November 3, 2015 at 8:33AM


Why Indie Filmmakers Should NOT Shoot 4K!

An issue I see come up again and again is indie filmmakers shooting a format that they can’t handle in production, post production or in delivery. Currently the big buzz word is UHD (Ultra High Definition).

Now shooting 4K in todays world is a bit different. It cost much more than you’d expect once you factor in all the things you’ll be dealing with down the pipeline.

Don’t make your filmmaking process more difficult than it has to be. In this episode I go over a ton of info on why you shouldn’t shoot 4K if you’re an indie filmmaker. Happy Shooting!

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I think this is a MUCH smaller issue than you are making it out to be. Sure if you shoot with a RED camera and have to shoot with official RED media, then yes you are going to have to deal with the additional media costs when shooting 4K, but this is largely a RED issue, as 4K recording is a LOT cheaper when shooting with non-RED cameras.

For example a Samsung 1TB 850 PRO SSD, which can be used by several 4K recorders currently costs only $500, and will likely drop to HALF this price in less than 2 years from now.

The same thing is happening with traditional SATA hard-drives, where you can purchase a 6TB Western Digital SATA drive for about $230, and I expect this drive will be $130 in about 2 years time.

You do need a fairly powerful desktop computer and video card to process and edit 4K footage, but pretty much any mid-level PC gaming computer can handle this.

There are far too many advantages to shooting in 4K ( especially if you're shooting with a more affordable camera than a RED ) right now, that it would be foolish to avoid 4K unless you are working on a student's budget. ( which is usually next to no money at all )

November 3, 2015 at 10:28AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Yeah if you have a laptop with 4 GB of RAM and 256 GB harddrive you might have a point...
I am an indie film maker and 4K was great in post production for reframing some of my shots, and any interview I've done in 4K is basically a close up and medium shot in one clip. I don't see where your coming from at all man, the times are changing, why refuse to adapt? It's pretty much mainstream now, even phones shoot UHD now and it gives you more options in post production, what really do you have to lose?

November 3, 2015 at 12:15PM

Graham Uhelski
Director of Photography/Video Editor

I still don't understand the benefits to 4k. The detail gain is negligible to the average person and it just adds more tech hassles. And I'm not sold on it being used to reframe shots. That strikes me more as lazy than practical. It always looks worse than if you had just set up another shot, and never looks like you shot it with another focal length. It just looks cropped in to save yourself time, which, frankly, is what it is.

November 4, 2015 at 6:12AM

Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer

I disagree with you completely. Reframing isn't lazy. It's having two cameras in one. I don't reframe because I messed up my shot. I reframe because I encountered a place in an interview where a close up would be more effective than the medium shot I got.

November 5, 2015 at 12:05PM

Videographer / Documentary Filmmaker

It all boils down to personal style and preference.

November 9, 2015 at 10:47PM

Lorenzo Ducai

>>>I still don't understand the benefits to 4k.

1- It means NO moire with many 4K cameras

I once had to do a reshoot for a national bank because of moire on a VP's jacket. It meant coming back and shooting for FREE, and eating all expenses in order to retain the client.

2- Detail gain is significant when editing. You can re-frame a shot, where you have two people on camera, and then punch-in to a cropped shot of either person alone, and in the finished 1080 footage there is virtually no difference between the full shot and the punch-in shot. You may see a little difference if you are looking for it, but to the average person the difference is invisible.

>>>The detail gain is negligible

Actually it's not. Most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras will only resolve about 700-800 lines when shooting in 1080 HD mode, but 4K cameras can resolve 1500 - 1600 lines when shooting in 4K mode. So there is a significant difference in terms of recorded detail between 1080 HD and 4K shots.

The first thing you will notice when editing your first 4K footage is how much harder it is to get sharp focus compared to 1080 HD footage. With 4K you can tell if you focused on somebody's ears instead of their eyes, where you might get away with this with 1080 HD footage.

>>>And I'm not sold on it being used to reframe shots. That strikes me more as lazy than practical.

It gives you another option to work with, and helps when you have limited time to complete a shoot. With some of the corporate work I do I have 30 minutes to light and shoot a 10 minute interview. So anything I can do to simplify my process is a big help.

>>>It always looks worse than if you had just set up another shot, and never looks like you shot it with another focal length.

Sometimes punching in for a tighter crop creates a different look, especially if you frame you main shot wide with the intention of punching-in for a tight shot using the same footage. So in the wide shot you can have your subject on one side of the frame with lots of background, and in the tight shot you can have them centered with most of the background cropped out. Visually it does look quite different when you cut between these two shots.

November 4, 2015 at 9:31AM, Edited November 4, 9:38AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

For my current project I've contained about 90 hours of 4k footage from the gh4 on a single 2 tb hard drive that cost $130. (Actually two for redundancy, but still that ran me $260 in total). It's a documentary, so I love having the extra resolution to zoom/crop a bit here and there, or stabilize slightly bumpy hand-held work where I was capturing something as it happened. I'm finishing in 2k, but having the extra resolution in editing has been invaluable. Shooting in 4k hasn't really cost a significant amount of extra money, and it has improved the quality of the result greatly in my case.

Granted, I have an okay desktop for editing, so I can handle the gh4's 100 mbps footage. When I've edited Red Epic footage, my PC can lag a little at times; it certainly depends what kind of footage we're talking about. The workflow for 4k raw files from a Red Epic is going to be cost-prohibitive and logistically problematic for many low-budget indie filmmakers.

November 4, 2015 at 10:38PM, Edited November 4, 10:40PM

Philip Heinrich
Director, Producer

Shooting 4k now is extremely efficient with the gh4, XAVC codec etc etc. I would warn however against redcode/raw 4k or prores 422/4444 4K and so forth as those bitrates can get dangerously high... but other than that shooting 4k now is really not a problem at all.

November 5, 2015 at 10:13AM

Matt Nunn

Everyone should be shooting the highest quality possible, this article is not really well backed up with real world facts. Most cameras are rentable for a great day rate and if your budget is low there is still a great camera for you. Also most decent computer systems can handle at least 4K (obviously, depending on color space), wether you are working in full quality or not.

November 5, 2015 at 3:46PM

Alex Gans

It all depends on the project you're working on & how much time/money do you want to spend. Being indie or pro doesn't matter much.

November 6, 2015 at 5:15AM

Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist

With 4K recording becoming the norm in most low end camera systems such as the GH4, A7S/R, and NX1, and those being more affordable to indie filmmakers than higher cinema cameras, its pretty much a wash.

November 6, 2015 at 5:19AM

Nicholas Ortiz

I think we should go for 4K, it is the trend to stay as with HD (720) to FHD (1080) few years ago. It is all about affordability (hardware / time / money) and willingness. Once in to it will definitely stick one in for ever. I have not yet shot any 4K as I have no project of that scale right now. But I am looking for one... Technology is still in its infant when it comes to indie filmmaking level, but not for long... Please correct me if I am wrong...

November 6, 2015 at 6:28AM

Dibyendu Joardar
Director of Photography

Well I am not friend to 4k as a video delivery system and see no advantages at all and some significant disadvantages that many discussions on forum have spelled out including archeiving, cost, complexity, computers and the list goes on and on.

At the same time to effectively capture in 4k and use it in post for digital panning, dolly moves, re-framing as Guy McLoughlin and others have pointed out is pretty exciting. I am a one man band video production machine and 4k in post would be a real boon to me, altho I will be outputting in 1080p for my work in the foreseeable future. I suspect that if better compression appears and the overheating problems are conquered (overheating is a problem!) then I can see a move to 4k capture, what is the biggest reason is that on my shopping list for what I want in a camera, 4k is down on the list. Things like good slow motion, ergonomic cameras, good battery life, digital camera menu workflow that make sense to me so that the digital video controls are logical in operation and the camera feels good. Kind of like a spouse, do you want the sleek hot rod or the comfy one that makes you feel good? I want a camera that I don't have to fight to make it work or have a terrific memory to operate. I want presets so that I can turn the camera and be ready to shoot. I want the camera in my price range that I can afford. All this I want more than 4k, but as we can see, much of this discussion is moot since if you want it or not, the going trend is that if you buy a new camera for video, it is likely to have it now or in the near future. Now if they would tell me how many megapixels and the specs so I can compare, oh, I forgot we don't care anymore, maybe 4k will be like that.

November 6, 2015 at 1:10PM, Edited November 6, 1:10PM


>>>Well I am not friend to 4k as a video delivery system

Yes, 4K delivery isn't there yet. 4K blu-ray players will start appearing in retail stores in 2016 but they are going to be $600+ for a player. Over time this price will drop down to something the average consumer can afford, but I think it will be a few years before you can buy a $100 4K player. ( so maybe in 2019 )

4K is an amazing image acquisition format, so shooting 4K to deliver in 1080 makes total sense right now. ( and you get a little bit of future proofing of your work, for the time when 4K becomes the default playback format )

November 6, 2015 at 9:56PM, Edited November 6, 9:57PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

"Don’t make your filmmaking process more difficult than it has to be. In this episode I go over a ton of info on why you shouldn’t shoot 4K if you’re an indie filmmaker."

I agree and disagree. I've been shooting 4k since 2013 and it didn't take a super machine to do it. Now we have 4k at reasonable bitrates on cameras like the A7s II, Panasonic GH4 etc. There's 4k and there's 4k. Uncompressed or slightly compressed 4k, 5k, 6k. For sure avoid due to massive file sizes. But there are mature codecs/formats out there now that have a great balance between quality, file size and ease of playback and editing.

I don't know what Adobe has in their CC secret sauce but two years ago I was editing redcode at 1/4 resolution no grading. Now I can playback at half res (1080p) with grading applied unrendered. The software and hardware is catching up.

November 7, 2015 at 10:29PM

Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor

I'm an owner operator of a Sony FS7 and I shoot exclusively in 4K and have never once had an issue or regret about doing so. The ability to crop, reframe and simulate camera movement in post is a killer feature for an indie filmmaker that saves me a ton of time and money during production. No need to cover the same shot from three angles when I can carve several from the same frame. No need to lug an expensive slider with me or waste time setting it up. And for verite or doc shooting I can skip the second camera and second operator which means much lower overhead and much higher profits. I edit the files natively in Premiere Pro on a 2013 MacBook Pro. I have no issues. 4K has made my life easier and yes, substantially cheaper.

November 8, 2015 at 1:44PM

Adam Volerich

I concur.

November 9, 2015 at 11:22PM

Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor

Not sure about the 4k being so expensive. I'm 16 and have shot multiple jobs in 4k for about $100 a job for the equipment. I find it INCREDIBLY flexible in post, not to mention even when its exported in 1080 it looks a million times better then 1080 exported to 1080.

November 9, 2015 at 8:30AM

Clark McCauley

4k mean :
1) more space to reframing also to stabilize only or rotate picture to have correct horizont
2) better hight freq dectails that allow you to delivery crisp and smooth picture without moires or other artefacts
3) quality for future distribution in 4k
4) enable to have on interview and many other "news" situation ability to zoom and cut from pp to another with single shot
5) better quality to mask or tracking, and also if no one want to do it, you ever found something to adjust and this mean you have more room to work
6) 4k mean no aliasing or other problem during rotation of shot to add more motion or compensate error
7) you can extract frame at 9 mpixel to print or use for xx reason, i shoot most of my time in raw, that mean i have a photocamera that shot only 9mpixel photo, but 30 raw picture per seconds for 24 minutes continuosly, when you can found something of in photo environment?
8) print to film for theater is different very different from 4k to 2k master, too long to explain, but from a 4k you can deliver a very full 2k 4:4:4 sampled channel that you cannot do from most of 2k sensor (bayer matrix reason) (i talk about 4k 10-12 bit, not 8bit 4k)
9) denoising from 4k is simplier, and better, and keep more dectail
10) green screen and and other have more dectail and info to key correctly color

Cons :
1) use more space... ehm don't you remember how many space use dv-dvcam for their poor quality against a simple HD?
And more... if you a bit of money to buy or rent a camera to shoot in 4k you have money for hard drive to stock and manage it. I edit 4k prores of my bmp4k from my simple 2012 notebook hp with 4gb of ram 2 a 256 gb ssd for Os, a second internal disk and usb3.0 and esata external disk... or with my desktop assembled at end 2012
2) take more time to render? it's probably a time to update your edit machine, if you work correctly with DI (prores, cineform, dnxHr) you render is since double time of old HD, not need more, or you have bad configuration.
3) you hate 4k, be cause that mean better focus attention, better light, better makeup on people, better attention to background, better lens that show my lens are crap and more...
Ok it's a your problem, come back to minidv and then upsample to hd and you are happy [obviously this is a joke reason :-PPP]
4k need more attention and more quality in all part of chain, be cause show all defects, but also all quality. please see a real 4k shot in a good projection and you understand why 4k is better, in 4k tv that blast all contrast, color, high low freq dectail probably you see less difference, but is not 4k, is a bad tv with bad "enhancement" that degrade picture

January 26, 2016 at 2:57PM

Carlo Macchiavello

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