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Andrew Reid

Why I am going with 4K and why you should too

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I couldn´t agree with you more! Once more the industry will be successful in creating desires rather than long-lasting and solid products without calculated shortcomings. Three years ago, everybody was blown away by the "cinmatic look" of DSLRs, just because of the shallow depth of field, respectively full-frame. Soon after: disillusion! Shallow DOF was fine, but now everybody cried for a better codec, because the low bitrate AVCHD crap wasn´t the best to work with in post. After the GH2 hack and some other improvements: disillusion! Why? Because Blackmagic joined the game. Rich colors, RAW(!!!), high dynamic range, rather small form factor and affordability! Now everybody agreed, that the "cinematic look" was all about sparkle and dynamic range, etc. Shallow depth of field and full-frame suddenly weren´t at the top of the list anymore, and all those gadget fetishists ran after that lovely BMCC. RAW became the most desirable thing in the indie film world (look at the 5DIII RAW hype)... at least for a very short time, because now it´s 4K time.

Suddenly 4K means everything, it´s the holy grail, the solution to all those nasty aestetic shortcomings of DSLR footage. You don´t even need a dolly or a tripod, because hey, you can pan around and stabilize in post!

 

This is the new triumphal march of all the camera manufacturers, that kept all of us on the short leash for a good reason: money.

 

This is planned obsolescence in all its glory, this is the industry of never-ending desires. Some of you may call it "technological progress", but we are talkling about creative tools here, not cars! There wouldn´t exist one single piece of impressive art, if all those great artist were always pinning their failure to external circumstances like screens, cameras, paintbrushes or whatever.

 

Nice post.

 

On top of this, when everyone has changed to 4K camera's, more things will change. Our clients will 'demand' 4K. 'Why can't you shoot my wedding in 4K? My uncle has a smartphone which shoots 4K!'

It's the new 'Megapixel' for people without technical understanding.

 

That means that we, as film makers, have to upgrade to not only 4K camera's, but also to 4K monitors, editing hardware and software, and the like.

 

At the same time, Hollywood keeps pumping out glorious images which have been shot at the 2K-Alexa. And I have never, ever heard someone say 'Nice movie, but wasn't sharp enough' after watching Alexa footage on an 40m wide cinema screen.

 

For me, I wish they would focus on good 1080p.

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Strange article. Feels like you are sucked up in the resolution hype after all...  If you were talking about raw I would understand your points of view. After all we are all being fooled by the big companies. And we learned truths because of magic lanterns revelations. That relatively cheap camera's did hide a much better quality.

 

It is the codec that is keeping us in the dark ages, partly. The main reason of all the frustration is that sony, canon etc, is protecting there product lines.

 

Canon will not build a good moire and aliasing free (cheap) dslr because they build the c300 line.

 

No company will do that. There will be no full frame sensor aliasing free for a long time. Even the rebels that promised us so much like Red. They all got sucked up by the big money.

 

4k won't solve this. But I understand why you think it does... 4k does not allow room for moire aliasing etc. 

 

Perhaps. 

 

But now everyone wants the new sony 4k cam, even if it produces interlaced. Even if it does not have an interchangeble lens, no large sensor.

 

We don't care anymore because hey... it is 4k.

 

So new rebels won't even think of building a 1080p raw full frame sensor camera.

 

We all will cry that is is such a pity it isn't 4k!

But it isn't interlaced - it's progressive. What I'd like to know is why Andrew writes that Panasonic's offering is going to be way better than Sony's handycam. He makes the claim, but drops it and goes on writing about something else. I hope Panasonic's GH4 turns out to be great too, since I've got an investment in their cameras and lenses, but he doesn't explain. Is it because it is conjectured that the new camera will record at a higher bit rate than the Sony? Interchangeable lenses? Because really, although I ditched camcorders for ICL cameras, camcorders are really ideal for video, not ICLs.

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This is a great interview of the ARRI folks at IBC 2013 in September.   Their points about 4k and why they aren't jumping to it until they can see improvements in image quality are very interesting.  I think what most of us are saying here is rather than stamping every new pro/consumer camera with "4K" which means who knows what other than resolution, make us an affordable 2.8K Alexa sensor which plenty of DPs are absolutely happy to film on for their 4K projected films.

 

 

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

I think what's meant here is that there are two potential ways of improving 1080p quality, first is the jump to 4K, and this will of course improve detail reproduction and kill downsampling issues (aliasing.. etc), and the second way is implementing better 1080p codecs like 10 prores/raw, and I don't think the latter will happen in still-oriented cameras easily, so 4K is a realistic (marketing-friendly to companies) way to improve image quality.

Anyway I also like to take this moment to thank Andrew for everything he's done in 2013. I've learned a lot. Thank you.

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I understand that 4k gives better resolution, dynamic range and colour than 1080 - and that these benefits are transferred when 4k is downscaled to 1080 in post. But I don't understand why this is an argument for 4K for people who don't need 4K output. Surely those people would benefit much more if the greater processing power and bitrate was put into a better 1080p codec (e.g. like the Pocket's prores). They would then get the benefit of the larger files in the form of grading latitude, rather than just chucking away information from their very full cards as soon as they got home. Wouldn't they? Personally I'd rather chuck that information away after I've done something useful with it, like a bit of colour correction.

 

I'm not hearing a lot of people complaining that the Pocket isn't 4K. I am however hearing a lot of people complaining that the Pocket is a pain in the a**e to use. Imagine if Panasonic put BMPCC-like tech inside a GH3. We'd all go completely wild. Why isn't that the immediate future? With 4K it just seems to me like we'll be starting the whole H264 journey again, just at a higher level. Why not make HD the best it can be before moving on to 4K? The whole thing smells a lot like the megapixel race to me and, to be honest, the ugly side of capitalism.

Anyway, this is my question: Leaving aside reframing options, why is compressed 4K better than high bitrate 1080 for those who don't need 4K output?

 

Just to be clear, this is a genuine question. I am genuinely hoping to learn something. I am not being pointlessly antagonistic in the hope of rubbing someone up the wrong way. That's just the card I was dealt at birth - to forever write forum posts that elicit the wrath of Hades.

 

for fully resolving a pair of lines (one black, and one white), 2 rows of pixels should be used, right? Nope, 4 rows needed because of Bayer pattern: blue,green,blue,green. so in matter of resolution,  4k is not actually 4k, let alone 1080p. so 2 megapixel Sigma Foveon like sensor  (3 layered color filter), has potential to be equal to bayer 4k. BUT, its insane to make 2 megapixel Full Frame sensor, cause every single one of pixels will have a massive area, almost 17um x 17um. that will heavily suffer from electron overflowing, and you need a thick dark ND filter for your every outdoor shot. what we lack right now, is not resolution. we lack Acuity. colors are not correct, much of that is based on mathematical guess, thanks to demosaicing, edges are soft for exactly same reason. lots of moire and false data. 4k isnt going to solve all of these, but downscaling, a decent downscaling, can give us some of that acuity we are lacking right now. the problem is, there is no camera equipped with "Built-in Best-in-Class hardware-accelerated downscaler". all the processing is on your own (PC) shoulder. otherwise, why should I care if gazillion pixels has been read out to give me my sweet 1080p? 

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It's really not about the 4K that's important. it's the new processors and technological improvements that will be innovated to support 4K will bring superior image quality. And having good equipment forces your to create better content.

It doesn't allow you to make excuses because of your equipment.

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Well, again, a pointless article from Canon fans...

 

4K, 4K... yes, 4K is great... we still have a hard time to record 1080p footage at more than 30 fps without having to pay 2000$ just for a 10 minute storage. When we do so, the codec and compression used destroy the mighty quality of the sensor. Most of camera do 8bit recording only... 420 compression (sometimes 422...).

For the moment the 4K hardware is just close to where the 1080p was 5 years ago... 

 

What do you do with your 4K video ? put it on youtube ? Let me first see 1080p content with good quality, then you'll go 4k... Increase the consumer internet bandwith and REMOVE all sort of montly limitation.

 

I'm sooo enthusiast of all 4K announcements, of new hardware, new quality... but wait, don't burry the 1080p just yet !

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I'm going the 4k route for the higher bit rates, flexibility in post, overall a more manipulatable palate. Don't get me wrong, correct me if I am, but I would still rather have a more robust 1080 image than a weak, thinned out version of 4k any day. I think 4k is going to be as definitive as 1080 is regarding consumer specs vs perfessional. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'd shoot a video on an Sony F3 S-log 444 before the Sony ax-100 or whatever it's called. I find myself using the BM pocket cam more than my fs700 for that reason, the difference is huge in terms of gradability and latitude. Don't get me wrong, for slo mo and low light the fs700 it's great, for that alone I might keep it, however the BMPCC is dream to use vs the Sony....12 bit RAW vs 8 bit AVCHD, be careful, RAW is addicting. :)

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for fully resolving a pair of lines (one black, and one white), 2 rows of pixels should be used, right? Nope, 4 rows needed because of Bayer pattern: blue,green,blue,green. so in matter of resolution,  4k is not actually 4k, let alone 1080p. so 2 megapixel Sigma Foveon like sensor  (3 layered color filter), has potential to be equal to bayer 4k. BUT, its insane to make 2 megapixel Full Frame sensor, cause every single one of pixels will have a massive area, almost 17um x 17um. that will heavily suffer from electron overflowing, and you need a thick dark ND filter for your every outdoor shot. what we lack right now, is not resolution. we lack Acuity. colors are not correct, much of that is based on mathematical guess, thanks to demosaicing, edges are soft for exactly same reason. lots of moire and false data. 4k isnt going to solve all of these, but downscaling, a decent downscaling, can give us some of that acuity we are lacking right now. the problem is, there is no camera equipped with "Built-in Best-in-Class hardware-accelerated downscaler". all the processing is on your own (PC) shoulder. otherwise, why should I care if gazillion pixels has been read out to give me my sweet 1080p? 

 

Yes. I think this is where Andrew is going as well with the article:

 

If you want to manufacture a camera with a lot better performance in 1080p, you are already designing a camera that can output a decent 4k video mode, since you want at least four (RGGB) sensor pixels for every 1080p pixel output.

 

If the new Panasonic will output 4k at 10-bit 422, that video downsampled (in-camera perhaps or in post on a computer) will be some awesome 1080p 10-bit 4:4:4 material.

 

So, from a manufacturer's standpoint:

- They can already get sensors that could do 4k at 24fps or more (which can be used for really nice downsampling to 1080p).

- With the right codecs you could encode 4k in fairly nice bitrate even to SDXC if the camera doesn't have CF / SSD.

- Another option would be providing HDMI/SDI output to recorders.

 

What's the remaining component then?

- Processing the data fast enough in realtime with high enough quality. Doing that is a challenge when you want the highest quality of the downsampling. Here in fact, it might be easier to output a faster 8-bit/10-bit 4k and let people downsample it in post, rather than to attempt to do the high quality processing & downsampling to 1080p in-camera.

 

And to think about the processing restraints: What's the major issue on BM pocket camera? ...and how long does the battery last in movie mode on a Panasonic G6/GH3/xxx or a Nikon D800/D5200/xxx?

- The main difference in power draw is not the display nor the sensor, and there's probably not too big of a difference in writing to the card either - it's the processing. And that's still on a camera without 4 pixels (RGGB) per one 1080p pixel output. So, imagine the power constraints for designing a camera like the BM pocket camera and multiply that datastream by 4...

 

The power & processing issues can be solved of course. But it will require more processing, more cooling, more power = bigger, more expensive camera. Want it done on a budget - get a decent 4k 10-bit and do the processing on a computer.

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It's really not about the 4K that's important. it's the new processors and technological improvements that will be innovated to support 4K will bring superior image quality. And having good equipment forces your to create better content.

It doesn't allow you to make excuses because of your equipment.

This is the point so many are making though - why do 'we' need 4K? Why can't we just have HD with new processors etc.

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Yes. I think this is where Andrew is going as well with the article:

 

If you want to manufacture a camera with a lot better performance in 1080p, you are already designing a camera that can output a decent 4k video mode, since you want at least four (RGGB) sensor pixels for every 1080p pixel output.

 

If the new Panasonic will output 4k at 10-bit 422, that video downsampled (in-camera perhaps or in post on a computer) will be some awesome 1080p 10-bit 4:4:4 material.

 

So, from a manufacturer's standpoint:

- They can already get sensors that could do 4k at 24fps or more (which can be used for really nice downsampling to 1080p).

- With the right codecs you could encode 4k in fairly nice bitrate even to SDXC if the camera doesn't have CF / SSD.

- Another option would be providing HDMI/SDI output to recorders.

 

What's the remaining component then?

- Processing the data fast enough in realtime with high enough quality. Doing that is a challenge when you want the highest quality of the downsampling. Here in fact, it might be easier to output a faster 8-bit/10-bit 4k and let people downsample it in post, rather than to attempt to do the high quality processing & downsampling to 1080p in-camera.

 

And to think about the processing restraints: What's the major issue on BM pocket camera? ...and how long does the battery last in movie mode on a Panasonic G6/GH3/xxx or a Nikon D800/D5200/xxx?

- The main difference in power draw is not the display nor the sensor, and there's probably not too big of a difference in writing to the card either - it's the processing. And that's still on a camera without 4 pixels (RGGB) per one 1080p pixel output. So, imagine the power constraints for designing a camera like the BM pocket camera and multiply that datastream by 4...

 

The power & processing issues can be solved of course. But it will require more processing, more cooling, more power = bigger, more expensive camera. Want it done on a budget - get a decent 4k 10-bit and do the processing on a computer.

This seems to make sense. I hope you are correct that this is the reasoning behind the GH4K ...

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And having good equipment forces your to create better content.

It doesn't allow you to make excuses because of your equipment.

 

Pfff. An excuse has it's roots in the mind, and nowhere else. Once you got the desired equipment, the bar rises. This is the most funny and sad reason why people want to have better resolution. They are not looking for better quality, they are looking for better excuses. Did you know: Already ten years back there was a White Paper about resolutions for digital cinema, and they said, at 10k presumably all artifacts pointing to the technical structure of the image had disappeared, and from then on an image would not only represent reality, it could then faithfully reproduce reality - only that this never was the goal of cinema! Let me literally quote the conclusion of the lengthy pdf:

 

If the ultimate end goal of cinema is to visually replicate the real world, then very high requirements result. The practical solutions will come from making intelligent compromises. There is also an element which states that a visual story telling medium will break down if it fully models the real world, and that there needs to be a gap for the imagination to fill.

 

 

If you have no imagination, if you are not inventive and are just too hollow inside to produce content, you should subscribe to the automatic resolution increase into eternity.

 

Someone a few days back sold an >Angenieux, saying in the Ebay description that it was one of the two famous Barry Lyndon lenses. Stanley Kubrick had by then made two "UHD"-films already (Spartacus and 2001), but now he cropped the negativ for the sake of this zoom, as much as he sacrificed sharpness and resolution for the sake of his lowlight-Zeiss.

 

> the film was about the same time as Jaws and Star Wars. Those cost below 10 million $ then, Barry Lyndon cost 18 million.

> Kubrick spent years to make this film.

 

Does this tell you something?

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Enjoyed the article, you're probably at the stage that most film makers have come to in the past, or are yet to come to, which is deciding to shoot their next film in 4k.

Is your work now requiring that you need to shoot 4K? What kind of work do you do Andrew?

Do you plan on shooting any films in 4k?

Would love to see some films you have shot before.

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I think what's meant here is that there are two potential ways of improving 1080p quality, first is the jump to 4K, and this will of course improve detail reproduction and kill downsampling issues (aliasing.. etc), and the second way is implementing better 1080p codecs like 10 prores/raw, and I don't think the latter will happen in still-oriented cameras easily, so 4K is a realistic (marketing-friendly to companies) way to improve image quality.

Anyway I also like to take this moment to thank Andrew for everything he's done in 2013. I've learned a lot. Thank you.

 

That was my understanding as well.  If people actually go out and look at the downsampled 1080p results from good 4K cameras they would see they look better.  I don't know if I necessarily agree with ALL of the purported benefits Andy writes about but I do agree with the overall concept.  The absolutely sharpest 1080p video I've seen has come out of some of the 4K cameras.  I have some questions about some other aspects of the videos but what I've seen so far has convinced me 4K is not a gimmick or something we need to wait for 4K sets to enjoy.

 

My advice to people is to go out and look at actual good 4K videos on a 1080p or smaller monitor and then come back and tell us it looks like Canon 1080p mush.  Even the Canon 4K looks sharp.

 

I've worked with RAW and it is not a solution for day to day stuff.  I like RAW but I would be far more inclined to work with 4K.  Yes I can do more with color grading with RAW but realistically I like to get it right in camera and just concentrate on slapping together the latest home movie with which to torture unsuspecing audiences.

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Two weeks ago, a client asked me to shoot some nice photos of her employees. I told her that this would be a job for a photographer with his own studio and proper flash lights, things that I don´t have as I´m not a photographer at all. To be honest, I actually told her so because I really didn´t like the idea of driving 400 kilometers just to take portrait pictures of employees. But her answer was, well, shaking up. She told me that she wasn´t interested in high-polished, perfectly lit ultra high resolution photos, but rather something special and charming. I know she´s got the money and access to professional photographers, but she explicidly wanted me, because she appreciates my ideas. So I bought a "green screen" (actually a green carpet) from IKEA, grabbed some LED lights and my GH3 and took these pictures downstairs her company building. The end of the story: She and her employees couldn´t have been more happy, because the pictures looked exactly what they were hoping for. They are not perfectly lit, they are not perfectly sharp, but they have a special look and feel and thus represent the spirit of that specific company. Mission accomplished.

 

This was an example, that can apply to all of my creative work. As long as I´m a self-employed and creative person providing a service, my clients pay for the whole package, including my own nature. They don´t pay solely for resolution or pro-looking equipment.

Even in the future, some people will be able to sell precious 720p suff, while some highly graded, moiré-free 4K work of others won´t be worh a penny to anybody. Like I said, it´s the whole package and your knowledge of how and whom to sell it, it´s not your camera´s codec alone.

 

Anyway, I will be pleased with all these 4K test videos on youtube and vimeo. Thousands of self-appointed filmmakers will show us thousands of arty video shots of flowers, dogs, cats, grain fields, dancing people and cars. Everything accompanied by gentle music from Ludovico Einaudi. Description: Testing my new GH4/Canon C50/Sony FS4K/Blackmagic Production Camera with lens XYZ...

 

Testing, testing, testing, testing, testing, testing, comparing, testing, testing.... Oh look, there´s 8K on the horizon. This time it won´t allow us to make any excuses because of bad equipment. Finally we can tell our stories. With 8K we can. Finally.

 

But seriously, while all these predictable and influencable "I can´t because of bad equipment"-guys kept on excusing, complaining and distracting from their own incapability, my good old GH2 turned out to be a cash cow. The only thing my clients complaint about was the form factor of my GH2. The couldn´t imagine, how this tiny box would be capable of producing such a nice image. But it did. I`m self-employed since 2010 and I started with nothing but a GH2, some Canon FD lenses, an old Macbook Pro and ingenuity. As of this writing, I haven´t lost one single client, despite rolling shutter.

 

Today, it´s not the money anymore that keeps me from buying a RED or a Canon C whatever, it´s the experience that you can do so many things with the tools that you already have. Most of the time, it´s your lack of skills and imagination that seperates you and your clients from being satisfied.

 

The easiest thing to do is putting the blame on anything and anyone but yourself.

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I had a question - you said in the article that the Sony AX100 has "much beefier processors." Not to challenge you in anyway, but is that something you know for sure? The specs just say Bionz X (like A7r, RX10). The reason I am hoping you are wrong is that that would mean it would be at least possible for a firmware update to bring AX100 features to the RX10 (though heat/power might be an issue). If Sony wanted to....

 

Also, for those of you who are arguing that it is codec, not 4k that is the issue I present - the also-new Sony CX900. Same camera, it seems, but no 4k, Has XAVC-S encoding of HD (it looks like 10 bit 4:2:2 is possible), 120 fps 720p. Hopefully full-sensor readout. And you save $500 and having to join this argument. THAT is the software I want on the RX10

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This is a great interview of the ARRI folks at IBC 2013 in September.   Their points about 4k and why they aren't jumping to it until they can see improvements in image quality are very interesting.

 

Well they already have image quality in spades, so the 4K revolution isn't as important for the Alexa.

 

We're going to be comparing a consumer 4K camera like the GH4 to the GH3. Much bigger difference, a much bigger leap.

 

Just wait until you see the 1080p from both cameras, one oversampled from a 4K output and the other pixel binned on the sensor at the earliest stage in the imaging pipeline.

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