Everyone seems to be so excited about shooting video in 4K. With the latest cameras coming from Sony and Panasonic, it’s never been easier or cheaper to shoot 4K footage. So why aren’t we all doing it?
Now, even the new iPhone 6S shoot 4K, and I will be getting one as soon as I can to let you know how that works, but first…
There are a few things to consider when shooting 4K.
1 – Is anyone going to be watching your footage in 4K? I know YouTube now allows people to upload in 4K and more and more sites are going to start allowing this, but how many people have 4K TVs or monitors that can actually watch 4K yet?
2 – You’re going to need really fast cards. You can’t just use any memory card to record 4K on your camera, you’re going to need a really fast, really big card such as a SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro SD card as the camera will be capturing a lot of data fast.You can get away with a card not quite as fast, but not much. I was shooting a corporate event a few weeks back and was using my GH4 in 4K at the back of the room. I had to change my 128GB card every 100 minutes as it was full. Now, 100 minutes is good, but it was a 128GB card so that gives you an indication of just how much data I was capturing.
3 – You’re going to need a fast computer and lots and lots of hard drives. And I mean lots and lots of hard drives. Just as your camera needs to be grunty and your cards need to be fast and large, you’re going to need much bigger drives to work on 4K projects. The raw footage alone will take up more space and then once you get into editing, you’re going to need more space again. Also it would be nice to have a 4K monitor to preview your 4K project.
4 – Not all 4K is created equal. Consider the codec that your camera records 4K in and what effect that will have on the quality of your final product. Whether it’s 8- or 10-bit will make a difference to the quality of the 4K it produces—remember it’s 4K, it’s not raw. It’s capturing a bigger picture but not necessarily more colour information so it may not be worth worrying about.
So, knowing all that, why ARE so many of us shooting in 4K? Despite the considerations, there are some really nice advantages to shooting in 4K.
1 – More resolution gives you more options. In an interview situation you could shoot wide in 4K and then crop into 1080 to get two angles off the same camera. I am not 100% sold on this idea as it’s still the same perspective and depth of field, so I am not sure I’d always use it, but it’s nice to have the option.
2 – Future proof yourself. I know of a production company that shot a whole travel series in the Pacific in 4K a few years ago. They didn’t need to as the client didn’t even need it delivered in 1080 at that stage. But when the client comes to them in 3-5 years’ time and wants a 4K version of the series, they can charge the client all over again without having to reshoot it.
So, if you have a camera that shoots 4K, should you shoot 4K? Think about the pros and cons above and don’t rush into it for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses. Eventually we’ll all be shooting 4K but, as to when you start, that part of the big picture is up to you.