June 10, 2016 at 11:25AM, Edited June 10, 11:27AM

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Is 4K capture worth it?

As a Student TV/Film Station we are currently looking at an upgrade in cameras. We have identified the GH4 and the BlackMagic pocket cinema camera as two that fit with in our budget and for what we will use it for. However, we are wondering if it's worth spending more for 4K capture. Any recommendations or alternatives are welcome.

17 Comments

The GH4 gives you more than just 4K: it gives you a really, really nice FullHD platform using codecs that are very edit- and post-production friendly. With VLog-L, the Leeming LUT, and Davinci 12.5, you might almost forget you don't have RAW.

The biggest and most obvious reason to shoot 4K is because you want to deliver 4K. If that's not important to you, then the next most obvious reason is for doing punch-ins. If your "Student TV Station" is all about switching between video sources for live broadcast, then 4K will probably cause you a lot more trouble than its worth. If, instead, you shoot content (possibly using multiple cameras) and then cut it in post for later broadcast, then 4K punch-ins can be very nice, especially for interview pieces when you don't know ahead of time precisely when you want to punch in for emphasis. You do lose some color depth shooting in 4K vs. 1080p on the GH4, but it's not terrible. And the GH4 does make a very nice image, especially if you light things well in the first place.

June 10, 2016 at 2:54PM, Edited June 10, 2:54PM

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In my opinion bit depth is far more important than resolution. I would shoot with the Blackmagic Pocket over the GH4 any day.

June 11, 2016 at 12:49PM

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Kenneth Merrill
Director
1466

Bit depth is bigger for me too... And how your camera subsamples it's footage. I wouldn't get anything under 4:2:2

June 14, 2016 at 7:14AM

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Clark McCauley
Spaceman
1843

The GH4 is a much more versetile camera than the BMPCC. The BMPCC is a cine camera only. The GH4 is usable for everything. It's not just the 4K but the camera is great to learn how professional and much more expensive work because it has all the pro features.
Also the GH4 is a shoot-out-of-the-box-camera. You can take it and shoot. But for the BMPCC you need a lot of extra equiptment. I'm talking about five to ten times its price extra. You need about 20 batteries for the BMPCC because one only lasts for 25 minutes. The GH4 batterie lasts for over 3 hours.

June 12, 2016 at 8:49AM

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Eric Halbherr
Director, DP, Editor, Creative Storyteller
1526

Thanks, seems like the GH4 is the way to go

June 12, 2016 at 3:26PM

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Connah Thompson
Deputy Station Manager of Student Media
133

4k is mostly a marketing ploy to get you to "upgrade" it uses the same tactics as the Megapixel Wars. Why would you sell a perfectly good camera or tv?
Mfg are in the business of getting you to sell perfectly good cameras and tvs to buy "upgraded" new products.
World wide movie projecters are very expensive and 2k.
This is unlikely to change.
The public is not clammering for more and at the end of the day is profits, upgrading equipment is no advantage in theaters (meaning to 4k) then in 4k only certain seats benefit from 4k. So, no demand in movie theaters.
At home most streaming services like netflix are 720 even if they say 1080, which is marketing speak that they take 1080 video at the source and then down rez it to 720 to save bandwidth. We are currently not even in a 1080 world except watching bluray, but even there most people are happy with dvd. Watching on tablets and cell phones no advantage.
Take the hyperventelating away, in the near and far future in the real world no matter if you do 4k capture, there is no practical 4k delivery and more importantly no interest from the general public driving the train.
For the filmmaker is added cost and complexity to workflow, the need to buy hard drives and upgrade computers and the slowing of the editing process.
In a nutshell, use what ever you want?

If you are willing to put up with the costs in time and money, nothing wrong with using 4k,
but in delivery there is no advantage now or the foreseeable future.

4k is a moving target as already the mfg are talking about 8k and the beat goes on.
Remember a few years ago 2k? same thing.

June 12, 2016 at 10:40AM, Edited June 12, 10:52AM

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The main idea is to shoot 4K to deliver 1080p, which gives you a wide range of options in post to crop, re-frame, reduce noise, etc...

You also gain much more 1080p color information by down-rezzing, where a 4K 4:2:0 image becomes a 1080p 4:4:4 image. ( both formats store exactly the SAME amount of color information )

The Canon C100 cine cameras are essentially doing this by down-rezzing in-camera, where they capture their image using a 4K sensor but internally process the 4K image to record it in 1080p format. This produces a very high quality recorded image with much more detail than what you would see using a camera with a 1080p sensor. ( 1500 lines of horizontal resolution with the Canon C100 versus 800+ lines of horizontal resolution for a typical 1080p sensor camera )

This is why I always shoot 4K with my Panasonic GH4 camera, but I deliver everything in 1080p format, which gives me that high resolution and color information boost when I down-rez to 1080p format.

June 12, 2016 at 12:05PM, Edited June 12, 12:08PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32136

I must confess, I hadn't considered the possibility of down-rezzing to get a 4:4:4 HD video. I do a lot of green screen work, and this would be amazing.

If you downrez in Premiere, will it convert to 444 color automatically? Or is there a specific transformation that needs to be applied?

Thanks, Guy!!

June 12, 2016 at 2:28PM, Edited June 12, 2:39PM

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4k 4:2:0 image into a 1080p 4:4:4?
I was thinking only a 4k into a 1080p 4:2:2 was possible.

June 13, 2016 at 6:35AM

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>>>If you downrez in Premiere, will it convert to 444 color automatically?

It seems to be CODEC specific which probably has to do with how the CODEC is actually coded. I've had good results using the latest version of the free GoPro Cineform CODEC which is installed when you install the latest free GoPro desktop software. Just configure the Cineform CODEC in Premier to save your 4K camera files to Cineform 1080p 4:4:4 format and you should be good to go.

June 12, 2016 at 9:52PM, Edited June 12, 10:02PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32136

Once you start shooting 4K and realize what a pleasure it is to be able to push in on everything you shoot, it's VERY hard to go back...as long as you're mastering in 1080, which I imagine you are.

We went from Sony ENG camcorders and a BMCC to an FS5 for some of our narrative work and haven't looked back. Team up the GH4 with a Shogun if you need a more pristine codec and you're golden. The internal codec holds up just fine though as long as you're not going crazy with a grade.

I have a GH4 for personal use and have teamed it up with the FS5 and it held up just fine.

June 14, 2016 at 8:12AM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
1180

Frankly I am not sure why this is even a question. Why would anybody not want to record in 4K and beyond?

June 14, 2016 at 10:17AM

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Cary Knoop
Member
1813

>>>4k 4:2:0 image into a 1080p 4:4:4? I was thinking only a 4k into a 1080p 4:2:2 was possible.

Yes, if you check how the chroma information is stored in both 4K 4:2:0 and 1080p 4:4:4 formats you will see that both formats store exactly the SAME amount of chroma information.

I don't buy the "turn 4K 8-bit luma into 1080p 10-bit luma" argument, as I don't think combining luma information from four 4K pixels to create one 1080p luma pixel will give you a real 10-bit luminance range, but it's possible it gives you something more than 8-bit luminance.

June 14, 2016 at 1:03PM, Edited June 14, 1:07PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32136

>>>With the GH4 do you transform your 4 K footage into 10 bit 4:2:2 1080p footage

I don't buy the "turn four 4K 8-bit luminance pixels into one 1080p 10-bit luminance pixels" as I don't think it works out identically to shooting in 10-bit. ( you are averaging the four 8-bit 4K luminance pixels to create one 10-bit 1080p luminance pixel )

With chromanance you are storing exactly the SAME amount of chroma information in both formats, so there's no mathematical interpolation taking place.

So there is a chance you are getting 1080p 9-bit 4:4:4 from the 4K 4:2:0 down-rez, so storing the 1080p information in a 10-bit container could be useful, but I am happy working with just the 1080p 8-bit 4:4:4 result.

>>>so you can edit something with more color information, or do you edit the original 4 K footage, which is internally 4: 2: 0 and once you're done you render to 1080?

I don't worry about this. I normally down-rez my 4K footage to 1080p, and correct the color balance ( NO color grading until the edit is locked ), and process the audio to EQ the sound and reduce ambient audio noise. So I copy my 4K footage from the camera/card to my hard-drive, then export a 1080p "master" from my 4K footage, and I then edit with this "master".

If I examine my 1080p Cineform "master", I can see a lot of the original 4K detail is retained in the 1080p Cineform "master" because it can store the full 1920 pixels of horizontal detail where a camera shooting 1080p will always store much less detail.

Occasionally I will go back to my original 4K footage to re-frame or crop my image to produce a new 1080p "master" to work from, so I always keep my original footage even when the 1080p project is finished.

June 14, 2016 at 1:25PM, Edited June 14, 1:28PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32136

I would edit and master in 4k.
If you want a 1080p copy you always draw it from the 4k master.

June 14, 2016 at 2:50PM

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Cary Knoop
Member
1813

Altho Guy and others you feel an advantage in 4k capture and then down rezzing to 1080p. I am neither agreeing or disagreeing. It most certainly is an option. I seriously doubt that in the way people actually view video even down rezed video that there is no practical advantage. I do think things like lighting and audio make huge contributions, I do think effective story telling makes a huge contribution, but in context of this discussion about if 4k is worth it? I don't see that 4k makes a meaningful contribution in real world viewing. In many ways it is like how dvd was a huge difference over VHS, everybody could see it, but bluray was a small improvement in video and audio and then you had to have the audio and video equipment to see the difference.
So, even if I accept that there is "some improvement? by down rez 4k video to 1080p in streaming services mostly deliver in 720 even if the source material is 1080 or higher.
The major difference in quality is not based on what equipment you have, but instead of how you use the equipment available to you. How effectively you tell a story and with that criteria, it is alot of extra work, extra expense for no appreciable benefit.
This does not mean you should not do 4k capture, but addresses the subject. We all get to do as we please and I can afford 4k capture and post production, but see no true benefit in real world conditions.

June 14, 2016 at 4:44PM

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BTW I do agree about about the advantage 4k has in post for cropping etc esp for us that work as one man bands. It allows to frame wider and then crop for image, do digital dolly moves. That would be my reason for 4k capture.

June 14, 2016 at 4:50PM

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