To 4K or not?, “Wienerland” as a case study

Shooting in 4K is just became popular then ever and certainly more affordable with the introduction of the Panasonic GH4. But how practical is it to shoot in a “real life production”?
In episode number 6 of our successful “ON THE COUCH” series recorded at NAB and hosted by my friend and colleague Nino Leitner, Rodney Charters, ASC, is questioning the necessity of 4K filming in modern digital cinema and TV productions. I admire Rodney and find his thoughts very interesting and extremely helpful, but from my personal experience and after getting the chance to participate as a DOP in a low/no budget production, I came to the conclusion that shooting in 4K (regardless to your final full HD output be it TV or web) is a must.

Wienerland 4When the young and promising Austrian director Jan Woletz and his talented colleague Christof Dertschei (VFX effects specialist) asked me to join shooting the teaser for “Wienerland“, their up coming web series, we went into short discussion regarding the question, “which camera to use”?. As it was a no budget production, Jan was in favor of using his Canon C300 as our main camera, while I was suggesting shooting on my personal Canon 1DC. For many professionals using a 4K camera for a “web production” might look as an extremely “over kill” decision, nevertheless, my arguments for using the Canon 1DC were very clear:

-We had only 3 shooting days. In those packed days (or should I say nights), we had to film a great variety of perspectives. One of the ways to overcome the shortage of time and give my director freedom while editing (freedom in the sense of deciding on a certain perspective taken from the 4K frame and  also be able to “travel” within the frame” was to shoot in 4K and edit on a 1080 timeline.

-In this specific production we were under staffed and short in equipment. There was no doubt that only a camera which can produce a nice, clean looking image at high ISO values would be an option. The Canon 1DC was chosen as the best available option.

Wienerland 3

Now, a short pause from the 4K talk and a little bit about the “Wienerland project”. Actually, I will let Jan and Christof describe it best in a short 3 minute video they made exactly for this purpose.

Back to our discussion, unlike other “fashionable” filming trends, I’m sure 4K shooting is here to stay. It is up to us the users to make the most out of it and make it serve us best in our productions. As more companies like Panasonic, Blackmagic and Kinefinity to name a few are now offering affordable 4K recording, I am sure more companies will follow with modestly priced solutions too.

Wienerland 7

And what about “Wienerland”, where does the project currently stand? As this is a “web based series”, the creators are looking for a large fan based audience which will follow and support them during the different stages of the production. A crowdfunding campaign is also planned.  Cinema5D will continue to accompany the project and share when progress is made.

See the list below to find out which equipment was used for this teaser.

Lenses: Zeiss ZF 21mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm – modified by LOCKCIRCLE (PrimeCircle)

Main grading was done in DaVinci Resolve (no film look plugins used). Pre-grading & matching (respectively most of the grading of the shootout) was done in After Effects with Colorista II.

Photos by: Daniel Nuderscher

I would like to thank the most amazing dedicated crew. Without them any of it wouldn’t have been possible. A special thanks to my “Swiss army knife” gaffer Uli Neuburg and electrician Elias Jerusalem.

Please stay tuned to cinema5D as we will soon post another episode of “ON THE COUCH“, where Nino Leitner hosted a very engaging discussion with Jan Woletz, Christoph Dertschei and the Bui Brothers, talking about exactly that subject: Is it worth shooting in 4K or not? The episode will go live in the coming days.

A full actors/crew list of “Wienerland” can be seen here
Making of and behind the scene:

Watch it on Vimeo

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Reply
Ian May 19, 2014

“Shooting in 4K is just became popular then ever” … ?
Does that make any sense whatsoever? If it does, could you explain how?

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 20, 2014

Panasonic GH4

Thanks!

 Lane McCall Reply
Lane May 21, 2014

uh…. what?

Reply
k May 20, 2014

I see few issues with this 4k reframing to 2k/1080p approach:
1. It let’s cinematographer to be more sloppy, think less about composition.
2. Puts more work on editor – or cinematographer will become editor as well?
3. If you’re reframing from different space (sometimes from the whole image sometimes only from full hd frame) that scaled image will look differently, right? Scaled directly from 4k to 2k will be more detailed than just 2k reframed from that 4k. So quality will vary.
4. Using cheaper lenses quality of image will not be even – 2k frame taken from corner will be softer than that taken from center.

Third and fourth point are just my thoughts – if someone could put an example proving that it’s not an issue I would be happy to see that I’m wrong.

Reply
cal mic May 20, 2014

While i agree that reframing shouldnt be used as a crutch, it’s done all the time, even on the biggest Hollywood productions.

Use it sparingly, and make its use invisible, and you’ll be fine

Reply
Oscar May 20, 2014

Nah… just give us all the “K” we can get. how you use it is up to you ;)

Reply
Ehren May 20, 2014

uhh.. I think think this proved that an iphone is sufficient with the right talent.

Reply
Oscar May 21, 2014

sure – but the same talent would be able to deliver something that is better quality with something better than a iPhone video :)

Reply
Tomek May 22, 2014

I got conspiracy theory that 4k was invented to stop our creativity. Now we are prepared to start make a lot of hd movies with decent quality. We have tools, workflow – everything. And all of sudden there is “cheap” 4k reality…. ???
I think that this is a trap because no one from indies is really prepared. When you gonna start to shoot your feature in 4k you will ended in years of finishing it. I’ve done my film which was hd format and just single color session was heavy around 1tb. Can you imagine this thing in 4k?! How you gonna handle? ?Buying a new mac, new cards, new zillion tbites hard drives, new this and that?! Please!!! In the same time you could do 2 or 3 films in a year with a pretty 2K. Just my 5c.

Reply
Jeff July 7, 2014

Typically editing of 4K video is done w an HD proxy file. You can then link to the 4K files and only render what is needed. But yes, to handle uncompressed 4K video (especially for NLE and live color grading) a pretty high powered computer is necessary.

Reply
Riccardo Covino May 22, 2014

Starting from the same reasons (budget, reframing, best quality possible) I went for BMCC.
It has pros and cons, but for sure is cheaper than 1DC, gives much more grading freedom, allows enough reframing from 2.5k sensor.
4K is a must? You have to explain it to all latest Oscar winners (mainly Alexa cameras)

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 22, 2014

Hi Riccardo.

To my opinion and what I have experienced so far, 4K shooting is much more beneficial for Low/no budget productions then the ones you are referring to. When there is sufficient time to shoot, enough crew and proper budget I guess your shooting tool is less crucial when it comes to resolution. All I am saying is, 4K allows more flexibility during post production. If you used it before I guess you will agree.

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
Riccardo Covino May 22, 2014

Hi John,
thanks for answering.
I admit I didn’t try 4k yet, but the only advantage I can see is for more flexible reframing.
And that’s useful for sure, but if you plan carefully the shots (and planning is a matter of time more than budget) it shouldn’t need such huge oversizing.
On the other hand I wouldn’t find myself comfortable to frame the shots 50% wider than needed so I can reframe them later.
Instead I appreciate a lot the possibilities that RAW give me in post to recover lights and colors even from a poor set and allow me terrific results.
Different needs, different priorities.

Chris Gibbs Reply
Chris Gibbs May 22, 2014

But aren’t there a whole bunch of issues that arise when we “down-sample” 4K footage?

As of yet, with the exception of Canon Cinema cameras has anyone given us a quality 1080 file? As a stills guys I’d love a proper stills camera that’ll give me a “broadcast quality” 1080 HD picture. So far though, no such thing has been made with the exemption of Canon 1DC.

I’m intrigued by the Sony A7S, but as of yet, I’m not sure wether or not that camera is producing a broadcast quality 1080p picture!

Cheers,
Chris

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 23, 2014

Hi Chris.

Best HD I have seen so far is coming from down-sampled 4K. Others may not agree but this is my observation.

The A7s will be on our desk soon so I’ll be able to test and share with the community.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Joel Richards Reply
Joel May 23, 2014

@Johnnie: isn’t down sampled 4K what the A7S does in camera? Some interesting thoughts and your brief reviews are among my most respected on the internet. Looking forward to the A7S—I wish it did at least a low(ish) quality 4K in camera for the reasons you mention here. I think almost any sub-cinema camera on the market benefits from an external recorder at 4K.

Chris Gibbs Reply
Chris Gibbs May 23, 2014

Hi Johnnie,

Thanks for the reply! I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the Sony A7s. I’d be very interested to see how the A7s performs in 1080 HD mode when compared to the GH4 in 4K down sampled and native 1080 HD mode.

We really need a good hybrid stills camera.

1. Good or better stills than a 5D3
2. XLR Audio option
3. Broadcast quality 1080p HD (for news gathering)
4. Quality EVF

Cheers,
Chris

Joel Richards Reply
Joel May 23, 2014

@Chris: I am also hopeful that the A7S will be such a camera. Owning an A7 I feel the camera line is already capable on points 1,2,&4. #3 is what is really lacking.

Chris Gibbs Reply
Chris Gibbs May 25, 2014

Hi Joel,

I bought an A7R & 55/f1.8 “just to see if I liked it” and I loved it so much I bought another – then proceeded to sell-off my 5D3 kit……….

There are “issues” with these EVF cameras, they’re an order of magnitude slower for stills than an OVF as we have to “wake-up” the EVF before looking through it. But for motion, an EVF is the only way to go and motion is the future (like it or not).

Personally I think the still files from the A7R are far superior to my 5D3, better shadow detail especially, and to be honest, I never really liked the video from the 5D3, it just looked soft, I much preferred the video files from the Sony RX10 I have.

Interesting times. I’m also looking forward to Johnnies thoughts on the A7S 1080p HD output too.

Chris