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4K - Bane or blessing?

by Adrian Pennington on Sep 28, 2008

  6 Comments
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Terry Pratchet?s The Colour of Magic, a Sky One drama, was shot by DoP Gavin Finney on the Arri D-20 with online and grading done at Pepper Post Londo
Terry Pratchet?s The Colour of Magic, a Sky One drama, was shot by DoP Gavin Finney on the Arri D-20 with online and grading done at Pepper Post Londo

Most productions will downsize straight away on ingest to 2K or 1080p HD for their post pipeline. The extra resolution makes a big difference at the camera stage, but can become an unnecessary complication afterwards.

"The sheer size of the images complicates the process," says Vincent Maza, Avid Market Manager for Post Production. "Facilities will need to invest in larger, faster storage systems that can preserve their workflow."

4K will present a genuine challenge for facilities simply because the infrastructure lags way behind. Currently there are very few 4K projectors and monitors around let alone realtime 4K colour graders.

"If you want to use and maintain a data path all the way through then the workflow changes considerably. Productions need to understand the new pressure points of such a decision," explains Shane Warden, co-MD of drama specialist facility Pepper. "What do you do with your data on location? How do you secure it and change it for the offline? How easy is it to create DVD and other viewing media for Executives during production and post?"

The debate over whether digital imaging is superior to film remains hotly-contested. Certain digital cameras can have the edge over film in terms of their ability to capture detail in low light but many cinematographers argue that 35mm and even 16mm perform far better in daylight or for capturing explosions.

"If the output is HD then the advantage of shooting at higher resolutions comes from the greater colour depth allowing the picture to be pushed a little further in the grade," explains Clarke. "4K is also good for vfx-intensive projects since in 4K you can extract detail for tracking or reframing, resolve composites or key in backgrounds and still finish with a great image."

Other arguments for shooting 4K will be familiar to those who pioneered HD.

"Shooting 4K, produce a 2K version now and store it as 4K data to future-proof your rushes," explains Adrian Bull, CTO, Ascent142.

"The biggest mistake people make with high-resolution cameras is to treat it like a video camera. They don't realise that you need a proper camera team to operate it including a DP, focus puller and someone to look after the data."

DP Gavin Finney used the tape-based Arri D20 to shoot Sky One dramas, Terry Pratchett's Hogfather and The Colour of Magic: "The problem with electronic equipment is that it relies on new software which is being beta tested in the market. That's fine for word processing but it's not OK when you're shooting on a big budget. The kit needs to be reliable before it's used and currently that's not always the case."

With the growth of solid state recording and a more IT focused workflow what we will increasingly require from manufacturers is adherence to international standards for metadata and codecs.

Jon Attard the BBC's Technology Controller would like to see is on-board options for codecs and formats so a camera works much more like a laptop with a lens on it.

"For instance if I wanted the ergonomics of camera X, recording medium A, but with codec Y I should be able to select it in that combination to meet my particular needs as a content producer," says Attard.

"Clearly this isn't going to happen overnight but as an aiming point for the camera manufacturing industry we'd really support this direction."

Sooner or later digital technology will exceed the colour depth and resolution of film.

"Why bother with developing, telecine, 2K scans - when you can take the files straight out of the camera and start editing?" asks Jon Wright, workflow consultant for facility 4K London. "By 2012 it's conceivable that shooting on film will be the exception rather than the rule. There's no question that cameras like the Red One will impact indie film production and higher end TV drama - shoots that might have previously gone with HDCAM or 16mm."

The role of the Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)

Most productions recording data require someone to manage that data on set. A Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) is increasingly common on features and gradually being introduced to broadcast as 4K capture becomes prevalent.

"A DIT is crucial to production and will have a high level of expertise," explains Paul Carter, MD, Axis Films. "They have sole responsibility for the safe storage and archiving of data."

The DIT takes care of metadata for use in post, spots and corrects issues with corrupt files and helps set the camera and monitors up according to how the DP wants the project to look.

"Digital imaging is in a bit of a 'wild west' state," says Carter. "The DITs role varies from project to project. On some projects they may take more of hand in colour management. There are no hard and fast rules."

DIT is now a professional grade recognised by unions in the US but that has not so far happened in Europe.

According to DP Gavin Finney, "DITs should act as a bridge between a second AC and a video assistant. It's certainly useful to have an engineer to monitor the electronics and check you've saved what you think you've saved, not least because with each new digital camera format the amount a camera crew has to learn goes up exponentially. My concern though is who is training them - since currently anyone can walk up and claim to be a DIT."

FEATURED COMMENT

Would like more info. on training, equipment used or sources to learn.

  6 Comments


Readers' Comments


Giuseppe Cioccariello (Sep 18, 2013)
Bologna
Italy

DIT
Would like more info. on training, equipment used or sources to learn.

Von Thomas (Jul 21, 2013)
Los Angeles
USA

DIT Workshop
I'm teaching a ICA-DIT On-Set Dailies Workshop in LA this weekend. See details here, http://blog.xritephoto.com/?p=9398

Abhishek Goel (Sep 13, 2012)
Mumbai
India

DIT training
Is there any institute anywhere currently giving training for DITs? how long does it take? Is it a certified course?

Lou Sumien (Jan 25, 2012) USA

DIT
Would like more info. on training, equipment used or sources to learn.

erastus ndwiga njeru (Nov 21, 2011)
nairobi -kenya
Kenya

dit
please advise on how to start this course on line

erastus ndwiga njeru (Nov 21, 2011)
nairobi -kenya
Kenya

physics in dit
am interested in becoming a DIT engineer


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