Wednesday, November 30, 2011

4K vs 1080p.... or just a good film.

I love trailing around the various film making forums online. There's some great tips on film making... some great links to really useful websites and lots of interesting people all contributing to the global film making community.  But, there's a hell of a lot of arguing about camera resolution. Ever since RED upped the game with the RED One, people have been talking about 4K acquisition. The new Scarlett is refreshing the argument all over again.  There's a whole bunch of cameras that can shoot in 4K now and there's a growing number of online film makers who will tell you that resolution is king.

I've just shot a full feature in HD for the first time... 1080p HD looks amazing when projected onto a huge cinema screen. Just ask any number of Arri Alexa may capture upto 3.5K, but most users are shooting at 1080p....  even Roger Deakins is shooting the new James Bond film on one in 1080p. If it's good enough for him...  and you can't argue that James Bond isn't meant for a cinema release!

I enjoyed the technical side of preparing for my last shoot. Shooting a feature is grueling. You need to pick the right equipment for the job. I knew we were shooting in low light most of the time, so i picked the Sony NEX-FS100 and Atomos Ninja combo.... they did a great job, thanks to our Camera Op, Amy Wilson and some vintage lenses.

But... are the lovely images making my edit flow better? Is the shallow depth of field making the dialogue work? And, conversely, is the 1080p as opposed to 4K making the story weaker? No, of course not. I've got all kinds of problems in the edit, which is completely usual... it's par for the course. But, not one of them has anything to do with resolution.

1080p HD looks stunning...especially if it's shot right, and so does 4K, but neither is going to affect how good your film is. If film makers spent as much time on script development and rehearsals as they did on camera equipment, maybe the films we get to see would be better than they currently are?

EDIT Jan 2013 - I wrote this back in 2011 and i still feel pretty much the same way about 4K... the only thing i'd add is that 4K shooting does give you the freedom to re-frame your shot in post if needed if you're working on a 1080p timeline... that's useful. BUT... it still isn't essential, there's still no easy workflow for it and even the new Sony 4k recorder doesn't make it very easy or cheap... and Canon's C500 can't capture 4k still need an external recorder for that and they are all very expensive. I just hope someone like Atomos takes up the challenge at some point and they might be able to do it a price we can all work with.... but for now, i'm not at all bothered. My next feature that i'm shooting this year will be shot in 1080p again.

EDIT September 2015 - Why is this post so popular still? It's the most read post on my blog, even 4 years later. I guess it's because people are still googling 4K acquisition.  I now shoot in 4K about half of the time. Any drama projects and some music promos just look stunning shot in 4K, but i'm still editing on a 1080p timeline... no one wants 4K delivery yet apart from for cinema.. and i still think an upscaled decent 10bit 422 HD picture looks amazing.  We're now starting to hear about 8K cameras...  crazy stuff... but you can't stop progress. From what i've seen using various 4K cameras and capture systems, dynamic range makes a much bigger difference than just resolution. As i hoped, Atomos brought out the Shogun and then more recently, the Ninja Assassin.... these are still my preferred way of working.  Did anyone notice how many of the Oscar nominated movies were shot on the Alexa this year? Still not 4k and still cleaning up in the biggest of productions. That tells you all you need to know about the 4K/8K/whatever race for resolution... it's just not that important to the end customer.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Magic Bullet Looks for FCPX

I love Magic Bullet Looks. It's an incredibly creative piece of software that i can't imagine not using on my projects... so not having it for FCPX is a real issue for me. Aside from the bugs that FCPX has, not having access to some of my favourite plug-ins is a real dealbreaker for me. Well, Red Giant are on the case, as you can see in this little video:

Preview of Magic Bullet Looks in FCPX from Red Giant on Vimeo.

So it's another bug within FCPX itself which is slowing the release up. It just makes me more sure that i need to stick with FCP7 for now. However, i'm convinced that in a couple of update's time, FCPX will be ready for some serious use.

If i had to pick one feature to add to it... it would be the ability to save a version of the 'Event' manually anywhere i want at any time...and with all the footage and files it needs to re-open the project.  It can't be that hard...and i'd lose less sleep.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Canon C300 vs RED Scarlett.. and FCPX goes in the recycle bin.

It's been very tempting to blog on the recent releases from Canon and RED...but everyone's at it and i'm sure i don't need to be clouding the landscape with my views. I've sat back, read a lot, listened to other film makers and slowly come up with some clarity...i think.

From where i'm standing, the C300 is a bit of a disappointment.  It's features are close to what we all wanted from a 'Pro' Video DSLR...but not quite there. The form factor is ok... things like that don't matter too much these days as most drama film makers need to mount it on a rail system small is good. But, the price....Jesus!! If Canon had made it compete with the FS100 and AF100, they would have cleaned up... a whole new generation of film makers would have flocked to it. But at around £10k without a lens... ouch. That's put it firmly in the Pro market....and probably the bottom end of the Pro market... which is never a good place to be in my opinion. And anyway... how does it cost that much? I don't see where all that extra over the price of a 5D Mk2 is going... £5k i could have understood...but £10k? No thanks.

The Canon C300.

The new RED Scarlett specs are kind of what we were all expecting. They've dumped the 2/3 sensor in favour of a 35mm one and they've gone with an interchangeable lens system in either Canon or PL flavours.  Lots of bloggers are kicking up saying that the Scarlett isn't usable without spending an extra £5k on storage and batteries etc...and with a new RRP of $9750...which will probably still be around the same in £s once it's shipped here...its looking like an expensive option. Other issues include RED's slightly unstable operating system which has caused people like Phil Bloom issues with his RED Epic and also the sheer size of the data the RED generates. You'll need a DiT and shit-load of HD space to work with it.

RED's latest incarnation of the Scarlett. Will it finally see the light of day without any more spec changes???

At this stage, my money's on Canon to win this little game... the Scarlett has been coming in one form or another for about 3 years.... i'm bored of waiting. It really needs to be stunning to make the wait worth while.... and i think it's going to a pain in the arse to all but the most professional users who are prepared for it's quirks and lengthy workflow. The C300 on the other hand, although far from perfect is ready to shoot out of the box and will be far easier to deal with in post. Early reports suggest that the pictures this thing generates are amazing and contradict what the hardware and codec might imply would be's apparently a very cinematic image. Canon know their i'm hopeful these rumours are true.

I'm sticking with my Sony FS100.... it's turned out to be the best choice for my kind of budget and after having started on the edit of my latest feature i shot on it...i can confirm it is truly a stunning image.

One more thing...

A few months ago i was singing FCPX's praises. I must confess that i have gone back to using FCP7 this week. FCPX crashed on me after a 5 hour editing session and lost all my work...gone...without trace. I was really not happy with that. I was also really missing some of my plug-ins that are FCP7 only still... so for now, i'm using the old trusty 7 to edit my film. Apple need to sort FCPX out... losing work in a professional situation is not an option. Rant over...

Until next time...