Filming in 4K: how resolution know-how can save you on set

Film production is a petri-dish of technological innovation. By definition, film-sets push the boundaries of what can be done. But as a result, the question of what should be done can sometimes take a back seat. This can end up costing your business more than it should.

Most people agree that 4K resolution looks spectacular. It contains four times the level of information than our cosy 1080p. But, like all formats, it is a tool that is either applicable to your project or not.

For example, say you’re an automotive manufacturer. You’re about to release the jewel in the crown of your fleet at a glitzy auto show, and you’ve made some films to play on a giant screen to blow people away. Then 4K is a bare minimum. But say you’re an independent agency and you’ve been tasked with creating some YouTube content for one of your clients. Well, ask yourself whether you’ve ever personally hit the 4K button on YouTube. Exactly.

There is an argument to be had for future-proofing one’s content. 4K is one way of ensuring that the shots you take today will mesh easily with shots taken five years from now. But there’s one thing that will date your footage quicker than the resolution size, and that’s content. Are there any statistics in your film? Have facts changed in the intervening years? Does the featured senior management still work at the company? Content has the potential to unravel mountains of “future-proofing” cash.

Shooting on 4K immediately limits the scope of camera equipment available, and that scope does not come cheaply. Secondly, the level of detail will necessitate more job roles (such as set dressers and makeup artists). The level of visual information that the resolution can capture is so great that your film can end up having the call sheet of a major feature. Then, there is post-production. Not only does the level of memory required bump up your production costs in the form of ultra-high-end memory cards, it also requires more time in post-production. Editing will take longer, rendering time will be elasticated and workflow will become costive. Not the best solution if you’re working to a deadline (and when was the last time you weren’t working to a deadline?).

There is also one small, final point. Resolution is not synonymous with picture quality. It is just one part of the picture (pun intended) when judging the visual look of your film. A great director will take everything into account: lenses, grade, production constraints. The list is endless. From this, he or she will craft a look that best represents your company. It does not begin with resolution and it does not end with it.

Buzz words are fun. But unfortunately, 4K (like its recent cousin 3D) is one of many words that can be misused, coming to represent something that it never quite delivers. The greater danger is that it can eat up crucial budget on your production. Budget that will go further and mean more if it is applied in a holistic way.


When you put your next film production under the microscope, what will you see in the petri-dish? Sometimes analysis of the very smallest details beforehand can magnify positive results when that all-important deadline looms.

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