Ultra HD, 4K television is no longer a thing of the future – it’s here. And with streaming giants Amazon and Netflix making content available in 4K, the demand is set to grow. Yet a great deal of content is still being shot, broadcast or streamed at 1080p (HD). At the International Broadcasting Convention 2017 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, we spoke to moving image creators – from filmmakers to news broadcasters – to find out why they were shooting in 4K resolution, even for HD outputs.
While many people think that 4K is still the domain of the big screen shooter, Canon’s European Pro Video Product Specialist Paul Atkinson says it’s no longer the case: “Shooting in 4K is definitely not just for the film industry – the whole of the broadcast industry is tuning into 4K. A lot of the subscription-based clients now demand materials delivered to them in 4K.”
“I shoot in 4K all of the time, even if the project is only a 1080p output – when you downscale a 4K image to 1080p you get a sharper, cleaner image with better dynamic range,” says documentary filmmaker Martin Waine, who shoots on a Canon C300 Mark II. “If you’re a one-man band, like me, you only have one camera but you’ve effectively got three shots that you can cut into in post.”
The flexibility means that many moving image makers choose to shoot in a higher resolution than their briefs dictate. Filmmaker Philip Bloom shoots all of his personal projects in 4K, and is waiting to justify investing in the EOS C200, which shoots internal 4K RAW light. “If I do an HD edit, I have that play to move things around if I need to,” he says.
“But the reason I shoot 4K for my personal stuff isn’t because I can reframe on an HD timeline, it’s because it’s the best image. I couldn’t possibly shoot something in HD because I want it to last,” says Philip, about future-proofing his work. “I want it to be the best thing possible.”
“I really hope that the industry can find that comfort zone in 4K,” says creative services DP and news broadcaster Erik Naso. “We are getting to the point where 4K is working well if you’re in an HD environment.”
Although discerning customers exist, is there any reason to film in 4K when most displays can’t support that resolution, or streaming speeds are too slow? Reflexively, the answer may be no, but Philip is quick to counter: “I think everybody should shoot 4K. Everybody. The old argument of, ‘It’s just for the web so only needs to be 1080p,’ has gone. The web is actually where you see the most 4K content now. YouTube has been showing 4K, it shows 8K, Vimeo shows 4K. If you are shooting for the web, you should definitely shoot 4K.”
The web is actually where you see the most 4K content now.
The demand for 4K TV content is growing too. “I think there’s a certain target audience, younger people, who will definitely want that quality and it comes down to a little bit of prestige – we all want the latest gadgets, so people will buy a TV with 4K,” continues Philip. “It does make a difference if you buy a big TV and sit close enough to it – it looks amazing.”
Erik thinks that using 4K is “very important”, even in the news broadcasting industry, where the channels still air in HD. “The fact that the EOS C300 Mark II shoots 4K and it has a little bump in high frame rates makes it an easy decision to make.”
“I’m not really sure we’re going to see our stations in the US airing content in 4K, but I tell people, ‘Do you remember when we were all standard definition, but we used to shoot in HD?’ This is the same situation: we don’t have 4K TV stations, we don’t do 4K news, but that extra resolution gives us a better product in the end,” says Erik.
Although everyone acknowledges the impact on their workflow, the general consensus is that with an upgraded system to handle the larger files, the process is unchanged and the quality is a worthwhile trade-off.
Capturing footage in a higher resolution also offers an element of future-proofing. “Look at a film that’s been shot 50 years ago and that’s been rescanned in 4K – it looks amazing and pristine, but anything that was shot in standard definition or HD can never look any better,” says Philip. “Sure, it can have upscale logarithms and make things look a bit better, but I think we should always have something as good as we can.”
“With multimedia and multiplatform viewing, you need to be able to produce the material at the highest quality – rather than film it in HD and try and upscale it to 4K, film it in 4K and downscale it to HD,” agrees Paul Atkinson.
“We’ve got a full range of cameras that are capable of shooting in 4K – we go from XF405 right through to the flagship EOS C700. Canon having 4K products means that we are better able to support customers as the industry is progressing. There’s more and more demand for a higher quality image.”
Canon’s IBC stand can be found in Hall 12, stand D60, at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam between 14 and 18 September.