Five years ago, filmmaker and YouTuber, Brannigan Carter posted a video called “You don’t NEED 4K“. And five years ago he was probably right. It was only just starting to come out, the cameras were still ridiculously expensive to acquire, as was the kit to play it back. Unless you were a big Hollywood production company, there just wasn’t all that much point.
But here we are today in 2019. Just about every new camera coming out has 4K video. And 8K is on the way. And now Brannigan is back with a follow-up video saying that we still don’t need 4K, and that 8K is “crazy talk”. Let’s talk a little about that.
Brannigan’s point throughout both his original and new video is actually quite valid. Basically, craft over gear. As he lists in the video, there are things you absolutely need to have in order to have a good movie.
These things are all far more important than the resolution of the cameras you use. You can shot your film with an insane 16K resolution if you wanted (yes, they’re coming, too), but if the story sucks, the cinematography’s bad, the sound has a constant hiss, hum or echoey room noise, and the editing doesn’t make sense your film will fail.
But Brannigan’s video, both of them, actually, seem to make a pretty big false assumption. That these things are mutually exclusive with shooting 4K. They are not. It’s entirely possible to produce complete crap with a 1080p camera or even a 480p standard definition camera. Shooting in 4K won’t make your film worse. Not shooting in 4K won’t magically make it better, either.
Five years ago, absolutely, getting gear capable of shooting 4K made absolutely zero sense for the vast majority of people. These days, though, everything coming out now is 4K. Yes, sure, “the gear doesn’t matter”, but I think to a point with filmmaking it does.
Look at all the people going insane whenever “remastered” versions of their favourite film photos are released. Movies were shot on 35mm film and brought down to standard definition. And it was crappy interlaced standard definition, too. Sure, they were great movies. But rescanning, editing and grading the film today in glorious 4K didn’t make those movies worse, did it? You shoot in 1080p, and it’s still going to be 1080p in 20 years. You shoot in 4K, it’ll hold up better in the future.
And then there are other things to consider. Like shooting in 4K (or 8K) and rendering for 1080p, but having the freedom to crop. Cropping 4K footage down to 1080p is like having a 2x teleconverter on your lens. It’s really no different (except that you don’t lose 2 stops of light). Longer focal lengths are just a crop.
But it allows you to do things like the Hitchcock zoom way more easily. The only difference is that you’re cropping in-post rather than in-camera by changing your focal length. But as Brannigan’s video is aimed at beginners, doing it with 4K and scaling in post to simulate the crop of a changing focal length is a heck of a lot easier than shooting it all in-camera with zoom lens. You’ve already got camera movement and focus to worry about. With zoom out of the equation, it’s a relative doddle. And what if that shot adds to the story and cinematography mentioned in Brannigan’s list? Not all implementations of that technique are so obvious. Goodfellas uses it very subtlely as part of the storytelling narrative.
Absolutely the gear should be at the bottom of your list of worries. But, honestly, I can see no reason to not shoot 4K these days if you’re buying cameras now. Even our phones can do it. And Panasonic has cameras that are 4K-capable for under $500 now, brand new, including a lens. And you can even get 4K RAW video cameras now for under $1300.
Buying a 1080p camera now with video as your primary purpose is a false economy when 4K capable cameras are so cheap and offer much more versatility.
He is right about 8K, though. Today, you’re nuts to consider it. Sure, Sharp showed one off, Canon has one on the roadmap, and Sony may also have one on the way. But the prices are probably going to be pretty outrageous for at least the first couple of years.
No doubt we’ll see another video in 2024 telling us how we still don’t need 8K. I wonder what his thoughts on 4K will be by then.
If you want to see Brannigan’s original video uploaded in January 2014, here it is.