4K Revolution: New Standard Delivery Format Looms
by Sam Mestman

If you happened to be walking around the floor this year at NAB, you probably noticed that 4K was everywhere.

4K Blackmagic Camera
Whether it was Blackmagic’s 4K Production Camera, Sony’s 4K cameras and projectors, or RED’s DRAGON (which shoots in 6K), this increasingly ubiquitous resolution is on everyone’s minds. And it’s not going away.

Within the next couple of years, whether you like it or not, 4K will become the new standard delivery format in the entertainment industry, especially for long-form theatrical films. The chief reason for this change is that TV manufacturers need an excuse to sell you a new television.

Although your 1080p HD television is probably more than adequate for your current needs, it already isn’t “cool.” No one’s bragging about HD anymore. 4K is the new frontier. And if you remember back to the days when HD was just becoming popular, content providers were paid a premium if they delivered in HD. This was because networks needed HD content to promote the new standard. Expect the same to happen with 4K content. In the near future companies will be snatching up 4K content in order to showcase their new 4K televisions.

But before I get to the heart of the article, there are a few things that you should know about 4K (if you don’t know them already):

      • You’ll be able to shoot great looking 4K content this year for about $4,000 with the new Blackmagic Camera.
      • You can currently watch that content for $1,500 on this Seiki TV. We’ve got three of these guys where I work at Lumaforge, and you would be absolutely amazed at the picture quality if you calibrate them correctly. Perfect for client monitoring.
      • You can connect that TV to any HDMI 1.4a video out and get a 4K signal. This means that 4K content is now able to be viewed over a consumer cable as most video cards coming out today use HDMI 1.4a as their standard. Once certain applications are updated, and the graphics and video card drivers get upgraded within the next few months, having a 4K client monitor in your edit suite will be cheaper than buying a nice laptop.
      • YouTube now has a 4K option. You can expect 4K downloads from iTunes and Amazon as soon 4K gets a bit more traction. My guess would be 2014 at the latest.

      • 4K projection might just save the movie theater. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to go to RED studios and see real 4K on a big screen, it makes you want to go watch movies in a movie theater again. While the benefits of 4K in the home might be debatable on a standard screen, seeing it on the silver screen in a movie theater is a mind-blowing experience.

4K DaVinci Resolve
Now that you have a basic understanding of the 4K phenomenon, it is time to talk DaVinci Resolve, the Rosetta Stone of post-production. Resolve allows you to apply some of the world’s best color correction tools to finish a feature film, TV show, or music video after you have imported your project from FCPX, FCP7, Avid, or Premiere.

Once color correction is complete, you can use Resolve to render out the finished product to almost any format, or you can send it back to the NLE software of your choice (FCPX, FCP 7, Avid, or Premiere) and finish it there.

And unlike most dedicated grading systems, which cost absurd amounts of money and require dedicated hardware / storage to run them properly, Resolve runs on the latest Retina Macbook Pro!

Best of all, Resolve is available for free upon purchase of a Blackmagic Design 4K production camera. That’s right. Free. Blackmagic Design has taken an industry standard in color correction that used to cost tens of thousands of dollars, and they are giving it away to their customers in a show of appreciation!

For those of you not planning on buying a 4K BM camera just yet, try downloading the lite version of Resolve for free. It has many of the same features as the full license, only the lite version of Resolve caps you at a 1080 HD resolution. In other words, if you want to do a 2K or 4K master, you’re going to need to shell out $1,000 for the full, paid version.

But as we enter this new 4K world, that $1,000 Resolve license should more than pay for itself. As the 4K phenomenon intensifies, companies are going to be racing around looking for real 4K content. And that means that producers are going to be looking for people who know how to create this content without having to spend ridiculous amounts of money to do so.

This is where YOU come in. An FCPX license, which works great with Resolve, costs $300. And as I’ve written before, you can edit easily in 4K in FCPX and always from your original media. This means you can now deliver a feature at the same quality Hollywood does with $1,300 in software, a new iMac, and a Thunderbolt drive. That is amazing!

Bottom line: 4K is here. And it’s cheap. So it’s time to skate toward that puck before everyone else does; you can’t afford not to.

sam-mestman3BIO: Sam Mestman has worked for Apple, ESPN, “Glee,” and Break.com, and is now the Chief Workflow Architect for Lumaforge. He’s also a regular writer for MovieMaker Magazine, teaches post workflow at RED’s REDucation classes, and specializes in saving independent producers tens of thousands of dollars while delivering a top quality product. He is also the founder and CEO of We Make Movies, which in just three years might have become the largest film collective in Los Angeles (and now Toronto). In his free time, he fights windmills. Feel free to drop him an email at sam@wemakemovies.org with any/all comments, questions, suggestions for columns, potential gigs, or scathing emails ridiculing his incompetence.

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3 comments on “4K Revolution: New Standard Delivery Format Looms
by Sam Mestman

  1. JupiterGlenn on said:

    Sam, Thank you for an informative article! (I was at NAB and am a RED camera owner). I agree that 4k is here and should be embraced in all aspects of workflow. One issue with your article is that there is an implication that 4k projection is relatively exclusive. I do not believe that is the case. Sony 4k theatre projection is already an industry standard and is everywhere, now. (Sony has a 32% market share in digital theatre projection with 4K. There are 11,000 projectors IN theaters NOW just in the US… just from Sony. Regal, AMC, Landmark, Muvico, etc… all have them.) The competition for theatre vs. home projection will not be 4k… it will be “Ultra HD” 8K as Japan’s NHK has displayed and promoted the technology since 2006… and every year since then, at NAB. 8K projection for theaters with audio that cannot be matched in a home theatre environment. REDRay 4k projection and 4K monitor playback… great for workflow, theatre and home… but 8K Projection, suggested to be an industry standard by 2020, Fantastic! It will promote the theatre experience over home viewing. (Don’t forget the 22.2 multi-channel audio which is a technological innovation and experience on its own.) Theaters are not dead… yet, but 2K almost certainly is.

  2. Writer on said:

    Wow, that is the most valuable and important article I ever read here. I like to shoot photos. And it’s a new addition in my shooter life. 4k revolution is really great.

    Keep it up.

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