Whether we may think it’s excessive or not, 4K is slowly starting to become the next standard in video. It makes me think of a criticism I once heard against digital filmmaking: that it becomes too real for the viewer to suspend disbelief. Growing up, many of us have been used to movies being shot on 24 FPS film; in a way, it allows us to “escape” the real world and watch a story set in a fantasy world. The blurs, light leaks, and contrast burns – every imperfection from that film – separates the world of the movie from the reality of the world in which we reside.
Fast-forward to today’s time, and you have the Hobbit films being released in 48 FPS across theaters worldwide. When Peter Jackson filmed the trilogy, he described watching the final result as looking through a window. The problem is that many people don’t want to view movies in a world that real.
When you’ve got 1080p and 4K making videos look as detailed as real life, you’ve got to be careful; that film can end up looking so real, the audience feels like it’s in the middle of the set itself and not a fictional backdrop.
Here’s a video that I think shows the potential of a well-shot 4K film. Helmed by director Brendan Bellomo and cinematographer Greg Wilson, “Let me know when you see Fire” is the first test footage shot on the new Phantom Flex4K Digital Cinema Camera. While the entire clip itself looks like it may have been shot on location with a real fire department operation, it wasn’t. The fire is staged, the firemen are acting, and the footage looks hyperrealistic. But at the same time, care is put into making sure that the 4K doesn’t give away detail to the point where we have to suspend our disbelief.
Granted, if you’re filming at 1000 frames per second – as this footage was shot – the only sensible reason for that would have to be slow-motion. The same technology was used for filming slowed-down scenes in Inception. But at the end of it all, this clip serves as a great example of how any film shot in such a high resolution should be approached: with a balance between fantasy and reality.