Why 4K cameras, TV sets are on fast track to market

Affordable 4K production, new codecs, 4K monitors and 4K venues are rapidly coming forward, thus opening a debate over the merits of 4K production in what is still considered to be an HD world.


4K or HD image quality comes down to the specific capture system and the technology employed to reproduce the image.  Many of the more popular 4K capable cameras (Red Scarlet, Red Epic, F55 and C500) seem to be on their back feet with their low chip resolution to final resolution ratio.


When looking at the 2K Arri Alexa vs. the 5K Red Epic, it’s apparent that the Arri has the advantage of a higher photosite to pixel ratio, while the Epic must employ interpolation and a low pass filter to reproduce the image.


Epic content, however, is more likely to be longer-lived, because it remains relevant in a 2K and 4K world.  A 5K-to-2K workflow may be considered to be carrying empty data, but that same data easily transfers to 4K distributions.


Workflow is certainly a big consideration for any production. With more accessible HD content distribution it’s easy to argue for HD capture with lower data expenditures then the common 4K RAW flavors.  (Updates on ArriRaw 4K workflow will be discussed in the next column.


This argument presupposes that there is no middle ground.  The Sony F5 and F55 can internally record 4K in a more workflow and archiving friendly XAVC.  Additionally, recorders like the Aja Ki Pro Quad can take 4K output from the Canon C500, Sony F5 or F55 and record familiar Apple Pro Res in 4K resolution. 


4K delivery and theater projection 


Keeping with delivery as a constant consideration, the argument against 4K tends to shift towards the prevalence of web-based HD delivery, 2K theater projection and HD broadcast standards.


H.265 and VP9 are quickly changing the face of web-based possibilities.  They provide higher quality at lower data rates, making 4K streaming a possibility over current bandwidth and higher quality HD available to low bandwidth viewers.


While there are still many theaters screening in 2K or even with 35mm film prints, there is a strong push towards 4K projection.  Sony has been working with AMC to convert their theaters to 4K projection and 4K projectors are in development, which opens further possibilities.


Systems like the Red Ray and Red Laser could provide low cost solutions for smaller venues to provide 4K screenings. 


Increasing demand for 4K content 


With the aggressive marketing of big name brand 4K TV monitors and 4K consumer/prosumer products available, it’s certain that demand for 4K content will increase, which extends to 4K broadcast.

While much of broadcast-aimed image capture is aired immediately, let’s not forget that the footage has a shelf life beyond immediate broadcast. All-in-all, 4K is here to stay and its use will only expand Magnanimous Media’s  large on-premise 4K inventory includes Sony F55, Red Epic, Red Scarlet, Canon C500 and the new Blackmagic 4K production camera.


To see Rubash’s 4K reel, click here.


Jonah Rubash, Magnanimous Media’s In-House Director of Photography, lso shoots narrative videos. Contact: jonah@magnanimous.biz.