UHD video production – is it worth it?
This is something that I’ve already answered for myself but it’s a question that a lot of videographers are asking themselves right now – “Am I going to benefit from UHD video production?” Actually, that’s the wrong question. What you should be asking is, “Are my customers going to benefit from UHD video production?”. I think so – and the five key-reasons for me are:
- UHD Video Production for the price of HD
(And maybe even less!)
- Greater Creativity
(Large sensor creativity – produced even quicker)
- Resolution Choice
(HD delivery from a UHD video production workflow)
- Future-Proofed Footage
(UHD Masters – even if you don’t need them now!)
- Faster Turnaround
(Multi-camera look from single-camera filming)
What is UHD?
It’s hard to talk about this subject without getting technical but I’m going to try and keep it as light as possible as I’ve got a lot of readers who are not technical at all. UHD (Ultra High Definition) is a high resolution video format. Simplistically, this means it gives you (potentially) a lot more detail in the picture. To give you a comparison High Definition (HD) video has a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Ultra HD, or 4K as it’s also known, gives you 3840 x 2160 pixels (and a touch more in it’s native and ultra-wide variants). If you want to dig deeper and get all techie then read this Wiki page.
OK – that’s all the really techie bits out of the way – almost. Now let’s look at why I’ve taken the plunge and opted for JVC’s 4K offering, the GY-LS300 and how I think UHD video production will start to benefit my customers.
Creativity with Ease
I’ve been shooting video with HD DSLRs (digital stills cameras that shoot video too) for about 6-years now and quickly grew to love the DSLR look. Even with all of their shortcomings, impracticalities and oodles of accessories needed to make them useful as a video production tool – I soon became a DSLR-er. Whilst they’ve come on leaps and bounds, and still have a place in my tool box, DSLRs simply weren’t the right tool for every job. For instance, I still think it’s bonkers shooting anything long-form with them such as conferences and business presentations.
What differentiated DSLRs from traditional video cameras was their shallow depth of field look (or Bokeh) and their pin-sharp and colourful imagery which is achieved through utilising their large image sensors. These were not just desirable features to me – they turned out to be both inspirational and educational. Like many other videographers, traditional video cameras (with their fixed zoom lenses) took away the need for me to understand about lens features and mechanics, the impact of sensor sizes and how to operate a camera manually. You switched them on and pointed them in the general direction of the action – and in “auto-everything” mode you’d be pretty unlucky to get something that wasn’t useful.
Whiz on a few years and everyone started talking about UHD video production and it was a relatively easy step for manufacturers to create DSLRs capable of these higher resolution pictures with their already large-enough image sensor size (most traditional video cameras have puny image chips in them by comparison). I was tempted, but the ergonomics and struggles associated with DSLR filming kept me from putting my hand in my pocket. Photography and videography are two distinctly separate fields of image capture which have very different design and use requirements. DSLRs are essentially just stills cameras that can shoot video.
These were soon followed by a wave of traditional video cameras with large sensors capable of UHD video production – most with interchangeable lenses but, more importantly, they were designed with the videographer and cinematographer in mind. Not only were the ergonomics more familiar but they also handled audio in the same way with professional connections and controls where a videographer would expect to find them.
So now we have a properly designed offering of video cameras capable of UHD video production and the same sumptuous shallow depth of field that we’ve all grown used to seeing. Now my only quandary was which one?
UHD video production with JVC’s GY-LS300
Apart from being a total JVC tart, a large part of the reasoning behind me investing in JVC’s GY-LS300 was down to its ability to work with a range of lens types. Other choices of camera would have required reinvestment in glass which would have had to be reflected in my charges to customers. In today’s competitive world, anything that enables you to maintain your rate card whilst improving your output has got to be good for customers.
The combination of the LS300’s Super 35mm sensor and its MTF (Micro Four Thirds) lens mount means you can attach pretty much any lens with the right adapter. Not only does this allow me to use my existing range of DSLR lenses (modern full-frame lenses, cropped sensor lenses and vintage 35mm lenses), but it can also utilise cinema-grade, cheap photographic and even really old (but optically brilliant) 16mm film lenses should the need arise. JVC cleverly achieve this by adjusting the sensor crop within the camera’s VSM setting (Variable Scan Mapping).
My decision was cemented when the latest firmware was announced for the LS300. This brought in a unique ‘Prime Zoom’ function which basically gives you a short but lossless digital zoom when using prime lenses. The range of zoom depends on the recording format the camera is set to, but when filming in HD mode this can give you up to 2.3x zoom on a prime lens (1.25x in 4K mode).
The other additions introduced in the latest firmware included ‘J Log’ mode which enables you to record a wide latitude and high dynamic range similar to that found on film cameras. Whilst this requires additional time in post production to grade the picture to your desired look, it does give you access to a much higher contrast ratio providing detail within highlights and shadows. This, coupled with exposure histogram, spot metering and other picture level adjustments, will allow me to fine-tune the pictures to my heart’s content.
On top of this the LS300 is extremely compact and light. This is particularly important to me and my customers as much of my work these days is overseas so this should help me to keep shipping costs to an absolute minimum.
HD delivery from UHD video production
Whilst UHD playback TVs and projectors are now widely available, in the near future the vast majority of time I will be creating content for HD delivery. However, shooting in UHD will enable me to make some creative decisions and changes in framing in post. With all that additional resolution to play with it’s easy, and non-destructive, to zoom into the UHD picture without any appreciable loss.
In practical terms (and how UHD video production might save my customers money), this also means I could film a talking-head interview as a single wide shot and then zoom-in or cut-in for close-ups. This negates the need for using two cameras and reduces the time needed on a shoot – both of which are good news for customers.
And whilst I will be editing and delivering predominantly in HD, retaining the original UHD masters will enable my clients to re-purpose material in the future when UHD delivery becomes the norm – without loss in resolution.
My first UHD video production
I’m currently putting the camera and lens configurations through testing to make sure I can give my customers the full benefits of UHD video production. However, I’ve already got some projects in my diary where the LS300 will be my first choice of camera. It’s ideally suited to interview filming and also any scenario where my customers want the added benefits that UHD video production can bring – as well as “lush” pictures and unhindered creativity.
Keep an eye on my blog in the next couple of months and you’ll see exactly what UHD video production is all about. If you can’t wait to find out, and what to be one of our first UHD customers, then please give me a call on 020 3602 3356.