A couple of weeks ago JVC introduced a 4K video camera at the IBC show in Amsterdam. Now there's nothing particularly noteworthy about 4K itself - Red One's been producing 4K cameras for a while now, and a number of major Hollywood productions have been shot with this camera (including The Social Network and District 9). What really remarkable about the camera is who it's designed for.
Up until the coupleof years 4K has usually been restricted to the very highest of high-end productions. At this point, it's almost impossible to view 4K video without specialize equipment, and with good reason. 4K has almost 4 times the amount of image information as 1080P HD. Processing imagery of that quality takes some serious power.
Yet here's JVC introducing a 4K camera aimed squarely at independant/documentary filmmakers. How 'aimed', you ask? The camera's expected to retail for less than $6,000 when it's released early next year. That puts the ability to create 4K footage squarely into the hands of most working filmmakers.
So how does this affect you and me?
You begin to see why 4K is a big deal. (literally and figuratively)
Long answer: 3D may well be a fad that goes away as fast as in appeared. You'll still see it from time to time on Hollywood blockbusters, but it's a long way from universal adoption. 4K's an altogether different story. Here's why...
Many of us started shooting in HD before our clients were really requesting it. Why? Because footage shot at a higher resolution and color depth still looks WAY better downconverted to standard def than footage shot in SD. The same thing it true of footage shot at 4K - when you downconvert it's going to look better in 1080P than footage shot at 1080.
Last year Christopher Nolan was quoted in HD Video Pro magazine as saying that he's going to stick with film until 8K's available. (kind of a joke since 8K's only a dream in engineer's heads at this point) His point was that he'd rather have the highest capture quality possible, and at this point he still believe's it's film. In fact, Nolan would shoot everything in IMAX format if someone would make a camera quiet enough to shoot dialog with.
It's always better to shoot at that highest resolution possible, with the highest color sampling possible. Period. Having said that, there's more than just resolution and color samping that goes into making great images. A lot more.
The question the budding filmmaker has to ask themselves is this: "What's the best quality I can shoot at and still tell my story now?" In interviews preceeding the release of Avatar, James Cameron stated that 2K is ample resolution for movies being showed in theaters. (2K is roughly equivelent to 1080P, today's HD standard) If 2K's good enough for then Cameron you and I should be in pretty good shape with it for now. To put things in perspective - Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was shot in 1080p.
For now, 4K's going to be a technical nightmare to work with. And JVC's new camera is too hobbled to be THE camera that brings 4K into the mainstream (small sensor size for starters). Having said that, Red One and Canon are both planning major announcements on November 3rd, and anticipation is running high that one or both companies will be releasing 4K camera for under $10,000. If that happens, expect things to begin heading towards a 4K production world in short order.
Thoughts? Share them in the Comments below...