:29PM, Edited November 20, 12:29PM

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Steve Oakley
DP • Audio Mixer • Colorist • VFX Artist
483

Archiving on film is only marginally safer than digital right now, and that gap is rapidly closing. No one with a brain is going to store their film on one drive in one location, they are going to store them in multiple professional data centers that have secure redundancy of data and constant maintenance of their systems. And natural disasters can destroy film archives just like they can destroy data centers. There is *no* 100% safe option.

November 20, 2015 at 1:40PM

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Shooting 4k and downscaling to 1080p during post is the way to go, I think. That's my workflow with the GH4 and I'll probably keep working like this for the next few years.

November 20, 2015 at 2:27PM

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Alexandra
Videographer / Documentary Filmmaker
378

I don't feel the need to take advice from someone that thinks 4k is an "aspect ratio" (as quoted at 2m55s into the podcast). Hard drives are dirt cheap and any macbook pro post 2014 can handle 4k with little to no issue. The argument that 4k isn't worth it but 2k is? Come on? That's the same argument as saying 720p is just as good as 480p ten years ago... Not trying to troll, but a lot of this guys points hold little validity.

November 20, 2015 at 8:14PM, Edited November 20, 8:14PM

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He means shooting at 16:9 4K or 6K as apposed to shooting at 2:35 2K which some camera do.

November 20, 2015 at 10:46PM

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This argument is so two years ago.

People are not stupid. They can see the difference. Never treat your audience like they are stupid. Never underestimate them.

Shouldn't we all be starting to use this argument about 8K? 8K is not that far off. And its file sizes are going to be unbelievable. 4K file sizes are going to look like the little slide on the playground, that looked so big to you when you were little, after 8K comes out.

And also the argument, that some people use, about how far away you have to be from the screen to see any difference between 1080p and 4K, is a weak argument. The distance thingy is talking about seeing the difference at MAXIMUM LEVEL. You can be three feet away and still see the difference between 1080p and 4K. You just have to be 25 feet away, or 50 feet away, or whatever amount of feet the argument says away, to see the difference at its maximum.

November 21, 2015 at 12:57AM, Edited November 21, 1:25AM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
664

I think he's right. I'd add...

1. You'll likely want your backgrounds to be a bit – or a lot – out of focus anyhows,

2. Being able to see all the skin imperfections is really distracting. You don't study someone's face in that much detail in real life do you?

3. At higher resolutions it's more difficult to hide stuff, like shortcomings in the set.

5. The HUGE amount of data... (yeah, he already said that)

6. If you're talking about future-proofing, forget 4k and worry about REC2020. That really will make your current format obsolete.

7. All this tech-porn just gets in the way of getting the film made. Just do it.

November 21, 2015 at 7:47AM

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Karel Bata
Director / DP / Stereographer
414

I'm sorry to tell you that marketwise wether you want it or not, 4K is the only word distributors have in their mouth when talking to them. If your film is aimed to be future proof, then 4K is the only way to go if you want to be sold. It's not a matter of technical issues but selling point. Not having a famous cast in a small budget film is already a bullet in your foot these days, adding a 2K resolution may just turn off your buyers...

November 21, 2015 at 9:29AM

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Manu Sapo
Director
27

What LinusTechTips did to radically speed up 4K work flow. It will cost some money to build this.

Read and Write config was of utmost importance:

10 minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0qtu5NXhuQ

November 21, 2015 at 11:41AM, Edited November 21, 12:09PM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
664

This really doesn't make much sense. By all means do post and VFX in 1080p or 2K if it makes your workflow affordable.

But these days there's simply no reason not to SHOOT (i.e. acquire) in 4K.

Stills photographers have known for years that an oversampled image looks better when downscaled to the deliverable output size. Shooting for the web, my original 3.1 megapixel Canon D30 ought to have been more high enough resolution. But the results look much better from a megapixel monster downscaled.

To my eyes that's even true when you factor in bit-rate. I think 100 mbs 4K downsampled (carefully) to HD often looks better than 100 mbs HD downsampled in camera. Depending on the camera. I gather the Canon C's do a good job of this, but don't get the benefits of 10 bit 4:4:4 colour which is what you get when you downsample 4K to 2K correctly. Sure, it's lossy compression, but one can usually see the difference.

Essentially all modern cameras are oversampling like crazy on the sensor if the final output is going to be HD, so why throw so much of that information away before you have to?

Shooting HD is a high risk strategy for HD delivery, because you've got nowhere to go. If you end up with a boom mic peeking into frame in 4K- it's an instant fix to zoom in and crop it out, with negligible impact on visual quality. If you'd shot that in HD it is a bigger deal to fix.

It's not a panacea; you still need to be careful when you shoot. The hype about using it to punch in so you got a medium shot and a closeup at the same time is mostly bull. But giving you enough space to do a subtle bit of reframing or rescue? Why wouldn't you take it, given that the downsampled 4K at HD deliverable looks BETTER than the HD shooting option?

Delivering in 4K is a different matter, there doesn't yet seem to be a pressing need for that and the demands on VFX pipeline etc are nasty. Which is why even Hollywood is mostly sticking with 2K for delivery.

But shooting in 4K and keeping your masters in 4K ready for the final render and downsample to 2K for maximum quality? I just don't see any reason not to, if your camera is capable of it. And I wouldn't buy a video camera which isn't capable of it, today.

Oh and if you've bought a RED and you're now bellyaching about the data rates, frankly you should have done your homework! But even so, I've been shooting on a RED for over three years. I've got a row of Synology RAIDs with expansion boxes. A new 4 TB hard drive cost buttons compared with the costs of a shoot day and the whole data storage including backups is still dramatically less than the cost of the camera was. It's just a non-issue.

November 23, 2015 at 5:05AM, Edited November 23, 5:07AM

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Hywel Phillips
Director / Cinematographer
185

Or you shoot on a GH4/A7sII and you'll be fine.

November 23, 2015 at 9:56AM, Edited November 23, 9:56AM

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Caleb Pike
Shooter, Educator
262

For those who believe that a main reason to shoot 4K is having more to choose from when cropping, then I believe that this is a sad approach to professional cinematography.

I am old school. I believe in setting up shots and lighting them. That is why your client or producer is paying you. For cropping a 4K master shot to make further choices… it is just lazy and unprofessional… something my grandmother can do with minimal instruction. For “run & gun & grab shooting” for low budget projects…only if you must. Otherwise be a pro and shoot it as a pro.

And before you say, “But…!”… Compare a cropped 4K shot in look and cinematography aesthetics to an actual medium shot and close-up shot. No contest. Keep the 4K crop-in for emergencies and not for common practice. That’s what they’re paying you for.

Happy shooting!

Bruce M.
Videographer

November 23, 2015 at 4:36PM

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Bruce Mermelstein
Vidographer
88

I'm 16 and shot a concert in 4k about two months ago with about 10GB/minute. Wasn't a massive dip in the budget and it looks a million times better.

November 26, 2015 at 11:57PM

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Clark McCauley
Spaceman
2066

I think Brett is absolutely right. I shoot in 4K and downsample to 1080 on the timeline and my final 1080 render looks SO much better than what it would look like if I had shot at 1080 in the first place. Combining those pixels makes better colors for post and much less softness. I don't have to worry about large file problems in post and I get an image that's gorgeous. Shooting 1080 on cameras that have large, high pixel count sensors use pixel binning and line skipping that make for a lousy image, in my opinion. And I don't want to hear that Hu**but copout about how "cinematic" it looks.
Plus I like the secure feeling of "future proofing" because you can't go the other way if you want to later down the road. It's no-brainer insurance.

November 27, 2015 at 3:18PM

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Joseph Lippencott
Instrument Designer/Fabricator
81

What he says about RED is just wrong. You don't need a RED Rocket card anymore...unless he's working on a 5 year old system. Here's a cut and paste when this article was posted in a local film page a few weeks ago: RED can actually be *easier* to work with (without a Red Rocket/Red Rocket X) than some other RAW formats... Like CinemaDNG is almost a TB of data for an hour of 2.5k footage...RED at 4.5k 7.5:1 ratio (the older Red One MX REDCODE 42---the newer REDRAW is not that much more data, especially if you go with something sensible like 6:1 or 7:1) is only about 200GB for that same hour (and 4.5k instead of 2.5k!)...so be sure to get the facts straight in this article about the horrible waste of drive space 4k is compared to 2k). It's actually almost a 5th the size of an "economic" "cinema" camera like the Blackmagic. So renting a RED *may* cost a little more (most of the time, not really, since they're everywhere)...but for a feature or anything getting into lots of footage...it quickly becomes cheaper (and easier to work with b/c there is less data to wrangle.)

Don't get me started on the fact shooting on something bigger just gives you more longevity. Look at something like...The Twilight Zone (i'm talking about the original show from the late 50's early 60's!) Since it was on 35mm...it looks AWESOME on bluray today. Compare that to Barney Miller, a show 20 years younger... It looks like sh-t! It was videotape. Any feature worth shooting is worth lasting another year or two after it's shot...it probably will take that long to even get released (if you're so lucky)... So, IMO, it makes sense to think "ahead" to 4k...(if that is even "ahead" at this point...I argue that it's not---even for low budget). The problem with video, and D-SLR and a lot of digital formats is that you are shooting at the quality of the release IN IT'S TIME, whereas professional formats try to excede the broadcast data rates and color space... You master with more, and encode to something more compressed. There are plenty of reasons to shoot more pixels too even if you know you want just a 2k release. This article sounds like bs to me. Those arguments were being made 2-3 years ago, and there was some validity then...but as Apple and Sony (I'm talking about tv and computers screens...the hardware for consumers) are all heading 4k and above...when consumer products are 4k and above, with craptastic YouTube already being available with 4k...it makes these arguments against 4k almost irrelevant.

November 27, 2015 at 4:57PM

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Daniel Mimura
DP, cam op, steadicam op
2119

Depends what you're doing. All this impressive 4K test footage is often shot at small apertures and has a huge DOF. Fine if you're doing a scenic doco. But if you're doing narrative work, a lot of the time you're on a face and the background is soft. You don't need that much resolution on a face and the other 75% of the frame is soft anyway.

November 27, 2015 at 6:29PM

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Interesting and until recently I felt the same, but 4K TVs are becoming more prevalent and though broadcast is only 720 (HD) satellite and cable are making the jump soon. So it's about being future proof. But already with faster streaming 4K is available for web viewing.
Though I love the cinema films are now watched more often on a small screen.

Another important thing is shooting 6k on a red dragon for example, allows you to over frame a shot and then crop in. Meaning a well devised mid wide can give you alternatives on many other frames. Only one other angle set up may then be required (again allowing multiple framed reverse or side shots) speeding up a shoot alternatively you can frame wide and digitally track a subject as a cropped mid or close up. Thus having an expensive camera requiring a more expensive edit suite (hardware) could save money on a big shoot, in time and grip equipment.
For most hobbyists and budget pros it is probably still an unnecessary luxury, if you do go for it I'd say only do so if you can also afford full frame. I've argued in the past that with higher resolution is full frame such a biggie, but recent experience would say it is. You just get that look.

December 10, 2015 at 4:00AM

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Doug kirby
Producer Director
1

the real question is, what can you handle?

http://web.forret.com/tools/video_fps.asp?width=4096&height=2160&fps=24&...

calculate by youself what can you handle in this page.

December 21, 2015 at 3:45AM

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Hi Robert

I know this is somewhat an old post now but still hugely relevant so thanks for that. I am too looking for a camera to work with and have been in the throws of 2K, 2.5K and 4K.

So I have been swapping and changing between a second hand RED or BlackMagic Cinema PC and also the URSA. This will probably be just a hobby, but my education has always taken me down the use of good cameras and usually broadcast, so I am being quite picky and taking my time. I find the BMPC small and also the Red as it has missing and hidden things I am used to, like on the URSA there is the big screen so saving cash there, swap cards, good levels and full size XLR etc. All saving on those pesky extras you have to buy.

Any advice I am lost as I see BM as good quality and so forth. Would appreciate it. :)

Jonathan

December 5, 2016 at 4:52PM

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Jonathan Jarzembowski
Slightly Crazy Man Maybe
8