Finding Our Solution
David recently wrote a fantastic article about using all the bandwidth in a format such as HD [How to make HD look like 4K], and how the results can still be stunning. As an example, recently our documentary UNDER THE BUS was screened using a 2K DCP. The film was shot on a (unhacked) GH2 and I was blown away by the quality of the DCP on the huge screen. The image was sharp yet still maintained that creamy cinema magic.
What this experience told me fell very much inline with what David was talking about. We had amazing results with this little AVCHD camera format. After doing some research which involved investigating broadcast standards for the BBC, PBS, Al Jazeera and DCP requirements, I’ve come to a conclusion that might make me sound a little crazy:
Compression is OK!
Okay, well it’s okay in most cases. Ideally, we could all keep everything uncompressed all the time. Yet, when working as an indie film-maker, practical considerations such as budgetary constraints don’t always allow for it. You can’t always have your cake and eat it too. The trick here is to find a format that fits in with your delivery requirements as well as all the practical considerations.
I’ve found that there are two formats that fit really well into that middle ground: Apple ProRes and DnxHD115. They both meet the AVCHD Intra 100 data-rate requirements for most broadcast deliverables and look fantastic projected, even on large theatre screens. Both of these formats have been around for a while and seem as though they will be around in the foreseeable future.
We’ve integrated converting our materials to DNxHD115 (or ProRes for our 2K productions) into our workflow and after three productions of smooth sailing, I’ve confident that we’ve found the correct solution for our company. We might still be burning a spindle or two of Blu-rays to save everything, but because we’ve found a good middle ground we’re not losing weeks to the process of archiving, nor are we sacrificing much quality-wise.
Even after coming to a decision about our current workflows there is always the nagging thought about how things are going to change in the future. Technology is rapidly expanding and changing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one should be distracted by it. As indie film-makers we find ourselves having to make more immediate and practical decisions than the large studios. We can’t be waiting around tending to mountains of CinemaDNG filled drives, hoping that the market will magically solve the problem one day. We need simple, straightforward, and affordable solutions to these problems so we can focus on what we should be doing: making movies.