I have been seeing a ton of RED footage in the suite lately. 4k, 6k, and 8K are all common occurrences. It’s rare that I see anything acquired at 1080 or 2k anymore (which is pretty crazy considering where things were just a couple of years ago).
I saw this article in Variety the other day and it spurred me to write this blog posting. Some people may disagree with me, but I see footage on a daily basis and I’d like to think I have a relatively informed opinion. I realize that there is no right answer and that there are pros and cons to each side. I’m always open to hear the opinions of others and starting up some healthy conversations! I want to point out that I’m not arguing against the acquisition of higher resolution formats, I’m arguing against how it is used in the color suite and delivered upon completion.
I think the biggest advantage of larger acquisition formats is for visual effects. The extra resolution can go a long ways when in the right hands. Any VFX artist that I have ever talked to prefers more data to work with. It just offers more flexibility and detail that you can’t get with the lower resolutions.
As far as color is concerned one of the most common things that I hear is “We shot 4k so we can reposition and reframe the shots to make new angles”. I have to say, this is one of my biggest pet peeves. I understand this is done with good intentions, but if you want to have a specific framing, use that framing. Don’t cheat it. The lighting won’t look the same and neither will the focus. It just doesn’t have the same look or feel. I have experienced this on countless occasions. If done minimally, it can work, but I feel like it’s generally abused.
My opinion may be a little skewed since I primarily work in commercials, but when delivering for broadcast most specs are for 1080. Almost all of my 4k deliveries have been for some sort of projection. I don’t have any problem working in the higher resolution, it’s delivering it that I don’t agree with. Televisions are getting there and some streaming services (like Netflix) are pushing the envelope, but they don’t have the restrictions that the big cable companies do. I think it’s important to realize that we will get there, but I just don’t think we’re ready for it quite yet (at least in the commercial world). I’m not trying to be negative, I think the change is a good thing, I would just like to see the process a little more controlled so the quality remains high and isn’t degraded.
Another argument that I hear all the time is that the client wants to “future proof” their material. Again, my view might be a little skewed because of my commercial work, but I feel like this is kind of a cop out. What is the shelf life for commercials? A year? How many commercials are remastered? It just doesn’t happen. I understand why people might want to do it for movies, but for commercials I just don’t see the reason for it.
In summation I think that camera manufactures are focused on the wrong thing. Everyone is trying to get bigger formats out there for the wow factor. How long will it be until someone starts talking about 16K? It sounds ridiculous, but I bet it’s not that far away. Cameras are evolving and changing fast. Almost too fast. What I’d like to see a focus on the quality of the image more than the size of the image. Better pixels not more pixels, please.