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Is there a point to shooting an indie feature film in 4K??
  • I was just wondering about 4K myself for a indie film I'm the DoP for.

    As a DoP I see 4K as falling solidly into the "nice to have" camp, but also being very non-essential (at least for now, this will change with time). So I really don't mind hugely either way, to have 4K or not. There is other more important considerations to take care of first.

    But maybe there is an extra point to 4K that I'm missing when viewing it solely through my DoP eyes.... and that is marketing!

    Might it make it easier for the producer/director to sell afterwards if it is a "shot in 4K" film? I thought I read somewhere that there are content providers (for instance Amazon who announced they'll be filming all their created content in 4K) who have a lack of 4K content and thus could pick up indie 4K films simply as "4K fillers"? It is after all very common to read consumer articles about the lack of 4K content out there.

  • 37 Replies sorted by
  • "Guys, get the fuck out of your computer with keyboard that is contagious with such mind infections."

    This is my new favourite VK quote. Somebody print some fucking T-Shirts!

  • @Vitaliy

    I second that motion

  • the whole question of 4k is a difficult one…what cameras are truly 4k…(a camera has to be 6k ..so maybe only 35mm film and a dragon camera )

    Sometimes I want to kill people who start 10th circle of "not true SD, not true HD, not true FullHD, now 4K".
    Guys, get the fuck out of your computer with keyboard that is contagious with such mind infections.

  • the whole question of 4k is a difficult one…what cameras are truly 4k…(a camera has to be 6k ..so maybe only 35mm film and a dragon camera ) and then you can always up the resolution…and where will it be projected..??? most dps shy away from 4k and their making huge budgeted films…so it's a tough question…but I would shoot in the format that is best for you creatively...

  • If the only thing I could do with 4K is crop, pan and downsample, that alone would be worth the price of the gear. But of course, it is so much more.

  • @mrbill yup, I have the A7s in mind.

    As am considering it as a companion (or perhaps replacement camera) for a BMCC EF / BMPCC, that I'll be shooting with as the DoP for a feature film. Because it is a vampire comedy horror, and a lot will be shot in the dark, very low light.

    As I'm going to get the Atomos Ninja Blade for myself as part of my personal gear collection, I'm also debating the merits of instead of a Ninja Blade to spend the $1k more to get a Atomos Shogun for the 4K recording it could do with the A7s.

  • @aaronchicago It's both, actually. Amazon and Netflix are both shooting in 4K+ to deliver in 4K today. Affordable 4K smart TVs are already available that can reliably stream the content. Direct TV just announced they will be delivering 4K on demand before the end of the year. http://hdguru.com/directv-announces-uhd-4k-video-on-demand-and-satellite-delivery/ Samsung leaked that Amazon will begin streaming their 4K "originals" this month. http://www.techhive.com/article/2599793/samsung-tips-amazon-4k-video-streaming-for-october.html Even CBS just announced that they will be catering to Amazon/Hulu/Netflix http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2014/08/8550398/cbs-future-netflix-not-cnn

    The fact is the distribution model for content is rapidly changing and one should not handicap a film's distribution options given the rapid paradigm shift which is currently underway. The 4K content will be first in line to be picked up if it is side by side with content of comparable production quality. I could see avoiding 4K if it meant compromises would have to be made in other areas of production like sound, sets or ease of post-production but that just isn't the case anymore.

    @BurnetRhoades My point is that clients are paying more for 4K content right now and it's going to be delivered straight to TV's and devices that can read every pixel, not through some Hollywood down-rez conspiracy. Those distribution models are fast becoming history, especially for indie films. It should probably be mentioned GH2's shoot 8 bit 4:2:0 while GH4's can shoot up to 4K 10 bit 4:2:2 with an external recorder. The majority of folks cannot perceive the difference between 4:2:0 and 4:2:2 but they sure as hell can see the difference between 2K and 4K on retina displays. Either way the GH4 is covered while the GH2 is substandard and compromised according to your own criteria.

  • @Ironfilm - did you have a specific camera in mind when you asked the 4k question?

  • 4K @ lower bandwidth than a good patch for the GH2 with macroblocking all over is compromised, Tron. I'd choose to shoot less compromised 2K than 422 4K to an external recorder as well. If your clients can't tell the difference, well, more power to you. But save the marketing for the rubes.

    At the time I shot on the 7D the 5D didn't have real, stable 24P yet. 30P was out of the question. DSLR video hadn't really blown up yet. There were still more indies shooting DV or, worse, HDV. So, if you wanna be creepy and think you're going to throw something in my face you might want some meaningful context. That 7D is a piece of shit compared to the picture from a hacked GH2 but, still, it was one of the best options at the time. It was also free. I shot one of the first 24P DSLR features and co-produced one of the first 24P HDCAM features some years before that. The fuck I don't know about leveraging technology.

    Prior to that I'd also worked on dozens of films shot on actual film (including the first film that ever got an end-to-end digital IP) at a level of intimacy that actually gives me a bit more perspective on what real image quality is and I didn't say what you're implying, but I know the difference and am not in denial. A better product? LOL

  • Right now the argument over shooting 4K boils down to post flexibility, not delivery.

  • @BurnetRhoades The GH4 is a highly compromised 4K consumer camera? Tell that to my clients who absolutely love the image and the run-n-gun shooting style that it affords.

    Wasn't your last film shot on a Canon 7D? Exactly how compromising was that camera for use on a "feature film?"

    I think you paint things with a very broad brush, the type of person who thinks whatever doesn't matter to them personally shouldn't matter to anyone else. Many on this board including myself actually take pride in the level of quality we deliver to our clients and just because we could do less and still earn a profit, doesn't mean we choose to go the route of resting on our laurels.

    It is not naive or ridiculous to make an investment in image quality and the argument of "if it isn't film, it's never going to be good enough" is just an old, tired cop-out. What you're really trying to say is you personally are uninterested in leveraging technology to produce a better product. The truth is, unless you've actually delivered in 4K you're not in a position to say exactly how the market will respond to it.

    I can tell you from first-hand experience I charge a premium for a finished 4K master and every client thus far has chosen to pay for it and knows exactly what they're getting in exchange for it. I educate them on the difference between downscaled HD and 4K and what those differences will provide them in practical features. They love the ability to grab 8 megapixel promo frames from 4K to use in their print advertising. I divert the premium I charge for a 4K deliverable to pay off my equipment investment.

    If that makes me some kind of naive fool, then I guess ignorance is bliss!!

  • Whatever 4k eyecandy period might be going on (all the mediocre demo timelapses on showroom screens!) I bet it'll be over in three years maximum, after which 4k will just be a standard and HD will look smudgy in comparison.

    Anecdotally speaking, I'm watching some scifi DVDs right now that will probably never be redone even to HD - not enough geeks to buy the stuff to justify costs, I guess. The resolution is not a problem at all for the story, but honestly I'd rather see them at resolution close to limits of visual perception (4k and up) as it'd really enhance the feeling of "being there" in fictional environments.

    Heck, even something like Pulp Fiction would be great at 4k+ HFR, just for the feeling of sitting right there with Jules at the diner :)

  • No, I wouldn't. Not if I had the option of shooting 2K. Here's an enigma of 4K origination that is irrespective of investment: 4K digital origination doesn't look as good as 35mm film, regardless of whether you're seeing it in DCP, on BD, digital cable/satellite, streaming or DVD yet, oddly enough, through these same distribution methods, none of the 4K digital films you could point me too even look as good as the best sub-3K digital films shot on the Alexa.

    In fact, none of the films you could point me at that were 4K digital origination with 4K post production are significantly different or better looking (I can think of more than a couple that look worse) than those that were shot 4K and posted at 2K (which will be the majority, given 4K post is not standard or guaranteed to filmmakers even at the $100M budget level).

    If the $100M filmmaker doesn't get, simply by default, 4K, I don't see why it should even be on an indie's radar, other than as a test to see if their priorities are straight. Of course, there are plenty of shows shooting 4K or 5K on the RED and posting in 2K or 1080P and that's fine, I guess, if that's the camera you're going with or have access to, or something equivalent. So long as you're not so arrogant as to think anyone needs to actually work on your little movie at 4K or 5K and not charge you full retail (what I'd call stupidity tax) for their post production services.

    That slack I don't extend at all to something like the GH4 or other highly compromised 4K consumer cameras.

  • @BurnetRhoades Have you ever shot on 4K? If it cost you the same investment to shoot on 4K as HD, which would you shoot on?

  • The weekend before last weekend I gaffered on a music video shot on a RED DRAGON 6K @ 100fps.

    DoP used Leica glass and a Tiffen Pro Mist 1/2. Apart from the flexibility for reframing 6k may have in post, the 15 stops (+?) of dynamic range really impressed me after recently trying to deal with a bald head in the midday sun with my GH2.

    4k or 6k may be fun for pixel peepers but I'd rather have another 4 stops of DR before I'd worry about 4k!

  • Gone Girl was shot 6k. If your only shooting 4k, your film will look like a mushy mess in comparison. Don't sell your content short, 6k at a bare minimum.

    Sadly the filmmakers behind Avatar did not future proof their investment by shooting it in measly HD, and now that film will soon be lost forever.

    +1 Burnet ;)

  • Is there a point to shooting an indie in 4K? In a word: "no"

    Regardless of how many times you see the logo for your local movie house having a Sony 4K digital projector, odds are you're looking at a 2K DCP. You're almost guaranteed to be looking at a 2K DCP if you've ever spent $20 to see "digital IMAX" which is a dirty little secret. 4K post is not standard for Hollywood films.

    4K for the home is beyond bollocks.

    You won't get any more money for your film if you're able to sell it. You're simply going to be spending more for media while you shoot, more for media and/or suite and post time when you post and odds are very high you're not going to be able to afford to actually make it look good. Peter Jackson couldn't.

    When you don't have a lot of money to spend you shouldn't be shooting in a discreet, hyper-real, matter-of-fact way. Lack of harsh detail is your friend.

    If you're concerned about 4K, stop. There are dozens and dozens of other things far more important to be concerned with. And there's no such thing as "future proof" in the digital domain. There are no "future proof" digital formats or methods of storage. Based on the last ten years of technology you cannot guarantee that ten years from now the physical medium housing your film will still be readily accessible and readable much less the software codec used. If you can't afford to output scan your movie to film, real film, you're not even in the same zip code as the notion of "future proof". People who use that term in relation to digital technology are completely full of crap and/or selling something.

    You could, however, make money off naive indie filmmakers by renting them 4K filmmaking equipment. That's an idea with some legs. As for those few channels out there in need of 4K content to display on the 4K TVs they're selling to people, they'll do what the HD providers did, and still do in some cases: up-sample. I still see it. TNT-HD used to be the worst. They'd take SD programming and just blow it up. They wouldn't even do any clever non-uniform horizontal scale to make 4:3 content look somewhat okay on a 16:9 set, they just let everything be distorted.

    Truth is, most people don't pay attention, don't understand what they're seeing, don't understand how badly they've been lied to and financially raped by the broadcasting industry giving them a crummy picture pretty much since cable was invented. And if you don't have a set bigger than 100" you can't even see 4K from a nominal livingroom viewing distance and that's just science. 1080 digital cable and satellite is generally no better than Youtube quality anyway and the better the set you have the more apparent this reality becomes...

  • @theconformist +1 What he said.
    Back when Kodak was fighting to stay competitive, they were (rightfully so) pointing out how shooting on film was a future proof medium. They also bragged certain video programs were being transferred to film for archival purposes, due to lack of future proofed tape formats.

    Disclaimer: Kodak said this at a Super 16mm seminar I attended as their 'ship was starting to sink.'

  • if it's a festival film…a film that won sundance was shot on super 16mm so I think it has to do with where the film is going...

  • people still view content from 50 years ago because it was shot on film, which can easily be digitized to 2k, 4k, 6k and so on.

    You can scan film to 80k if you want. That doesn't necessarily mean it has effective resolution any better than 1080p, and most finished films don't. Resolution is limited by lenses, focusing errors, and multiple stages of optical processing.

    But no one is complaining about a great film from 20 years ago isn't as sharp as modern 1080p video.

    All I'm saying is that sharpness isn't the most important thing to a film being good. If you have the budget for 4k, sure, there's not much reason not to shoot that way. But those budget considerations are not trivial. You need to account for storage space and computing power, as well as for cameras. Is 4k content worth a premium just for being 4k? Probably not much. I don't see guys scrambling for 4k TVs and 4k content like they did for HD when HD was new. I'd want to have raw or log shooting before I concerned myself with 4k. Good color, good lighting, good camera movement, good story, good acting, and good audio are things that all of your viewers can appreciate, at any resolution. Color grading, editing, sets, props, locations, wardrobe, catering. If you have enough budget to get all of those things at the level you want and there's money left over for 4k, by all means, do it.

  • I think a better question to ask might be, is there a point in shooting an indie feature film below 4K?

    If the technology is here, use it... unless you have a good reason not to.

  • @balazar people still view content from 50 years ago because it was shot on film, which can easily be digitized to 2k, 4k, 6k and so on. That is why you shoot for a 4k master if you can. Productions hav been doing this since the RED One, it's not simply because they want the best 1080p image.