Friday, September 19, 2014

What the Latest Technology Means for You. Part One: Affordable 4K

From time to time I write a post about new technology in the photography and video field, because it makes a difference in what you should be looking for and expecting as a customer.  This year the changes have been coming faster than ever. The main new developments are these three: Affordable 4K, new stabilization technology, and new camera sensors that allow for photography and video in extremely low light. I'll look at 4K in this article, and the other two in subsequent posts.

Affordable 4K can seem like a fad, kind of like the 3d TVs that flopped, because the fact is that even if you get one of the expensive new 4K TVs you can't really notice much of a difference at all in quality unless the set is huge and you sit really close. And for at least the next few years most people will still have regular HD sets, and there isn't a convenient way to deliver 4K video to them. (Blu-Ray discs are only for HD.) But affordable 4K is actually important for you as a customer right now, for several reasons.

The Panasonic LX100 costs less than $1000 with lens, and shoots gorgeous 4K video.

For videos, the most important reason is that even though you get your final edited video in regular HD, editing with 4K material means your videographer can manipulate the footage quite extensively without a loss of quality. For example, she can zoom quite a way in digitally and it will look just like the zoom was done in camera, she can easily crop for the perfect framing, and she can easily correct a slanted horizon line. Also, event videographers often have to use a camera hand held because of things happening quickly, and this inevitably leads to some jerky footage. They use stabilization software while editing to smooth out some of this jerkiness, but it is at the cost of some image quality, and the more you smooth the jerkiness, the less sharp the image becomes. But with 4K, you can do more extensive stabilization without a big quality loss. So if your videographer shoots in 4K, you can expect your finished video to look more polished, with silky-smooth zooms, perfect framing and beautiful moving camera shots free of bumps and jerks. The videographer can also make it look like twice as many cameras were being used at the event, because he can look like he's cutting from a medium shot to a closeup camera simply by switching to a much tighter crop of the same camera's shot in editing.

For photography, the big advantage of 4K video is that you can get excellent quality photos taken straight from the video. I already offer this service with my HD video, but always reminding people that the pictures taken from HD video only look good if they aren't made into big enlargements. But with 4K, you can make a great looking 16 by 20 enlargements! So this means that you can hire one camera person and have both awesome video and great photos, and with absolutely nothing being missed, since the videographer gets to choose from 30 frames each second.

There are some caveats though. (Skip this paragraph if you don't want to read a lot of technical jargon!) The main caveat is that video frames are typically shot at 1/60th of a second, so action shots can be blurred. On the other hand, if there is enough light, the videographer can shoot at a faster speed like 1/500th. This is great for action sports shots, or other fast action shots like a bouquet toss at a wedding. The video will look kind of strobe-y and choppy without the motion blur your eye expects to see, so this technique should mainly be used when you only want pictures. (It is possible for a videographer to add motion blur back in to the video, but that's a fairly expensive, time-consuming process.) Another caveat is that in difficult high-contrast lighting situations, it's hard for a videographer to add a lot of supplemental lighting as with using a flash unit in photography, since the light has to be on continuously. In indoor situations this is not as much of a problem since the continuous light can be bright enough, but in bright sun where you need a lot of light to fill in those harsh shadows, to get those really nicely lit portrait shots you really need to take regular still photos. Yes, you can so some correction of dark shadows in video editing, but not nearly as much as with photos where you can shoot in the "RAW" format and have a lot more latitude to work with. But still, in most situations, photographs taken from 4K video are great, and just as good as regular photos.

In conclusion, 4K video is important for you because your videographer can give you much more professional, expensive-looking video, even if you see it just in regular HD, and your photographer has more options to give you great pictures, and can even be both your videographer and photographer with nothing being missed, and with great savings for you! I will be getting some 4K equipment soon, so check back for new packages that feature it.