Before your church clients go 4K, here’s what they need to know.
Ask any video professional what the latest trend in video is, and overwhelmingly the answer will be 4K. Before your clients go jumping into the deep end of this new format, there are some things they should consider.
I’ve had the feeling for some time that 4K isn’t ready for prime time in the live production world. However, Mosaic church recently went to 4k and created a lot of attention in the house of worship market. I suspect this is just the start of a trend that is going to continue as more and more manufacturers jump on the 4K bandwagon. What does that mean for your church clients? What Is 4K?
Before addressing the question of how it affects a church, it’s important to make sure they understand what 4k is. The simplest answer is: 4K is a video standard that is essentially four times larger than 1080 HD. In fact, in many cases it is represented by four 1080 images stacked in a 2x2 box. If you consider that the 1080 video is a resolution of 1920x1080, the video itself contains 2,073,600 pixels. Ultra High Definition (UHD) 4K is a resolution of 3840x2160 containing 8,294,400 pixels. In practical terms that means if you have a UHD 4K screen and a 1080 screen at the same size, the UHD screen will be packing four times the number of pixels into the same space. The result is a noticeably more detailed image because it has four times as much information.
However, just bumping up to 4K doesn’t mean that video is automatically going to look four times better. The old adage, “garbage in, garbage out,” is still alive and well. If your clients’ video work is subpar, it will be four times more obvious that it’s missing the mark. In fact, in many cases if your video production is just ok, jumping into 4K might accentuate some weaknesses. We all remember the stories about news anchors who were concerned about the jump to HD because it would be less
forgiving than SD. The same rules apply here, the jump to 4K is actually far more significant in terms of pixels than the jump to HD. SD resolutions were only about 2.5 times lower than HD resolutions, compare that to the four times improvement from HD to 4K.
I hope the fact that “it’s more” has sunk in. However, there is a lot more for clients to consider before making the jump to “more.” Many of the same rules and expectations for HD still exist in the 4K realm. If you had the joy of being able to make the transition from SD to HD, this is going to feel very familiar. That said, these are some factors I think it’s important to consider when thinking about 4K.
BLACKMAGIC URSA Mini Pro
As noted earlier, UHD 4K is 3840x2160. However, it’s not the only “flavor” of 4K. Digital Cinema Initiatives, LLC (DCI) native 4K resolution is 4096 × 2160, Ultra-Wide-Television resolution is 3840x1600. The standard you use is going to be a result of the gear you use and where your video is going to be distributed. UHD is going to be the most familiar standard because it’s the one that’s on sale at the local electronics store in the TV section.
The resolution confusion doesn’t end there. Some manufacturers have followed the bigger is better adage. Take, for example, the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro, which is a 4.6K camera. This camera captures a resolution of 4608 x 2592, which is larger and different from other 4K standards. This beyond UHD is great for post-production work, where the extra pixels can just be thrown out if you don’t need them. This camera also integrates well with all the Blackmagic ATEM switchers, which are very popular in the church market, so it can pull double duty as a studio and post production camera. It’s important to know what resolution your clients want to work in—in advance —because for some external production gear, resolution matters very much. Some gear doesn’t respond well to other resolutions, and some will only work with a specific standard.
HITACHI lSA-1000-S1 Studio Adaptor
Frame rate really determines how your videos will look. The oversimplified explanation for your church clients is that 24 fps gives a film look and motion blur, often associated with feature films. At 30 fps the result is more realistic, more associated with television. It looks clearer and crisper. At 60 frames the video is hyper-realistic, with little to no motion blur. In practical terms, there are “proper” resolutions for specific delivery mediums, but those lines are becoming more and more blurred. At this point, frame rate has become almost a personal preference.
Remind clients that increasing the frame rate from 24 fps to 60 fps increases their data 2.5 times, as well. Some cameras will sacrifice image resolution for frame rate. For example, some will shoot 120 fps but only at 720p. While at the same time offering 4K but only at 24 fps. This may not be a problem, but if your client was looking for over-cranked 4k for super slow-motion, they are going to be disappointed. However, there are cameras like the Sony F55 which not only shoot multiple standard frame rates, but also shoot excessively fast 240 fps. This high frame rate allows for very smooth slow-motion, and is a powerful option for clients’ post production toolsets. Most cameras have a selectable frame rate to an extent, so make sure the frame rate they want is an option on the cameras they are comparing.
Talking about lenses would be an entire article itself. Rather than deep dive into lensing, we’ll focus on a feature some manufacturers have added. The AJA CION and the Blackmagic URSA have swappable lens mounts. This means that if clients are currently shooting on Canon DSLRs they have a mount that will allow them to reuse their current lenses. This allows them to increase the return on their glass investment, which for many churches represents one of the larger line items in the inventory. Hitachi also nailed this with its SK-UHD400 that can utilize clients’ current standard studio lenses, so if they are looking to take their IMAG to 4K, the SK-UHD400 is a good option because it also outputs HD. Meaning they can use this camera now in their current HD infrastructure, but it can also transition with them to 4K.
Not all cameras are created equal. Different cameras will function better in different environments. However, some cameras are designed to be used in multiple environments. Take the aforementioned Sony F55, for example. To quote Craig Harper, national manager of Sony’s Professional Solutions of Americas (PSA) Faith group “it’s a great seven-day-a-week camera.” Meaning while it will function fantastically in a post-production work flow, it also has options that allow it to be successful in a studio environment. Compare that to the Hitachi SK-HD400, which succeeds in a big way in the live event space, but is probably not going to be the preferred post production camera. If you need to make budget-conscious decisions on your 4K cameras, look for cameras capable of playing in both realms, like the Sony F55 and the Blackmagic URSA Mini pro. If you are looking for more of a POV- or PTZ-style there are also small cameras like the AJA Rovocam.
CANON VIXIA GX10 4K UHD Video Camcorder
The last thing it’s important to be aware of are the features that differentiate manufacturers. Many manufacturers have unique features that are not being taken advantage of by the entire market. It is possible that some unique features may give a camera an edge in your decision making over cameras without them. Take, for example, the JVC GY-HM200HW. This camera can stream directly without a computer and can also include title overlays in-camera. This is great for churches that don’t need IMAG, and are going to do single camera broadcast. In fact, in this case the HW in the model name stands for house of worship.
If you are in the market for 4K there is a lot to consider. One suggestion video production experts offer is is that clients make a list of the things that are most important to them and figure out which manufacturers make the products that meet those criteria. This is a point where a trusted integrator such as yourself can help you do the research and make suggestions.