Why Indie Filmmakers Should NOT Shoot with a 4K Camera!
(Unless you can handle the workflow)
Now I’m not talking about the compress 4k files you get from a DSLR or GoPro. I’m speaking about the big, chunky files you get when shooting 4k Pro Res or RAW on a RED Camera, Blackmagic URSA Mini or Arri ALEXA.
An issue I see come up again, and again is indie filmmakers shooting a format that they can’t handle in production, post production or in delivery (like 4k, 5k, 6k or 8k). Currently, the big buzz word is UHD (Ultra High Definition).
Technically, “Ultra High Definition” is actually a derivation of the 4K digital cinema standard. However while your local multiplex shows images in native 4096 x 2160 4K resolution, the new Ultra HD consumer format has a slightly lower resolution of 3840 X 2160.
Now while having a larger image to play with is better it does bring a ton of baggage along with it. RED Cameras started popularizing 4K cameras with its first camera the RED ONE. It was so far beyond anything else on the market at the time that it ignited the imagination of indie filmmakers everywhere.
More Hard Drives
Your budget will be stretched since you’ll need more hard drive space to house and back up the larger files. Also, transfer times will take longer because of the larger 4K file sizes. Your onset DIT (Digital Imagining Technician) will need to have large and fast hard drives to push the extra gigs of info.
On those films with really small budgets, every minute you have on set is precious. If you only have two solid state capture cards and two back up hard drives to transfer them too, then you might be waiting to shoot. You might shoot through a card faster than a DIT can download, check it and transfer it to your back up drive.
I’ve seen this situation play out a ton of times on set and trust me it’s not fun to be that poor DIT when the entire set is waiting on him.
4K Post Production
I did a podcast a few weeks ago on Post Production Workflow (Post Production Workflow: Understand it or Die!). The episode breaks down the craziness of not understand the entire workflow from camera to deliverables.
Distribution is not there…yet
As of now, 4K is not a mandatory deliverable for distributors. Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Prime are not ready to stream 4K. The internet pipe is just not there…yet. Yes Netflix has a 4K option but the need for 4k as the standard is not there yet.
I just sold my film, This is Meg, to Hulu who only asked for 1080p. I handled all the deliverables for a $10 million+ Hulu series and they only wanted 1080p.
Mastering in 4K is really expensive and time-consuming. If you are doing visual effects than you VFX guys are going to hate you and it will cost you more money. Dealing with 4K plates is what $150 million films deal with and they have the budget to do so. A smaller budget indie film doesn’t have the resources to deal with any issues that might come up working at 4K instead of HD or 2K.
Also, when you color grade 4K footage it will cost you more money. Again processing, pushing and rendering that larger format kills your budget. Would you rather have more time to color your film at 2k or rush it to master in 4K.
But I need 4K for my theatrical DCP
Again another myth. Mostly ALL theatrical releases are in 2K DCP. Why you may ask because movie theater chains do not want to upgrade to pricey 4K projectors when the 2K looks fine.
I mastered my film on at 1080p, then did a small blow up on to 2K for my DCP. When I saw it projected I was blown away how good it looked. Check out the trailer for This is Meg below.
I love 4K…really!
Listen I’m not a 4K hater by any means. Hell, I’d shot all my films in 20K if that was possible. I’ve always shoot 4K on my projects. You can recompose shots in post-production, more color space, etc. It’s great but I also have the budgets and hardware to deal with that workflow. This is sound advice for all aspects of the filmmaking process, do what you can within your means and do it well.
Don’t try to make Avatar right out of the gate. James Cameron started on Piranha 2: The Spawning and built his way up over time. He made the best movies he could with what he had access to at the time.
The new RED Weapon camera has been a problem to deal with for many indie filmmakers. The RED Weapon shoots 4K, 5K and 6K and has extremely large files to deal with. If you don’t have a RED Rocket X card (cost: $6750 + Warranty $395) that help you process the footage, you are out of luck in post-production.
It will take you weeks, depending on your system, to attempt to transcode all that footage. Editing in RED RAW will be out of the question.
I’m just saying shoot a format that is within your capabilities. Don’t make your filmmaking process more difficult than it has to be. In this episode, I go over a ton of info on why you shouldn’t shoot 4K if you’re an indie filmmaker.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Tailorsound.com (IFH TRIBE DISCOUNT 15% OFF – (Just type HUSTLE anywhere in “Post Your Brief” section)
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Martin Scorsese Film Directing Masterclass
- Werner Herzog Filmmaking Master Class
- Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting Master Class
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
- IFH MASTERS CIRCLE – Filmmaking Community
- IFH’s Online Film School
- Six Secrets to get into Film Festivals for FREE!
Check out this Sundance Film Festival Post Production Panel discussing why indie filmmakers should NOT SHOOT 4k.
If you like this show take a listen to:
Don’t only hire DPs because they own a RED Camera!
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