Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


No one can deny that a 4K picture is impressive but it is far from the lions share as far as broadcast television and production companies are concerned. Japan needs to sell video junkies like ourselves the next best thing and that as far as Japan is concerned is 4K.

My clients don’t know or care what I shoot on, 4K, Special K, it just does not hit their radar. I have been shooting on HD for almost 5 years now and my clients are none the wiser, if I was stupid enough to shoot onto 4K they  would not even notice.

The BBC have a policy of not shooting 4K because it is far too expensive to post produce, most production companies tied in with local broadcasters are still shooting DVCAM.

So where is this 4K myth coming from…the need to convince the end user that 2K is old hat and 4K is the new buzz word, that’s why camcorders like the Sony FS700 are 4K ready…all part of the 4K hype though I am well assured that NYC is a 4K town which makes sense as NY is so good they named it twice…2x2K = 4K.

4K cameras can be attributed to Red Digital Cinema, they were certainly my first glance into the 4K world, since Red, Sony and Canon have produced 4K versions like the Sony FS700 (Upgrade), Sony F65 and the Canon C500.

For film work and cinema presentations 4k and 8K are perfect but films do get bigger budgets to accommodate the lengthy expensive editing workflows, I also agree the better the picture you start off with etc. the better the end result, even downscaled onto SD but there comes a limit to primary quality like 4K hampering your workflow and extra expensive hardware needed to monitor a 4K picture.

Most of you reading this will be familiar with HD pictures, but many of you won’t have even seen a 4K monitor let alone a 4K camera, only Sony technicians have seen 4K out of an FS700, so whats the big deal.

The biggest part of the pie in Europe is still SD followed by 2K, the general punter in his home is watching an SD picture on an HD ready LCD with little to no take up on HD.

It’s the pied piper all over again, just watch the video manufacturers choose carefully their star blogger who will convince us all that 4K is here to stay and unless you grasp the nettle you will be left behind.

Lets see how many of the lemmings take to the water and drown under the overwhelming workflow problems 4K has to offer.

4K is the future that I have no doubt but you have to take into account your SD audience still struggling to get past the numbers on the telly tickets HD Ready 720p or Full HD 1080p…meaningless numbers to the average Joe.

For the first time this year a client specified 1080 50i footage, that’s one client in five years and I am only one small production cog in an enormous creative wheel.

The right to reply…

Katsunori Yamanouchi, VP Sony Pro Europe…“While some markets are mature and are beginning to explore 4K, others still need to convert from SD to HD. For Sony the critical issue is to accommodate the diversity.”

“I am proud to say that the broadcasting business is in my blood,” he says. “This is a period of an ever increasing pace of change in which neither technology nor customers are standing still.

“The TV of tomorrow is almost unrecognisable from the TV of the last century. Next-generation TV means much more than just picture quality. It means IP-connected and enabling the consumer to access a huge range of online content and services as well as stunning 4K resolution and 3D viewing – this is a long way from what we had in mind when HD was first introduced a decade ago.

“In this emerging 4K world, I believe Sony has been the driving force. We launched the world’s first 4K cinema projection system and followed that with a world first 4K home projector. Over 30 major films have been shot or are in production with the F65 and we are now bringing 4K to the home.”



Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

10 thoughts on “The 4K debate (Updated)

  1. I was reading a broadcast magazine and there they were already downplaying 4k, and talking about how low resolution 3d was, and how 8k was the next big thing. its a silly world.

  2. 720 or 1080 are fine for TV or web distribution. But Cinema/ Theatrical requires a higher resolution format for projection quality in large venues… the digital equivalent of 35mm film. I’ve always seen 4k as fulfilling that market need, rather than the industrial videographers. Even so, I have shot a number of high end commercial jobs at 4 or 5k on Red’s Epic because (1.) better color resolution for more control in post (2.) the ability to reframe a shot without noticeable quality loss– essential when stabilizing helicopter aerials. (3.) The client wants the “BEST” camera available since their product is so important to them. If they are willing to pay for it… fine by me!

  3. 4K is not a myth. . . NYC is a 4K town.
    Obviously, 4K RAW for ENG/Local Broadcast is overkill. . . but in the Film word, 4K is law. We might skip 4k for home distribution, but for acquisition it’s key. According to your logic, we should be using SD Film Scanners, because most people will be watching movies on their SD TV’s. As a rule of thumb, the higher the Acquisition resolution, the better the picture will downscale. If anything, I think the term ‘Visually Lossless’ is a myth.

  4. It’s heartening for me to see you point this out so clearly.

    This is the reason why many cameras including the diminutive GH2 has had success in the broadcast world. Sure it shoots HD, but the broadcaster usually only specifies 50i or 25p in PAL regions because many still broadcast in SD.

    Meanwhile many of us are sweating over BBC or EBU HD approved camera purchases when in reality it’s just nonsense.

  5. Good points. Here are some more..

    The manufacturers actually don’t really understand the commercial world of production. Their technologies are way ahead of the game and the money they have to invest is in fantasyland for producers. Real programmes, whether corporate or broadcast, made for commercial reasons, as opposed to vanity projects of the Vimeo variety (which I’m not knocking and often view for inspiration) are made by cash-strapped producers for whom, choice of camera and format is often dictated by previous investment. Many of the production companies I work for insist on shooting XDCamHD disc system.. why? Because last year or the year before they invested several thousand pounds in an XD playback machine so that they could ingest in house. Even if you show them that they will be better off long term moving to a solid state acquisition they won’t do it because the money is not there right now. .. and they’re very conservative. They know a certain workflow system works for them. They have no spare money to invest anywhere. Programme budgets everywhere are stretched to absolute limits

    Manufacturers forget that much of the time their shows are not shot by DOPs but by self-shooting PDs who have limited craft and limited knowledge of technology. What’s the point in trying to sell those people 4K over 2K, half of them don’t have any concepts of the basics of photography? The BBC and other broadcasters laughably get on their high horse over whether something is shot 50mb/s or 28mb/s etc and yet continue to put out pictures that have been shot by people with no visual craft whatever. Why? What point is there to advancing technology if you do it at the cost of the craft?

    The world of real cinema needs 4K. There’s no doubt for feature production intended for theatrical release it’s a great thing. But that is a specialist high-end market with budgets to match and replacing 35mm film, or even 70mm film allows for some big spends.

    The manufacturers are not doing themselves any favours by releasing new cameras every few months. My digibeta served me really well for 15 years. It cost £32k back in 1997 (way more than an Alexa in today’s money), but it paid for itself over and over again. Nowadays the cameras are cheaper, but their shelf life is way shorter, and every time a manufacturer brings out a new model/format we have to start all over again. Obviously it’s not really in a manufacturer’s interest to produce a camera that is a serve-all, but I’ve no doubt they could. A large sensor 4k camera with a versatile lens mount capable of giving an HD-2/3”, HD-super35, HD-35, UltraHD-super35, UltraHD 35 image depending on lens mount choice can’t be far away. If a bold manufacturer were to produce such a beast they’d clean up. Then maybe we’d have some stability in the market again and a 15 year investment would be worthwhile.

    My final point would be a reminder to all manufacturers that their camera technology will never be as important as the craft and creativity of its user. Having a gold plated fountain pen doesn’t make you a better writer. As many of the hobbyists (to whom the manufacturers pay far too much lip-service with their constant pandering to the DSLR market) have discovered to their cost, just being able to take hi-res images on a camera doesn’t make you a film-maker.

  6. How do you think we got to HD ?? Not everyone crossed to HD at first, Not everyone with be using 4K now, but if you have that attitude nothing evolves. Resolution will get better, computers and post will get faster the world doesn’t stop at HD and by shooting higher res you effectively have better quality images for the future if they need to be remastered in a few years. Im not saying all jump on the 4K band wagon now, I’m saying even if your client doesn’t ask for 4K, offer them the best, as far as grading and aliasing goes there is a big difference in quality even when taken back down to 1080p. And so much for the BBC not doing 4K as a lot of Planet Earth and yellow stone was shot with a RED EPIC.

  7. The truth is that in the broadcast world at least, broadcasters are still in the process of upgrading to HD. Many broadcasters in 2012 produce and transmit digital 16×9 content because of a directive by their governments transmission standards commitee. It’s widescreen but it’s still SD.

    In fact many wide screen TV’s bought by the masses aren’t even full 1080p/i.

    I agree that we should all be shooting at the highest quality but I believe that the technology take-up in the broadcast world is not as quick as the manufacturers would like. Sony and the rest are keen to advance us all to 4K because the market is saturated with HD. Cynical but true. As for 3D – it will pass with a blip like Plasma screens.

    NYC maybe a 4K city but who out of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox broadcast News content in HD at prime time? Who broadcasts in 4K?
    The US was relatively late in upgrading it’s television transmission standard to digital 16×9 in Feb 2009. There wasn’t even an HD requirement – only digital widescreen.

    The cinema world is a whole different story. That’s where we should all be shooting Alexa’s and Red etc.

  8. For feature films it makes sense, but otherwise whats the point? Resolution has nothing to do with craft, its getting ridiculous now, with people hiding behind camera specs, and producers hiring based on weather you have experience on the latest and greatest system, yet at the same time neglecting the fundamentals of filmmaking. Have you seen the crap on tv and at the cinema these days, it almost seems that as the tech gets better, the more Inane and banal the programmes and films get. Plus there is the financial issue, I think Sony and the rest are forgetting that we’re in the midst of the biggest economic depression since the 1930’s, people are struggling to feed themselves and pay rent, let alone invest in a 4k projector and tv. On the business end I can only speak from experience, but most of the small to medium production companies I freelance for have only gone fully hd in the past couple of years at great expense, the last thing they want to do now is drop another 40 grand or so on a 4k system, its just not on the radar.
    Plus theres the elephant in the room that is 8k, which has been touted by the BBC and nhk as the true successor to hd broadcasting, and they’re putting a lot of time into developing the technology, so 4k could soon be obsolete before its even taken off.

  9. Broadcasters asked for HD way before offering an HD channel so when they switched on the service they had HD content to show of all the repeats

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