The reality of going 4k.
I’ve never bought into the 4k hype. Why would I want to pay way more much to store files and increase my computing capacity just to have larger size images that are more or less not needed — not to mention that most monitors don’t display 4k and pretty much nobody can tell the difference even if they did … not to mention that when it comes to documentary or news deliveries, it’s the story that matters, not the resolution that story is filmed in.
4k has been marketed to consumers as the next generation and that 1080p (or 2k, basically) will go obsolete. This isn’t going to happen unless we all of a sudden decide that we want to watch our video on screens the size of buildings. No, our screen sizes are not going to increase, so 2k fits our current screen dimensions adequately.
Hollywood has been shooting in 2k for a long time, and if that is a good enough resolution to project films on screens with then it’s good enough for me to produce content meant mostly for web distribution.
However, I am not against 4k. It is a very powerful tool in the right circumstances.
One of these right circumstances is when shooting interviews. Filming in 4k and putting it into a 1080p timeline means that you can crop the shot in around 4x without losing any resolution. This means you can mask jump cuts by cropping into a close up. Shooting in 4k is almost like having two cameras. You can also do things like separating out elements from the same frame and editing them together as if they were independent clips.
I took a cinematography class by the great Hollywood DP Howard J. Smith last year in Johor Bahru, and he told the story of how he was pitching a filming strategy to producers of a Singapore game show. When asked how many cameras he would need to film all of the contestants he answered, to their surprise, one.
What do you mean one?
He said he would just film it with is 8k RED and crop in for shots of each contestant separately.
Yes, large resolutions are a good tool in some situations. I am not anti-4k, 8k, or whatever crazy number of k that’s developed next. What I’m against is the needless use of ultra high def resolutions. 1080p is not going anywhere anytime soon.
My biggest problem with 4k is how to store the files.
I shot a 50 minute interview yesterday in 4k in 24 fps with prores 422 as the codec. It came out to 190 gigs. Yes, 190 gigs.
In any given short documentary or video news project you’re probably shooting 10 to 20 such interviews, so that would be 1.9 to 3.8 TB of storage JUST FOR INTERVIEWS. And this isn’t even shooting in raw or prores 444. Add in all of the verite and b-roll shots and you’re up to 5 to 10 TB of storage space needed for a short film project. At the going rate of a 4TB hard drive selling for $100, you’re looking at $250 just for storage … add in a backup and you’re up to $500. If you’re doing a larger-scale project, expect to pay out thousands of dollars just for storage — not to mention needing a place to actually keep all of those hard drives.
The reality is that $500 is a big cut out of the earning that you can expect to derive from most short documentaries or video news delivery.
While you can buy a 4k camera rather cheap, actually shooting in this resolution is a major additional expense. So until the TB becomes the new GB, 4k is out of financial reach for most filmmakers.
This is a grim reality that most shooters notice right away after trying to transition to 4k, and a dirty little secret is that most shooters with 4k cameras are actually shooting in 1080p 90% of the time.
It’s truly remarkable how the market demanded a technology that it doesn’t need or, when it comes down to it, really even wants.