4K faces more hurdles than HD in the film industry

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When we went from SD to HD it was a digital revolution for the film industry. DV cassettes were out, and memory cards became the norm, but now with 4K on the horizon, the film industry has a new format and new set of standards to think about.

Digital editing used to be a lengthy process. Capturing DV tapes was painful, but when HD workflows were introduced, we were instantly given direct access to our footage without having to spend hours watching it, and capturing it in real-time from the tape deck.

However, HD has come a long way and with today’s computers, filmmakers can make spectacular productions at a very affordable price with editing suites such as Final Cut Pro X and some of Canon’s latest DSLRs like the 5D Mark III. Moving on to 4K, we’ve got a new set of problems to deal with that go way beyond 1080p.

4K is massive. In order to be able to render effects in raw 4K video files, the computing power needed to go through each frame is multiplied by several times. The relative cost of HD film production continues to fall because the computing power is getting better, and the prices of gadgets are coming down.

When we switched to HD there were problems in the editing stage. Hard drives were too small, memory cards didn’t take a lot of data. We couldn’t get the most out of the format (back in 2005), but slowly things got better. New cameras came out, better codecs, faster cards, and better computers led to the HD boom but with 4K there are some extra hurdles to overcome.

1. 4K doesn’t make an image look 4 times better. It doesn’t revolutionize the viewing experience. In fact 3D is more of a digital revolution than 4K will be because it alters the perception of the image regardless of the resolution.

2. The makeup industry will have to put into place new standards just to cope with such high resolution images of faces. The detail in HD was already a problem for makeup artists, but with 4K, the light textures and details of images means that facial complexions and shadows will be even more visible.

We often see posters in high resolution format that have been edited and perfected but that’s just 1 single frame worked on for hours by designers. Think about 24 frames of 4K in a close up of an actor. The make up will have to be nothing short of iconic.

3. The cost of HD is getting cheaper and 99% of people can’t watch 4K native images. A whole generation of consumers will have to buy new 4K TVs which currently cost more than twice their HD counterparts at the low end.

4. Watching 4K streaming will challenge even the best broadband packages of today. It will likely be more expensive to watch 4K content given that the data requirements will be huge. Also the processing power to watch 4K streaming content means that our computer technology will have to be much better. After all a lot of us consume content online, not on TVs, and 4K will ultimately have to be a format that can be handled by computers, and then tablets.

Despite all that, Netflix is now streaming ‘House of Cards‘ in ultra 4K so a small portion of the market who have 4K TVs can see it, but for the mass market, the price of the technology will have to come down significantly for consumers to want to upgrade; and that’s after our internet speeds improve, and our computers get faster, and our hard drives get bigger and we get bored of HD. There’s a lot of work to be done!

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