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Future-proofing your 4K work: three things cinematographers should consider

A Canon EOS C700 FF in action filming Nancy Schreiber's 4K short A Dishful of Dollars. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. © Ron Batzdorff

In the ongoing quest for better image quality, the cinematography and television industries have embraced 4K recording. But 4K television is still only available to a very small audience, so that recording in 4K is considered a way to future-proof your work for a time when the technology in people's homes catches up.

Many video professionals are asking themselves what capabilities to look for in their next cine camera, and wondering to what extent they need to invest in storage to oversample in the highest possible resolution. Paul Atkinson, a Product Specialist at Canon, lists the three most important things for DOPs and other video professionals to consider.

1. The future is already here

Cinematographer Nancy Schreiber and director Nigel Dick discuss a shot on a Canon EOS C700 FF surrounded by crew.
People like cinematographer Nancy Schreiber and director Nigel Dick are already working in 4K – and the demand is set to grow. Here, Nany and Nigel discuss a shot they're filming on the Canon EOS C700 FF. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. © Ron Batzdorff
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"4K is already being commissioned by certain online subscription channels, so if you want to produce anything for them, you'll have to shoot 4K. But the number of people who can actually watch 4K now is relatively small because they have to have a combination of a suitable television and a subscription to one of the online television providers or Sky. However, future-proofing for the day when 4K becomes more accessible isn't the only reason to shoot 4K. Many cinematographers are shooting 4K even if it's downscaled to HD, because the quality is still measurably better.

"The whole 4K revolution is about meeting demand for higher image quality, and although it's impossible to determine when, there will eventually be a demand for 4K television. What's important in regard to future-proofing is that when delivery of 4K into the home becomes more widespread, you need to make sure that there is an audience for your material. If you're not producing stuff at the right resolution, you're in danger of being left behind."

2. Future-proofing isn't just about the number of Ks

Cinematographer Nancy Schreiber checks the shot as an operator uses a Canon EOS C700 FF on a Steadicam.
The Canon EOS C700 FF captures 5.9K as a RAW file, giving you a great amount of data to post-process. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. © Ron Batzdorff

"As a DOP or video professional, your first priority should always be image quality. That's true whether you want HD or 4K – you want the best quality possible for your output. If you look at high-end cinematography and high production-value broadcast drama, data is the key. The more data you have to play with, the more you can do with the final output.

"If you use the Canon EOS C700 FF to its fullest extent, you're actually capturing 5.9K as a RAW file, and that's a massive amount of data that you can post-process to give the look and feel that you want. What you need is the ability to really exploit that file to get the best out of it, and out of the camera, because it's what you see after the post-processing that's important, and that should really be the first consideration for anyone in film and TV. So you want the best quality camera and the best quality lens, and the colour science has got to be right.

"Canon's lenses are world-known for their optical quality. That and the way the camera's sensor and processor work, and the way the camera produces its colour, all combine to give you that overall look and feel that cinematographers love. With Canon's range of cinema cameras, if you're recording a Full HD image, you actually capture a 4K image and the camera downscales it to Full HD. That's the camera exploiting the full capability of the sensor to give you the best quality HD output.

"It's about getting the maximum functionality out of the sensor, which then translates to the screen, because at the end of the day, what appears on the screen is paramount."

3. Your requirements depend on the client

A Canon EOS C700 FF camera seen from the left side.
Canon's cine cameras work together easily so you can use the Canon EOS C700 FF as an A-camera and a Canon EOS C200 as a B-camera shooting in Cinema RAW Light and all the files can be easily cut together. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. © Ron Batzdorff

"It's worth considering the pros and cons before shooting 4K or higher, and storage is a real concern. If you shoot RAW with the Canon EOS C700 FF, a 2TB drive will be filled up in around 26 minutes. And even with a workflow captured in 4K for output in Full HD, you will have to keep those files somewhere and back them up, so you'll need double the amount of storage compared to what you actually capture.

"Your requirements depend on what you're outputting to. Some people will never need to worry about outputting in 4K, and for them the Canon EOS C100 Mark II could still be the perfect entry point.

"If you're shooting for cinema or high-end broadcast, you need to have the ability to shoot RAW, although you might not always use it because of the large data streams and files. Even with the non-RAW recording option, you're looking at something like 810MB per second for the Canon EOS C700 FF and 405MB per second for the Canon EOS C300 Mark II, so it's still a lot of data being written. So you need to ask yourself, do you need the full cinematic approach with the maximum resolution, or can you go for something smaller and easier to handle in the form of the Canon EOS C300 Mark II recording in XF-AVC or even the Canon EOS C200 recording in Cinema RAW Light in 4K, which gives you a much smaller file size than Canon's Cinema RAW Light, but still a robust file structure to allow for processing?

"One of the great things about Canon's range of cine cameras is that anything can work together. At a multi-camera shoot you can have a Canon EOS C700 FF as the A-camera, and the B-camera can be a Canon EOS C200 shooting in Cinema RAW Light. Images can be monitored on-set in real-time and/or edited and graded in post-production, all with Canon's class leading 4K reference displays."

Written by Kathrine Anker


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