Blog - May 2018 - 4K or Not 4K?

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So weíve seen another NAB show wrapped for another year and as usual there was a plethora of new kit to drool over. Significant new low to mid-price cameras were announced by the likes of Sony and Black Magic. Noticeable was the advance of the functionality around the 4K format. 4K at 60P, RAW and 422 were featuring on these new models. Specs that only recently were available on top-end models.

The Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K caused quite a stir amongst many folks on social media and for good reason. Some sample specs include 4K at 60fps and fullHD at 120fps in 12-bit CinemaDNG RAW and 10-bit Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) with 13 stops of dynamic range, LUTS and XLR sound (micro) to mention just a few of the benefits. I too was very impressed and frankly shocked at the price; $1295.00. Thatís a lot of camera for not much money. (Yes it's a lot of money but in cinema-quality camera terms, it's very cheap.)

Whilst these new cameras are offering some stunning functionality now at 4K, Iím certainly not prepared to make use of them. The storage needed for 4K is huge and not only does that mean fast and sizeable media in the camera but also the storage back at the editing suite has to be capable of handling vast swathes of data too. When the edit is finished, archiving all of media isnít cheap.

For me, full HD still offers many attractions because frankly people are viewing most work on Youtube or Vimeo via their phones and tablets that just donít need 4K to be watched comfortably. I wish I had stats to confirm exactly how many people are viewing 4K content on the major streaming sites but I'm guessing there aren't that many. As well as the fact that HD provides an excellent quality view, 4K is just so much more bandwidth-hungry and suffers from buffering more than any HD video, which has to be said from my experience at least, isn't always great anyway. Of course if filmmakers are shooting for Netflix or some other major network, theyíre likely to be specifying 4K as a minimum spec to provide some future-proofing. No doubt the time will come when 4K is unavoidable for everyone and full HD will be consigned to the technically long but chronologically short history of filmmaking media but until then full HD does a great job for me.

All images © Peter Hatter
Article Date - May 2018
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