IFH 020: Why Indie Filmmakers Should NOT Shoot with a 4K Camera!

4K, Ultra High Definition, 2K, 6K, Red camera, RED.com, RED Raven, RED Epic, RED Weapon, RED Scarlett, indie film, independent film, filmmaking, filmmaker

Why Indie Filmmakers Should NOT Shoot with a 4K Camera!

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).

 Digital_video_resolutions_(VCD_to_4K).svg

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 with it’s 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.

Now shooting 4K in todays world is a bit different. It cost much more than you’d expect once you factor in all the things you’ll be dealing with down the pipeline.


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 on set DIT (Digital Imagining Techincian) 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 it is super compressed and doesn’t look as good as a 1080p or 2K stream.

This is because there is less compress on HD and 2K than there’s on 4k. Do you want you film to look amazing at 2K or just OK or bad on 4K.

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.



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. indie film hustle, james cameron

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.

Happy Shooting!

Right click here to download the MP3


LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE.

Check out this Sundance Film Festival Post Production Panel discussing why indie filmmakers should not shoot 4k.

Action Items:

If you like this show take a listen to:
Don’t only hire DPs because they own a RED Camera!

RED Camera, red.com, RED Raven, RED Epic, RED Scarlett, RED Dragon, RED Weapon, RED Camera Workflow, Arri Alexa, Blackmagic Cinema Camera, cinematographer, cinematograpy, DP, director of photography, DOP,


Enjoyed this blog post on Why Indie Filmmakers Should NOT Shoot with a 4K Camera!? Please share it in your social networks (FacebookTwitter, email etc) by using social media buttons at the side or bottom of the blog. Or post to your blog and anywhere else you feel it would be a good fit. Thanks.

I welcome thoughts and remarks on ANY of the content above in the comments section below…


Get Social with Indie Film Hustle:
Facebook: Indie Film Hustle

Twitter: @indiefilmhustle 
Instagram: @ifilmhustle

YouTube: Indie Film Hustle TV
Podcast: IFH Podcast

  • Peter White

    This is getting pissed on where it’s being linked. 4K isn’t nearly as hard to handle as you make out, especially if you compare great looking ProRes LT or other efficient formats that still have great color depth. Shooting 4K and cutting at 1080p is a snap in Premiere Pro, even on a laptop, and the storage requirements are no worse than shooting ML RAW video from a Canon DSLR. The benefits of increased resolution and re-framing are huge, with little downside.

    You’re on the wrong side of this unless by “indie filmmakers” you’re talking about weekend dabblers with shop lights.

  • D Gary Grady

    I tend to agree with Peter White. Tom Antos regularly edits 4K on a laptop. All you need is a reasonably recent computer and a fast internal or external drive (RAID or more likely SSD) with USB 3.0. Shooting in 4K future-proofs your production, and the ability to reframe is huge. Then again, I don’t think 4K is mandatory either. If I’m not mistaken, even most cinemas are still projecting 2K, and in any case, it’s very hard to see a difference between 2K and 4K at normal viewing distances unless you’re really looking for it (and even then it may be more psychology than perceivable resolution. Except maybe for major league batters, eyes can see only so much. Bit depth and limiting compression are more important.

    • Fabian

      a external SSD or a few external HDDs in a RAID make absolutly no sense at all.
      the USB 3 reading and writing speed is so limited.

      • D Gary Grady

        Hi Fabian. It’s true that USB 3.0 can be a bottleneck for SSDs or a RAID (depending on the RAID), but the point is that while USB 3.0 can handle uncompressed 4K or UHD, a single conventional hard drive generally can’t keep up. That’s why it helps to use an SSD or RAID. Obviously USB 3.1 or even better and Thurderbolt 3 better still.

  • Estevez Atya

    hajaj..

  • Estevez Atya

    2 year later, will a fullHD film be ok on an indy festival?

    • Alex Ferrari

      Yes!

  • Pingback: Don't Only Hire a DP because he owns a RED Camera!()

  • Pingback: Indie Filmmaking Podcasts - Top 10 BEST | Indie Film Hustle()

  • famousfigures

    I shot a film with a Red Dragon and edited most of the film on my 2014 macbook pro. It wasn’t hard at all…

  • Fabian

    but all these “problems” are not really big.
    buy a bigger HDD they are really cheap. uhm if you got a good 4k cam like the red dont complain about the size of the video files …
    you have to think in the future.

  • DalTones DalToons

    but isn’t as easily stolen as 4K since illegal or rip-off streaming sites can’t stream 4k