Jumping into the 4k Pool.

As part of planning for our new lifestyle network, I made the decision from the get-go that all new original programming would be produced in 4k.  Lifestyle programming is one of those ‘evergreen’ genres with MANY standard definition episodes of various programs still appearing on networks worldwide.   For me it makes absolutely no sense to start with all brand new programming today and shoot it in HD when 4k televisions are already hitting the retail showrooms.

Not one to shy away from change, we’ll both acquire and deliver in 4k since we can deliver a 4k master to our distribution partner.   Yes, there will be bumps and starts along the way and I’m sure we’ll be cursing the computers at times, but I went through this rodeo before with HD.   There’s nothing to be “scared” of in 4k.  It’s just another process to work through and mostly we’re going to be dealing with much larger files so our media server is going to have to be robust enough to play the new files back.  Here’s an overview of what we’re considering at this time.

For acquisition we’re looking seriously at both the Panasonic GH4 and the Sony A7s.

A7 GH4

Now the GH4 has very pretty picture, records 4k on board, but is terrible in low light.  With the available light / docudrama / reality style shooting we’ll be doing on the network, low light issues will be a concern.  The A7s from what I’ve heard can shoot with candlelight and look great, but it doesn’t record 4k onboard.  That will require something like the Atomos Shogun 4k recorder, an additional $2k purchase per camera AND it records in ProRes 4k which will give us much larger files than the Panasonic.   On the plus side, the Shogun has a 7” monitor which will make shooting with the A7s easier for the photographer.    Still undecided on those two cameras, but it will be a smaller, DSLR sized camera, we’re not going to go near the big, over the shoulder cameras.   Still a few months to decide and who knows if anything new will be announced at IBC in September….

For stabilization we’ll send out both monopods and most likely the Freefly Systems MOVi.

Freefly Movi

We don’t need “steadicam” style shots all the time, but the MOVi has certainly proved itself to be an incredible stabilizing platform for DSLR sized cameras.   I personally love using a Monopod as it gives me nice stability and a lot of options to quickly change the height of the camera from straight on to overhead to underneath.  Of course we’ll get a couple of sliders too for additional movement, especially for the studio based stuff.

Speaking of studio, yeah, we’ll have a kitchen studio set up by next year most likely configured with the Blackmagic Studio Cameras.   Those just seem so perfect for what we’re doing and super simple to operate.  Love the concept and small form factor will let us use them in “home studios” too in the field.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 6.03.12 PM

In the field, we’re probably going to send out a PC laptops with USB 3 drives for on site logging and backup.   For logging and organizing we’re looking seriously at Bullet Proof from Red Giant.  Saw Simon Walker put on a demo of the product at an Atlanta Cutters meeting and it was brilliant.  The only question is whether it will support the new camera formats.   Failing that, we’ll probably use Prelude / Premiere to do quick logging of the clips in the field.  USB 3 transfer speeds are insanely good and PCs with USB 3 are much cheaper than Macs with USB 3 so no need to spend extra money just for a field data transfer / organization machine.

Editorial will be primarily Adobe Premiere Pro CC but I do intend to throw some of the editing at Davinci Resolve 11 to see how that works in some of the shorter series to start with.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 6.05.45 PM

Most of the editing doesn’t require special plug-ins and we use a lot of the Rampant Design elements which are video overlays to add a lot of “looks” to pieces, so this will be a good experiment to test out the NLE on “real projects.”   To start with the predominant amount of the editing will be on Premiere Pro and then we’ll just see how it goes from there with Resolve.  Right now it doesn’t look like Resolve likes some of the DSLR native formats in my early testing so they’d have to be converted over to ProRes prior to edit.  We’ll be delivering full 4k ProRes masters to our distribution partner and they’ll handle all the digital compression from there.

Now some of you may be saying “well there’s nobody watching 4k yet or distributing it yet.” 

4k logo

That’s actually not true.  4k IS being distributed right now and the people who are doing the distributing are actively seeking out original 4k content.  Because of that, we’re already in discussions with distributors I never expected to engage so early on, but since we plan to finish in 4k, they are very interested in our content.   So while the audience may not be large yet in the broadcast / distributed 4k market, there is a demand for it and we’re going to be one of the few 4k content suppliers at this time.

The cost of 4k has dropped so much, so fast it really makes sense with a new venture to go ahead and jump into the pool now.  Why keep waiting for the rest of the world to figure it all out?  Adventure it out there and being on the leading edge is much more fun that watching the rest of the world play.

4 replies
  1. Jim Shields says:

    Is there going to be an issue with the Blackmagic Studio camera’s MFT mount and standard studio servo zoom lenses? When it was announced it seemed like there was lots of sound & fury about it not working properly with standard ENG servo lenses.

    Do you plan to do any multicam live switched shoots w/ the BMSC? Is it going to play well with switchers, shaders, etc?

    I do admit that I haven’t done much followup on the camera since it was announced, so maybe these questions are already answered out there…

    • Walter Biscardi says:

      We’re going to use cinema style lenses, not a standard studio zoom lens. We’ll be doing direct to record switched camera work using software based switcher BMD while also direct recording the cameras for editing later. All shading is handled in the switcher software.

  2. Mike Cohen says:

    I assume the on board audio on these 4k cameras is better than on most DSLRs – so many people seem to be shooting with this style of camera nowadays, and you don’t always see an external recorder like a Zoom mounted to the camera.

    • Walter Biscardi says:

      On board recording is good though we will be using the Zoom audio recorders as well. Just ordered a 6 channel version as a matter of fact. Audio sync’ing is so incredibly easy in Adobe Premiere Pro, I have no issues using external recorders.


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