The consumer demand for video is growing and with increasingly discerning clients clued-up on quality, more and more professionals are shooting in 4K. But what impact does shooting in Ultra HD have on a professional’s workflow, and what’s needed to get the most from the data produced? Industry experts at the International Broadcasting Convention 2017 in Amsterdam, Holland, told us how they value filming in 4K, even if their final output is HD – and how their workflows have adapted.
“The thing about 4K, whether you’re talking video or stills, is that once you’ve shot in higher resolution, you don’t want to go back,” says photographer and videographer David Newton. “I recently filmed in 4K Cinema RAW Light on the C200 in Dubai, shooting a whirling dervish and a 4x4 out in the sand dunes, and it gave me so much gradeability in post.”
“The workflow itself is much the same as HD footage, with the potential addition of a RAW conversion step – what’s different is the size of the files that you’re dealing with, so you need more storage, and higher spec screens and hardware to make the most of it,” says Paul Atkinson, Canon’s European Pro Video Product Specialist.
For many, 4K is the future, and if you’re considering joining the increasing number of creatives shooting in Ultra HD, these are the ways to manage and get the most from your higher-resolution footage.
The first thing to consider is “data, data, and more data,” says Newton. “Taking the EOS C200, if you shoot 4K Cinema RAW Light at 50fps, then you’ll generate around 7.5GB of data every minute. That’s a lot to deal with, but it’s worth it for the quality and control it gives.”
This quantity of data means more cards – with the EOS C200, you’ll be shooting to CFast cards in 4K RAW Light, and a 128GB card is around £350. You’ll also need to allow more time for data-wrangling and backing up footage on location.
“You’ve then got more data once you get to the computer,” adds Newton. “That follows right through the workflow, so you need larger storage and faster writing speeds.
“If we take the Canon workflow solution, you’re going to go C200 to Canon Cinema RAW Development (CRD) software and then you’re going to create, let’s say, ProRes 4444 and edit in Adobe Premiere. So that in itself creates extra data – a 25-second 4K RAW Light file is around 3.3GB; once converted to ProRes 4444, that becomes roughly 6.3GB, so for 25 seconds of footage you’ll need almost 10GB of space. You must also remember that when you’re doing the conversion from RAW to ProRes, you’re going to need plenty of extra disk space to be able to write temporary files.
But Newton is quick to reinforce the benefits, and why these are well worth the initial investment. “Shooting in HD is great for some projects, but more and more clients are asking for 4K. And even in personal work, I’d always shoot at the highest quality possible because, although I end up with more data, post is where the real magic of video happens and 4K RAW Light just adds another level of control and quality.”
“When you come to processing, more data means more time,” says Newton. “Everything takes longer. There’s a time implication because you’ve introduced a new step. In the past you had HD, which was a non-log, or non-RAW codec, so you could get on with editing it straight away. Now you’ve got to go through an interim step to do the conversion, which takes time.”
Of course, this is dependent on your computer processing power, but on a reasonable MacBook Pro Retina you’ll have the minimum recommended specifications for Cinema RAW Development, meaning the same 25-second clip we’ve mentioned will take between four and five minutes to convert to ProRes.
“Shooting in 4K increases the length of my workflow more than four times,” says filmmaker Philip Bloom. “I’m currently editing an eight-part series in 4K that I’ve made, and it’s taking weeks. But I don’t regret shooting in 4K – it’s the best image.”
“You’re dealing with very much larger files and that can catch some people out, particularly when it comes to the processing power required to work on those files,” says Canon’s Paul Atkinson. “If you’re looking at capturing footage at around 1Gbps on the EOS C200, you’re going to be creating a lot of data over a filming session, so you need to be able to process that.”
In terms of the computer specifications required, the minimum specs listed for Canon Cinema RAW Development on the Canon website are a good starting point, but remember they are minimum specs. The higher the specification of the workstation, the more efficient your workflow will be.
RAW 4K files can be imported natively into software DaVinci Resolve, Atkinson says, or you can use a plug-in to do the same with Avid. Even though these two applications are capable of ingesting Cinema RAW Light files directly, the advantage of using CRD software is the ability to develop the files with Canon Log 2 applied, giving 15 stops of Dynamic Range.
“More powerful processing is required,” agrees Newton. “You need much greater computer processing power and graphic processing power. DaVinci Resolve is the only thing currently that will natively deal with 4K RAW, albeit you don’t get the full 15 stops of dynamic range, you only get 13. But it’s dealing with the RAW files, so you don’t have to deal with the process of converting in the middle.”
An essential part of the 4K workflow arsenal is a high-resolution screen, at a minimum of 4K. “The monitors are an essential part of the workflow,” says Atkinson. “If you’re filming in 4K for output in 4K, then you will need to see a 4K image. You need to make sure that when you grade your footage, you are seeing a true representation – you need a balanced, properly calibrated piece of equipment that gives you true colour and true contrast. Making sure the colour is accurate is a vital part of the workflow process, which Canon is able to provide a solution for.” A good example of this is the Canon DP-V2411 4K monitor, which offers top image quality across a 24-inch display, designed to be used throughout the production and post-production process.