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TECHNOLOGY Special 4k by Will Strauss W ith 4k now more than just a trade show conference theme, Will Strauss offers up some pointers for anyone considering Ultra High Definition (UHD) acquisition. 4k (or UHD) is everywhere. Whether you want it or not, it is (slowly) permeating the living room - in the form of TV sets - and gradually becoming more commonplace on location and in the studio. Someday soon it will be broadcast in the UK too. As Bob Pank points out on page 56 there are a number of reasons for this trend. So I won’t cover that ground again here. What I can tell you is this: with the additional dynamic range and greater colour latitude that it provides, 4k resolution fi nally brings digital cameras closer to the gold standard of 35mm fi lm. But, as always with new technology, it is still the skill and craft of the cinematographer, fi lmmaker, cameraperson or director that provides truly distinctive imagery: not the amount of pixels being captured. “Rather than obsessing over resolution we should continue to focus on the craft of visual storytelling and the aesthetic value each individual camera, or fi lm stock, provides,” says director of photography Stephen Murphy. “In a world of ultra high resolution, the beauty of a grainy 16mm frame or a pixelated S-VHS image may be more important, and more powerful, then ever”. That said, we shouldn’t (and couldn’t) ignore 4k, so let’s push on. Since 2007, when Red Digital Cinema made near-as-dammit 4k relatively affordable with the Red One, we’ve learnt a few things about UHD acquisition. I’m going to share some of those with you. 4k provides more detail I know, it’s not rocket science, but it’s true. BBC Natural History Unit creative director Mike Gunton, who is executive producer on an upcoming wildlife documentary series that was shot in 4k, describes it thus: “[You can see it in the] textures of the water, mud and skin. They seem more intense. When we went from SD to HD you felt you could almost step into the frame. Almost like 3D, [4k is] giving another level of envelopment. It’s diffi cult to be scientifi c about it but you feel it.” 4k can help you to be more creative Acquiring images at 4k allows for greater creative opportunities in post- production - especially when delivering in HD. Within a single shot you can reframe or zoom-in without noticeable quality loss and/or manipulate that extra detail to get the shot or shots, look or looks, that you want. 4k aids visual effects shots Visual effect shots benefi t from the additional detail that 4k provides. “We like to shoot green screen in 4k because the subject is then usually composited into another space or scene,” says Kerri Aungle, head of Data Lab at MPC. “The higher the resolution, the better the composited subject will look in that other environment.” But, she urges, make sure you talk to your VFX guys before the camera starts rolling. “I can’t stress how important it is to speak to an experienced VFX or post studio before shooting 4k,” she pleads. “Each shoot has a bespoke approach and will need to be handled differently. The expertise that the studio can provide 46 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 86 FEBRUARY 2014 is essential to make everything run smoothly.” 4k is instant As with pretty much all digital acquisition, shooting in 4k allows you to see your material in full resolution and perform quality control tests right there and then on set. As Matt Platts- Mills of 4k London explains: “Gone are all those worries about whether the shots have been exposed properly or [questions about whether] you have got the right shots. Working [in 4k] you simply fl ick through them there and then. That whole creative worry is gone and you can get on with focusing on all the other creative concerns.” You do need a DIT though if you’re going to this successfully, he adds: “[Editors] want good metadata and good quality rushes. You don’t absolutely need a DIT but without one you miss out on that initial quality control. Going back for a re-shoot will cost you a lot more than hiring a DIT in the fi rst place.” 4k is for the future Another obvious one: shooting in 4k can help to preserve footage for the long-term. I think marketing people call it future-proofi ng. “Every single shot is an archive,” says Gunton. “It’s also useful for stills. Every frame is a still for publicity.” With 4k, frame rates matter Movement within a 4k shot doesn’t hold up well if you use a low frame rate. So a higher one needs to be adopted. “There’s no question that higher frame rates would give you a better image with motion,” says BSkyB’s Robin Broomfi eld who was involved in the commercial broadcaster’s 4k tests in 2013“