In part one, Jody Eldred took a look at the fundamentals of choosing the correct camera for any given job. This time around he addresses the concerns and benefits of shooting in 4K, even if your delivery might be in HD.
If you missed Part One, take a couple of minutes and go read it first so we’ll be on the same page and I won’t be speaking a foreign language to you. (I don’t want to repeat everything here as that would be an encumbrance to others who’ve already read it.) Plus, if I may say so myself, there’s useful stuff there! Read it here.
We’re talking about how to make the best decisions as to what’s the best equipment for you and your project: cameras, lenses, tripods, lights, etc. And how the best way to determine that is to start with the end product and work your way backward to the tools you need to achieve that: reverse engineering.
Lots of questions
I want you to be as successful as possible and make the wisest possible. Success and wisdom usually start with asking lots of questions — and the right questions. I shared a bunch of those in part one of this discussion. Allow me to expand on those.
Here’s a great question to ask: "Why aren’t we shooting with a 4K camera?"
I already know some of the responses because I’ve heard so many of them already:
"4K files are way too big for our editor to handle."
"4K files require massive hard drives to store all the media."
"4K is really expensive."
"We’re only delivering in HD, so what’s the point?"
"Nobody will be watching this in 4K. Ever."
Beginning at the end
Let’s start at the end: the final product.
Let’s say we’re shooting a series of promo videos for a private college, and those will be shown only on the web. HD (1920x1080) will be just fine, thank you.
Well, I just finished a series of promo videos for a private college. What a coincidence!
Here’s what we discovered once they saw our first videos:
"These are great! We want to show these on a big screen for the Board of Directors’ annual meeting. And at a fundraiser too!"
Did we magically know this already? Of course not—but I had my suspicions that once they saw them they might be repurposed and I really pushed to shoot at least some of the more timeless elements in 4K.
Let’s forget projection for the moment, as most projectors out there are still HD. And most TVs are still HD. Why shoot in 4K? Isn’t it overkill?
Like it or not, you’re going to need to educate yourself so you can effectively educate (persuade) your clients. Let me address those five common questions and concerns that you will face. And we’ll reverse engineer this to demonstrate why shooting in 4K is probably really wise.
4K files are way too big for our editor to handle/ require massive hard drives to store all the media
OK, define “big” and “massive.”
Let’s look at one example, the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 4.6K:
ProRes 422, 30 fps in HD is 27.5 Mbps.
ProRes 422, 30fps in 4K (UHD) is 73.6 Mbps
4.6K CinemaDNG Raw 4:1, 30 fps is 135 Mbps
4.6K Raw at 135 Mbps. That is decidedly neither big nor massive!
Or how about Sony’s XAVC codec?
Their 4K ranges from 50 to 220 Mbps.
Only when you start getting into the upper reaches of 4K, especially uncompressed, do you start really taxing your system and require serious hard drives (or when you start doing a lot of VFX or heavy color grading.) But generally-speaking, today’s common 4K sizes and data rates are a non-issue.