Thursday, October 1, 2015

4k, What's that all about?

In this digital environment that we live in technology of all sorts is constantly improving and at alarming rates. When we apply this to the world of cinema cameras, it feels like that already accelerating rate doubles. Companies are releasing new cameras every 12-18 months and it is very hard to keep up with especially when the main feature being improved upon with relates to resolution. 4k seems to be the new standard in the professional world. The DJI Inspire drone can shoot in 4k at 30fps, Blackmagic has multiple cameras that shoot 4.6k, Red and ARRI are the leaders of high resolution, even GoPros can shoot 4k. But what are the real benefits? With the Iphone 6s just having been released videos are popping up left and right of it's 4k ability, below is video that speaks to these features.

The filmmaker featured makes some very valid points about how companies need to keep up with the trends and how 4k is the new standard. While in the professional world this is true, it is not the same for students. It seems ridiculous that a phone can shoot this high of quality, and the results are quite amazing, but does this mean that every student should be using their new phone for their thesis film? Well, it would be a neat aesthetic, and for certain situations it may be handy, but 4k seems to be excessive to be carrying around in your pocket. Plus file space will be eaten up especially if you opt for the 32gb option. I know the Red can fill up a 128GB card shooting 4k in about 20 minutes of shooting, so how will the iPhone deal with this.

Now, one main benefit of shooting 4k is the fact that you can crop in. The video above shows that the cropped in Iphone footage really does maintain a lot of detail. This can be very useful if there is too much head room, you want a close up instead of a mid, essentially you have two shots in one. But this is also allowing filmmakers to get lazy and not really think about their shots. However, what other benefits are you getting?

The detail of 4k resolution is what really draws in filmmakers. Even on tours of the Park School I have had parents ask if we had 4k cameras and this is how I responded.

Firstly, the digital age has already made students shoot to their hearts desire, and this results in endless media to sort through. We are no longer in the age of film where the amount you shot literally was equivalent to money being spent. So why throw even more resolution and media at students in the first place, they should be focusing on the story they are trying to tell, not the resolution of their first student film.

Secondly, most DSLRs, and other cameras for that matter, that students use typically have a maximum resolution of 1080p, which was for a long time a very desirable resolution. However, when students want to use variable frame rates, the resolution starts to drop to 720p. These two resolutions while they seem out of date with everyone all hot and heavy about 4k, are in fact still very much useable. You can still crop in with 1080p, use 720p for slow mo close ups, and still maintain detail.
Most consumer level televisions can't even display proper 4k images without being excessively large. A quick google search showed the first monitor to be 98" and 30k. I don't know about you but I don't have the money or the space for that sort of monstrosity. While there are other smaller options for 4k monitors, students aren't going to have the ability to really to purchase all these new toys left and right.

While 4k is up and coming, and more and more cameras are getting it, I think for now focus on the story, because at the end of the day, crop in or crop out, iPhone or Red, film is about story and the best way to portray that is not through resolution. So shoot with whatever you want, just focus on making meaningful content, because at the end of the day, the client or director want people to remember the message of their story not the camera it was shot with.

No comments: