Anytime something is being heralded as “the future,” I am automatically skeptical. I’ve been told that Dippin’ Dots are the “Ice Cream of the Future” for two decades, and I still can’t go buy a gallon at Walmart. When will that future be here??
I’ve become jaded and cynical by Dippin’ Dots. So when I was told a few years ago that 4K is “the future” of video production, I didn’t really buy into it. That might be true, I thought, but that future is still a long way away.
However, apparently the technology world moves faster than dessert world, because here are four reason why I believe the future of 4K has finally arrived.
1) 4K is going mainstream
Raise your hand if you have a 4K TV at home. Ok, both of you can put your hands down now.
Although 4K sets are rare right now, TV makers are working to change that. Just like the prices of high-def TV’s eventually came down in price, 4K TV’s will as well. In fact right now, you can get a 55” 4K TV for a little over $1,000. But when it comes to mass adoption, hardware is only half of the equation. To get the most out of a 4K TV, you need 4K content.
4K content distribution is still in its infancy, however YouTube and Netflix are beginning to stream content in 4K, and it’s only a matter of time before traditional cable and satellite providers follow suit.
2) The price of 4K is falling
One of the biggest reasons people are resistant to moving to 4K is the price. Up until about a year ago, a 4K camera would set you back over $10,000, and with certain companies, the price of 4K hasn’t really dropped that much (I’m looking at you, Canon).
Within the last year, there have been a few companies who are working to bring 4K to the masses by releasing small, easy to use 4K cameras.
Arguably the most well-known affordable 4K camera right now is the Panasonic Lumix GH4 ($1,500). Although it looks like a standard DSLR, this mirrorless camera can record 4K to a standard SD card while keeping file sizes manageable, which has always been a challenge of 4K. There is a wide selection of great Panasonic lenses available for the GH4, and it can also use Canon or Nikon lenses with an adapter. For beginners looking to jump to 4K, this is definitely the way to go.
Samsung, a relatively new player in the professional camera market, has two 4K cameras, the NX1 ($1,500) and the not-yet-released NX500 ($800). The fact that there is a 4K camera for under $1,000 is just insane. Since Samsung is fairly unproven in this space, time will tell whether these cameras are viable options, but for those on the tightest of budgets the NX500 makes for a great option.
The camera we have here in WebComm is the Sony A7s ($2,500). It’s a little more expensive than the GH4, and requires an external recorder ($2,000) to record in 4K. So why would choose this? There are a lot of technical reasons I could go into (but I won’t for the sake of brevity), but basically every camera has it’s own look and aesthetic, and the aesthetic of the A7s just met our needs better than the other 4K options. It really just comes down to personal preference.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to rent a camera before you buy. You can’t judge a camera based on specs alone, and the only way to know for sure if a camera is for you is to just go out and shoot with it.
3) Two cameras in one
One of my initial reservations about 4K was that since not many people own a 4K TV, it’s pointless to shoot in anything higher than 1080p. Why shoot in 4K if no one can watch it in 4K? Well it turns out that there are actually a couple of key advantages to shooting in 4K, even if you’re distributing at 1080p.
The biggest advantage is the ability to crop in post. Just like how you can crop a picture from a stills camera, shooting in 4K allows you to crop in your video and not notice a drop in quality. Most 4K cameras shoot in a resolution of 3840×2160, which is exactly double the resolution of 1080p (1920×1080). So when editing 4K footage in a 1080p project, you can crop or zoom in up to 200% without losing any quality.
Where this comes in handy is in shooting talking head interviews. When you’re a one man band trying to shoot an interview, you usually only have the ability to run one camera, which can make things complicated when it comes time to edit. If you shoot the interview in 4K, boom. You magically have two camera angles for the price of one.
4) Future proof
Have you ever gone back and watched home videos shot in standard definition on an old camcorder? Yeah, it’s not pretty. By making the switch to 4K now, you’re ensuring that your footage is going to look great for many years to come.
WebComm has an online library of b-roll clips available for campus-wide use, which currently has around 100 clips. Now that we can shoot in 4K, we will be able to add 4K clips of campus that will stand the test of time.
We are at the forefront of the transition from HD to 4K, and I predict it will be a much faster transition than the switch from SD to HD. 4K is indeed the future, and that future is already here.