New Year’s Resolution: 4K?
Happy New Year to one and all, and welcome to the brand new Nexus Pictures website. As we have a blog section on here, it makes sense to use it as that means I’ll have to stop and think in order to write something, which is not a bad discipline. I won’t promise that it’ll be particularly regular, but let’s at least start as we mean to go on.
As it’s January 2nd, New Year’s Resolutions are very much top of mind as I contemplate how to make this year a better one for myself, my colleagues, clients and family. So it’s dry January, reduce carbs, exercise more frequently, take more time for creative inspiration and so on. And then we get to the kit: what, if anything, should be new for 2017? We have a carefully balanced equipment inventory, designed to be deployed at a moment’s notice, with a small crew (usually between one and three people) and to capture great footage within relatively tight budgetary constraints. We all know how to get the best out of the kit and clients are very happy with the work we’re doing.
So far so good, except manufacturers’ R&D departments never sit still, which means there’s always an ongoing list of new equipment to consider investing in. Some of it, such as lighting, can often solve problems such as weight and portability, light output versus high temperature and energy consumption, or offer new and exciting ways of modifying how we shape the light over the subject. Some innovations, such as gimbals and UAVs (drones) allow fabulous camera movements and have transformed the way that small scale production facilities can operate and compete.
But the topic that currently seems to pose more questions than there are answers is how necessary is 4K for 2017? We all know that 4K TVs are on sale widely, but is the public aware that unless their screen is larger than 50″, they will need to sit no further than 5 feet away to be able to see the difference between that and an HD TV. Probably not, because manufacturers and retailers aren’t going to tell them!
Have a look at this chart: at a distance of just 9 feet, you’d need a screen size of 140″ to get the full 4K benefit.
Much of the work that we do is destined for corporate websites and is therefore often going to be viewed at 720p, the smaller of the HD formats, often smaller depending on the length of the video and whether it’s an internal or external audience. In 2016 I was specifically asked for 4K once, for a piece for a South African TV station about a UK based fashion model about to relocate there.
Of course the great advantage of 4K is it’s superb clarity compared to clunky old HD but this comes at a cost. Well several costs actually. As well as having to invest in cameras that can produce 4K footage, the computers doing the editing need to be pretty damned fast to cope with the throughput of data (bit rates are about 4 times that of HD) and then there’s storage, which, believe me, adds up.
So why all the fuss? Why not just shoot HD for everything unless 4K is specified by the client? If there’s only been one request for a 4K job within the space of a year, surely there wont’ be too many in 2017. Well the problem is that once you’re able to shoot in 4K, you’re more likely to because you can and because you feel you should be future-proofing ‘just in case’. 4K also gives you options in post production for techniques such as jump cuts and slow zooms, etc. And then you’re hooked. Meanwhile, manufacturers have been busy developing cameras capable of producing HDR or High Dynamic Range footage and even technologies to that will produce imagery as bright as a real life scene, which will probably make the 4K debate seem antiquated.
But all of these discussions are really only distractions unless they help us to produce videos that do a job: that engage our audience and tell them a story.