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Laurence Good

The Impact Of 4K On Camera Operating

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Currently a cinematography student at the Northern Film School in Leeds, I'm in the process of researching for my dissertation the subject of 4k, and what this means for film.

 

Specifically, I'm studying the impact that 4k is having on producers/studios, consumers, and the production process itself.

 

To aid in my research in the latter section, I'd like to know whether shooting on 4k causes any changes for camera operators in terms of shooting requirements, extra research/learning or a change in operating style etc.

 

Any information or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

 

Thankyou!

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To aid in my research in the latter section, I'd like to know whether shooting on 4k causes any changes for camera operators in terms of shooting requirements, extra research/learning or a change in operating style etc.

 

4K compared to what? Changes compared to what? Shooting in HD on a different camera?

4K vs 2K on the same camera?

Your question is too vague and has no context.

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Certainly for interview setups, 4K for at least the wide lens camera has become very common. This is so that the editors can punch in and reframe if they need to cut.

 

It has also become common for many high-end projects to shoot in the maximum resolution possible like Open Gate mode on the Alexa and 6K Full Frame on the Epic Dragon while framing for a smaller window inside of that format so that the image can be reframed in post as needed. It also helps the VFX crew to track objects that are going in and out of the intended frame but are still recorded and thus can be used as data points for their work.

 

These new requirements drastically increase the amount of data being produced in set, which in turn affects the camera, editorial, and VFX departments who have to manage that data, and also production which has to foot the bill for increasingly massive DIT stations and RAID storage solutions to keep up with the increased throughput.

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As Satsuki says, 4K (and greater) acquisition has had an impact on many different areas of film-making, but as far as actual camera operating goes, I don't see a difference. A frame is still a frame, regardless of how many pixels are in it. The technology may have changed, but the basic compositional abilities, aesthetics, and motor skills necessary are pretty much the same.

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I would say, if there is a difference then it's that the frame the camera operator composed for may not be the frame in the final product. With 4K and wider loose framing, post has a lot more leeway now to adjust headroom, stabilize shots, crop in, or even animate movement where there was none before.

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I would say, if there is a difference then it's that the frame the camera operator composed for may not be the frame in the final product.

Agreed, but that's not something the camera operator has control over. He or she is still composing within a 1.85, or 2.40 frame, regardless of what may or may not be done in post.

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4K compared to what? Changes compared to what? Shooting in HD on a different camera?

4K vs 2K on the same camera?

Your question is too vague and has no context.

 

Apologies for the vagueness Freya, I suppose this is a reflection of the stage at which I am at within my research. I realise that my question was open ended, I suppose I was hoping for a varied response.

 

But to answer your questions;

 

Yes, changes compared to shooting both HD and 2K. I am specifically interested in how shooting in 4K changes for the operation of the camera, rather than the scope that this gives one in post. For example, today I listened to a podcast by the BBC on the topic of what 4K means for production companies, and during this they mentioned that operations such as handheld would have to be more carefully considered due to this translating to a more obvious jitter/shake.

 

Consequently, the company in question mentioned how they had to replace a few handheld shots for stabalisation; track, larger steadi-cam, jib etc.

 

Satsuki and Stuart, thank-you very much for your responses. One of the aspects that I am trying to investigate, is whether such digital cropping, and other post benefits, has a consequence in the sense that framing is now easier for the operator (and, dare I say it, requires less talent - especially for a novice), or whether it is simply another tool in the toolkit.

 

I understand that my questions may have obvious answers, and I'm sure I could predict them, but I would like to hear your viewpoints.

 

Thanks again!

Edited by Laurence Good

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I don't see why shooting in 4K would reduce your handheld options -- "Interstellar" had handheld scenes shot in IMAX after all. Increased clarity/resolution doesn't make shaky handheld shots more annoying, only larger screen presentations do. A really shaky handheld shot made in consumer DV on an IMAX screen would be just as distracting as one made on a 4K+ camera; it's not the extra detail that is making the shakiness annoying.

 

As far as shooting in 4K allowing more reframing and stabilization, that depends on if you are finishing in a lower resolution format like 2K. If not and you have to finish in 4K, then shooting in 4K doesn't lend itself to more ability to reframe any more than shooting in HD for an HD finish does.

 

Shooting and finishing in 4K for a 4K presentation mainly puts pressure on other people than the operator, like the focus puller, the make-up artist, etc.

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The biggest difference is in the quantity of the data with 4k and the bandwith needed. Things like handheld cameras is more about screen size and viewing distance, which can compared more to cinema than television. However, that hasn't stopped handheld shots in theatrical feature films, even 2001 has handheld shots. Currently, most domestic viewers don't sit that close to the TV screen, compared to cinema audiences, who commonly sit 1.3 to 2 screen widths away.

 

4k will have more impact on the art direction, wardobe and the make up, than the camera operating because of the extra detail in the sets and on the actors. That will cost a lot more than anything regarding the camera operating.

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Thank you for your response David,

 

That's interesting to hear about 4K having little effect on operations themselves, thank you for clarifying that.

 

Judging from what I've heard so far, would you say that in actual fact shooting in 4K lends very little challenges for the operator, compared to HD, 2K etc?

 

I also heard a comment from a producer in the UK, that shooting in 4K, and the limitations that this provides in terms of storage space and cost were similar to that of shooting on film,in the sense that due to the extremely high data rates, and the cost of cards, one must take more care with shot planning to ensure that footage is captured at a high standard, consistently?

 

What would you say about the relationship between shooting in 4k, and shooting on film, in terms of the stringent need for planning?

 

Of course, shooting anything - whether it be in 4k, SD or on film, requires careful planning, never the less I am interested to hear peoples views on this proposed relationship.

 

Many thanks!

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Judging from what I've heard so far, would you say that in actual fact shooting in 4K lends very little challenges for the operator, compared to HD, 2K etc?

It's no different. A frame is a frame. The physical size and weight of a camera may affect the way an operator uses it, but the number of pixels it's recording does not.

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As above.. I set my camera menu to 4K.. the 128GB card will record only 1 hour.. a larger HDD for backup.. PTI.. (pan ,tilt,invoice)

 

The idea that 4K makes hand held more critical is bogus.. and probably written by BBC management :).. if HD delivery its actually the opposite.

 

I think the biggest difference for TV/Corp HD delivery is the possibility to reframe for a closer frame.. small zoom in,s.. pans etc.. that can be done in post.. to the original DP,s liking or not.. otherwise the camera is the same camera .. no difference for the operator that I have ever experienced ..

 

Some camera,s like the Sony F5/55 will always record off the full 4K sensor even when set to record HD.. its down sampled in the camera..

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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Thanks Robin, bloody BBC eh! Cheers for the info, that's very interesting to hear.

 

I don't think I have any more questions as of yet, so than you for all the responses.

 

Feel free to add anything though!

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haha Yes got to watch these Broken Biscuit Company dictates from on high .. mostly written by bench tech,s or even management who have never been on a shoot..or rarely even go outside.. but that comment is not only wrong for 4K shooting,as in it makes no difference .. but the opposite is true if shooting 4K for HD delivery .. which would be 99.9% of Beeb footage

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What would you all say to the notion that cropping in post, made available by shooting in 4k and exporting in 1080, could be deemed as offensive to a camera operator? I'll provide this quote as context:

 

'I think one of the negative things about 4K is that camera operators spend their time getting the ideal framing and then with 4K people can try and reframe in post. It takes a tremendous amount of exactitude in terms of artistic choice potentially out of the hands of the operator.'

 

I feel inclined to agree, but what do you think, from a professionals perspective?

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I'm not a fan of reframing in post other than for problem-solving; I certainly don't want creative rethinking of my compositions done by other people. But so far, it hasn't been a major problem -- apparently it's more of an issue in commercials than for narrative work where short post schedules don't lend themselves to a lot of tinkering with the footage.

 

Truth is that occasionally (and not that often) I've had some bad operating on a take that I wished I could fix myself in post; these days you often only do a few takes with multiple cameras and move on. So I understand the appeal of having some ability to fix framing in post -- it's not the wider A-camera stuff that is usually the problem, it's the grabbed B-camera or C-camera angle that might be less-than-carefully composed. So I get why David Fincher likes to shoot in 6K and fix those problems, smooth out a bumpy dolly move, etc. and then finish in 4K. But he's David Fincher, a real artist when it comes to framing. Plus he's the director. I think it is more problematic from a creative hierarchy issue when an editor decides he can frame a shot better in post than the cinematographer can on the set -- it would be like the cinematographer going into the edit bay and making some tweaks to the cut.

 

But as I said, it isn't all that common, most editors respect the work of the cinematographer and most don't have the time to tinker with composition other than to solve an editorial problem.

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A good operator doesn't just have the technical skills to manouevre the camera, but has an artistic eye for composition and framing. Often, they work closely with the art department to make sure that the contents of the frame are arranged and balanced in a way that furthers the story. To have the end result of this work arbitrarily changed in post by someone who simply thinks they can do better is a little offensive.

 

If it's to fix a problem, then fine, but otherwise, I'd argue strongly for leaving the framing as intended.

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I would say that depends on who is handling post production. If you are all on the same page in terms of the intended final result, then I think it's usually fine.

 

Generally, as operators we prefer to think our work is always perfect and shouldn't be touched, but the fact is that we are human and there can be a little bump in the track here or a little headroom error there, so it's nice to know those things can be smoothed out in post. On the other hand, it's not a pleasant feeling to have your choices altered by someone else who may not understand why you did that in the first place.

 

It's sort of the same conundrum that cinematographers may find themselves in with digital color grading. It can be a great help or a hindrance, depending on whether you and the colorist are working together towards a common goal or not.

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It's sort of the same conundrum that cinematographers may find themselves in with digital color grading. It can be a great help or a hindrance, depending on whether you and the colorist are working together towards a common goal or not.

I was recently at a color-timing session where the colorist told me, to my face, that he didn't like some of my lighting choices, and that he wanted to try to 'correct' them. I was a little taken aback at first, but then we had a frank exchange of views, and the images stayed the way I wanted them. I found out later that he was an aspiring DP.

 

Point is, if other people are willing to undermine your intentions while you are actually present in the room, imagine what they get up to when you're not.

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Point is, if other people are willing to undermine your intentions while you are actually present in the room, imagine what they get up to when you're not.

The blame game and gossip that go on in color rooms can be brutal. I wish I could say I've never taken part.

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I guess thats the crux.. as Satsuki says.. its nice to have the potential to correct problems,or make very small tweaks ..potential being the key word..but to have the frame or colour to be changed in any big way without the DP,s input.. is the other side of the coin..

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I'm studying the impact that 4k is having on producers/studios, consumers, and the production process itself.

The film industry has far higher resolution formats, most of which have been in use for more then 60 years.

 

8 perf 35mm VistaVision is around 5k

5 perf 65mm is around 6k

15 perf 65mm is around 12k

 

The problem is, from the 70's through 90's, mostly everything was shot on 35mm. Everyone was use to the background either being blurry/grainy or just not very visible. The shift to digital changed that, it brought it back to where things were during the large-format wars of the 50's and 60's. Even the first digital cinema cameras (1020x1080) were far crisper then a 4th generation print, so how things were shot and what was in frame, became more critical.

 

In my eyes, the discussion isn't about 2k v 4k, because resolution isn't the problem here. The discussion should be how 35mm production instilled particular shooting habits and how digital has forced people to think more about production design, focus, lenses and anything that would be noticeable in shot. Lets face it, 35mm blurred the lines quite a bit and allowed filmmakers to get away with A LOT more then digital cinema.

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I dont follow you.. first you say the resolution is alot higher in film than digital . 5 perf 6K..15 perf 12k..presumably 4 perf also.. but then 35mm film blurred the lines.. and allowed filmmakers to get away with alot more than digital .. get away with alot more what? sorry if Ive missed something ..

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Personally I just shoot in 4K, and then downscale to 1080. So except for the transcoding everything is exactly like it has always been for me. I have to add that I have edited an interview-ish thing between two people that i didnt shoot, where I got 4K files delivered. I edited that in 4K on a 1080 timeline to be able to punch in on just one face. So that was easier than setting up 3 cameras. Final delivery was still in 1080.

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I dont follow you.. first you say the resolution is alot higher in film than digital . 5 perf 6K..15 perf 12k..presumably 4 perf also.. but then 35mm film blurred the lines.. and allowed filmmakers to get away with alot more than digital .. get away with alot more what? sorry if Ive missed something ..

Ohh no reason for makeup and effects to be sharp and crisp. No reason for matte paintings to be perfect. No reason for art/set design to be flawless. You aren't going to tell if that brass door knob from across the room is really brass, or someone made it out of plastic.

 

With high resolution formats, things like those stand out more, which requires the filmmakers to work harder in order to make them perfect since the audience is going to see them.

 

Just watch some of the classic science fiction films and look at the stellar model work. Then go and see the models up close, you'd be like holy poop, that model shot on a high resolution format, would look like crap. That's just one example, but it's one of the best ones. It's how filmmakers got away with hand drawn mattes and simple matte paintings that nobody noticed.

 

4 perf 35mm is quite an amazing format in that way, it hides a lot of the problems and in many ways, does allow for far quicker filmmaking because things don't need to be as perfect. Today we just fix the problems in post, but back then, there wasn't any choice.

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