28 Days of Cinematography Insights Redux – Day 17 – Choosing and using 4K

Resolution is easier to quantify than color and dynamic range

28daysredux425 In what was essentially a combination of Scott Simmons’ #28daysofquicktips and my own AMA, I answered questions throughout the month of September last year on a daily basis. The PVC team wanted to rerun this series for our readers along with some new questions and answers, so stay tuned for a few entries at the end of the series which will take us past 28 days. Use the hashtag #28daysofinsights or email us at ask@www.provideocoalition.com if you want to help us build up some questions for a brand new series.

Do you think the problem with 4K is that people are thinking of and using it wrong, or that it’s simply unnecessary?

Study after study has shown that humans respond more strongly to increased color gamut and dynamic range than they do resolution. That’s why it pains me when a client wants to shoot in 4K for an HD finish with a camera that doesn’t have the color fidelity and dynamic range that might better serve their story and/or product.

Cypress 5

4K TV is on its way, and it has the potential to change the way we shoot–especially when it comes to composition

I think this comes from the fact that resolution is easier to quantify than color and dynamic range. How do you measure color, or communicate that you like one camera’s color rendition over another? All you can really say is “I’m professional and that camera looks better to me.” It’s an opinion, it’s not “fact.”

Same with dynamic range. How many clients know what that is, or have been seriously stung by not having it in the past? I notice the quality of clipped highlights and have strong opinions about which cameras deliver them better than others, but my clients don’t always notice.

Resolution, on the other hand, is something that can be measured. It can’t always be seen, though. I’ve shot a lot of 4K for web delivery simply because 4K was the hip thing, and I’ve had to compromise the look because, while 4K doesn’t translate very well to highly compressed video on Youtube, color and dynamic range do.

We do seem to be heading toward a 4K broadcast world, and that’s fine by me. I just don’t want to see us compromising unnecessarily in capturing 4K footage if we don’t need to. Good 4K camera options are slightly more limited than HD, and many 4K cameras compress the hell out of footage in order to squeeze it onto a tiny card at a manageable data rate, so not all 4K is created equal—and that’s hard to communicate to a client. There are also lots of gotchas in the digital camera world that we have to be aware of: for example, the cleanest green screen matte I’ve ever seen came from footage shot in Sony Raw, but the same footage shot on the same camera recorded in XAVC-I is a compositing mess. XAVC is NOT a good green screen format.

Several networks are now requiring 4K broadcast masters. They are clearly future proofing their products. I think this is smart, because I see a lot more detail on smaller monitors than on big screens. 4K projected on a big screen looks only slightly better to me than 2K, but 4K on a 60” monitor is jaw dropping. I’ve often wondered why we don’t see more 4K monitors used for point-of-sale advertising: the image is so stunning at close range that it would be hard not to stop and watch it for a bit.


ProVideo Coalition writers weigh in on 4K questions, concerns and logistics

I do think there are limitations with 4K that have to be considered. Viewing 4K on a small monitor may require more careful composition, because the more detail the image contains the more time the viewer needs to take it in. We may have to guide the viewer’s eye around the image more like we would do in a painting. Frantic camera motion doesn’t work so well in very high resolution images as it can result in motion sickness, plus at 24fps significant detail is lost simply from motion blur at low frame rates. Sports programmers are looking into frame rates of 120fps or higher in order to retain resolution when shooting events with strong detail, such as football/soccer on green grass.



Art Adams | Director of Photography

See all 28 Days of Cinematography Insights

Have your own insight about what I’ve mentioned here? Feel free to comment below or send in a question by using the hashtag #28daysofinsights or emailing ask@www.provideocoalition.com


Was This Post Helpful:

0 votes, 0 avg. rating

Support ProVideo Coalition
Shop with Filmtools Logo

Share Our Article

Art Adams is a cinema lens specialist at ARRI, Inc. Before that, he was a freelance cinematographer for 26 years. You can see his work at http://www.artadamsdp.com. Art has been published in HD Video Pro,…