Welcome To The 4K Future

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In the first of a series of articles looking at 4k technology we look at the acquisition and perhaps more importantly at the workflow of higher resolution cameras for movies and TV.

We are witnessing a new industry unwinding itself and preparing for decades of existence.” Written by this magazine ten years ago as our clarion call to the High Definition industry, but also a sentence that could be pinned to the emergence of higher than HD imagery and in particular 4k imagery. But it’s not really the same, HD broke the mould of ‘good enough’ resolution and started an upward trend in ever higher pixels counts. It was inevitable that higher resolutions would be demanded, mainly by the TV manufacturers who wanted a new wave of products to sell but also by the guardians of cinema who needed regular injections of technology to encourage people to their local movie houses. 3D has failed so higher resolutions have to be put to work. But cinema’s ‘monkey on their back’ is the TV broadcast world who have their own problems in keeping viewers. We will come on to those in an article later in this series but make no mistake 2014 will see a 4K channel from SKY in the UK and probably 4K streaming from Netflix and other similar services.

So it’s bigger, better and on with the show. Well as far as the consumer is concerned, yes. But in the video production world it seems that resolution is one of the smallest bones of contention because – it’s all about the workflow.

There is still a shortage of 4k cameras, RED obviously is the exception and continue to reach new resolution goals, recently with their Dragon sensor. Canon has their C500, Sony have their F55, F5, F65 and FS700 with the upgrade. They also just launched their handheld PXW-Z100 JVC has had a 4k camera for a while now and even GoPro offer 4k resolution but at a unusable frame rate. Panasonic has now released their 4k roadmap with camera announced for 2014 and accessories like a 4k monitor. Blackmagic Design are on the cusp of launching their own 4k camera with Thunderbolt 2 on-board but at the time of writing the camera is still not shipping.

No Screams For More Resolution

But it is telling that DoPs aren’t the ones screaming for more resolution. In fact many are using their craft to ‘damp down’ the sharpness by using old lenses and filtering. One DIT Nye Jones who has worked on movies like Skyfall, Thor: The Dark World and Prometheus puts it more plainly, “Most DoPs are not as concerned with pixels and more concerned with lenses and latitude. Correctly in my opinion and aptly demonstrated through the Arri Alexa, which delivers less resolution than its competitors but is vastly more successful. The most relevance of resolution is in fact to the Post Supervisor, VFX Supervisor and Colourist. Having said that about DoPs, they do of course care about quality and resolution brings quality.” read more...

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