February 20, 2017 at 3:32AM


2017: Clients and 4k deliverables?

I am a young aspiring cinematographer looking to purchase a DSLR/mirrorless camera to start shooting more projects, doing work for clients, and building my reel. In considering camera choice I wanted to ask about your experiences working with clients: in 2017 are clients asking for 4k deliverables yet (I know that each client is different, but in general for low budget/mid budget projects)?

If not is it perhaps a better use of my money to purchase a camera body like a GH3 or a Canon t5i (or another solid 1080p DSLR/mirrorless camera) and invest in gear such as good cinema lenses, a C-stand or two, and other grip gear (I already have a set of Lowel tungsten lights, tripod, audio recorder, shotgun mic, etc.)? I could invest in gear that will be more long term and learn how to create compelling footage with what I have that pleases clients, then upgrade my camera body in the future after having earned some money and built up a reel. Or is not having a 4k-capable camera in 2017 going to hurt my marketability starting out?


So far, the only people asking for UHD and 4K for the most part are novice movie makers. Regardless, good lighting equipment and lenses will not only produce better results than more pixels but will also stay with you for decades.

February 20, 2017 at 7:20AM


4K is a nice-to-have. I just got a call from a director asking me to shoot an interview for her documentary. She said "We're shooting in 1080p, but happy to take 4K if you have it." You can drive yourself crazy trying to tick all the "nice-to-have" boxes. The must-haves, as Stephen points out are: good lighting, good audio, good lenses, and for gosh sakes, timely arrival on set and a professional attitude. Once you have a good reputation and a good 1080p reel, then clients can tell you to upgrade to 4K...by paying you to deliver it.

February 20, 2017 at 8:45AM


I've never had a client ask for UHD or 4K footage, but it's a handy format to work with in post. Being able to re-frame a shot, simulate a pan, simulate a slow zoom, down-res to 1080 4:4:4 color, are useful options to have when editing.

Some of the large distribution channels specify 4K delivery ( Amazon-Prime, Discovery Channel, Netflix, Yahoo, etc... ) in their contracts, but most of us won't be shooting for these companies.

February 20, 2017 at 9:24AM, Edited February 20, 9:26AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

I've never had anyone specifically ask for it yet, but I give it to them anyway. YouTube/Vimeo supports it, so if that's where it's living to be embedded wherever, it's future proof (for now!). Most people will be seeing a down-converted version, so why not deliver highest quality? Often, I'll also include a 1080 version in case they need it (showing on laptops that can't handle 4K, etc.).

February 22, 2017 at 9:35PM

Chad Stembridge

Oh, Sony et al already started development on 8K cameras a few years ago. They know there's no benefit to end users but they have to keep people wanting to buy new products somehow.

February 24, 2017 at 7:06AM


" I could invest in gear that will be more long term and learn how to create compelling footage with what I have that pleases clients, then upgrade my camera body in the future "

This. Even if your marketability is temporarily hurt because you don't have the latest buzzword it's all about compelling images. Even lots of big budget work is still in 2k. 4k footage is still a nice to have, not a must for most work.

If you really need 4k for a job, rent a camera body that works with your existing gear. Have a rental place in mind, with a specific package that you know the cost of. That way you can run all of the numbers and see if you can charge enough extra to make the cost of renting a body for the project work out.

February 24, 2017 at 9:08PM


At the point where you have a large distribution channel,there is a camera budget and your personal gear is no longer a liability.

February 24, 2017 at 9:10PM


I always say I'd rather see so footage with great lighting shot on a VHS camcorder that something with crappy lighting shot on a RED Helium or whatever the most expensive RED is these days. When I first started out, "building my reel", I spent my money on lights first. Lights don't go out of style like cameras do. 13 years later, I still use those same lights I bought back then (and they are now part of my inventory for my Denver video production company) .

But back then shooting video on a DSLR hadn't been invented yet, which is to say, cameras that could shoot quality footage were still expensive relative to today. So if it building your reel out that is the main goal, then I suggest, after lighting gear, getting a an older HD camera on eBay for cheap (your reel is going on the internet, and nearly all computer screens are still HD). If a 4K gig comes along, tell the client, "yes, I have a 4K camera," then go out and rent it.

Right now my jobs are about 60/40 4K vs HD. A year ago it was 40/60. I shoot for Nat Geo, Discovery, Showtime docs, and feature docs and yes those are all 4K requests now. The stuff that is still HD is usually corporate and not something that is going to have a long shelf life or is just going to the web. For the broadcast stuff, often they will have a specific 4K camera request (last year I shot everything from Amira, Alexa, Alexa Mini, FS7, and Canon C300 II), so like a poster noted above, you can drive yourself crazy trying to nail the most-asked for camera. It used to be easier with only a few players in the game (Panasonic, Sony, Canon) but as manufactures proliferate it is getting harder and harder to guess what is going to be the go-to camera across the industry. The last one was the Canon C300 M I. Right now it might be the Sony Fs7, but nothing near as consistent in terms of requests as the C300 once was.

Good luck!

September 10, 2018 at 12:33AM

Doug Gritzmacher
Director, Producer, Editor, DP

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