06 Dec 2013

When you should NOT shoot 4K video Featured

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When you should NOT shoot 4K video When you should NOT shoot 4K video Barry Braverman


 Surely it's always best to shoot in the highest possible resolution? That's what we've always been told. But, sometimes, you should stick with, good, old fashioned, traditional HD, says Barry Braverman

The following story may sound macabre but it is true.  I was recently asked to shoot the latest and greatest run-and-gun reality show in 4K.  Never mind the depth of field issues, potential focus snafus, operational challenges, and daunting data workflow, this producer wanted 4K come hell or high water.  He loved the 4K look he said. 4K is great. It’s the latest thing, and anybody certainly any professional who really knows anything about anything is embracing it with unbridled gusto.

Resist complexity

My philosophy for shooting, lighting, writing, and the cinematic crafts is in general to resist complexity. The more gear we bring to a job the less work that inevitably gets done. The more bodies we bring as crew the more difficult it is to get anything done. And the more pixels we capture and wrangle, similarly, less work will also get done.



Shooting sports, non-fiction, or a run-and-gun reality show? A large sensor and 4K image capture especially in RAW may produce onerous and unwieldy size files and impede the shooter’s ability to provide adequate coverage and focus.

This may seem sacrilegious to some shooters and producers given the current fashion and the more-resolution-is-better mindset, and for sure some compromises to efficiency may be necessary given the nature, size, and genre of a production.  Shooting a high-end commercial, music video, or Lawrence of Arabia with epic scope and grand vistas requires the appropriate-size crew, gear, and suitably high-resolution camera to cover the larger canvas.

4K might not be the wisest choice

On the other hand shooting weddings and events, a low-budget web series, or thirteen half-hour episodes for a modest reality show in a mere 24 days with next to no support – not even a camera assistant! - 4K image capture might not be the wisest choice. God made small-format cameras for a reason; they are ideal for documentaries and non-fiction type programming like sports, nature films, and reality shows.

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Barry Braverman

Barry Braverman is a cinematographer with over thirty years experience in television documentaries and feature films.  His credits include Wes Anderson’s MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012), THE DARJEELING LIMITED (2007), as well as National Geographic TV Specials, HBO ‘First Look’ and CBS News Sunday Morning.  Braverman is a member of Hollywood’s cinematographer guild and regularly conducts multi-day camera and video storytelling workshops around the world, most recently in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. As an author his new book VIDEO SHOOTER 3rd Edition (2013) from Focal Press will explore the art of video storytelling with the latest 2D and 3D cameras.

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