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1080p or 4k for feature length film?


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#1 Christopher Sin

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Posted 19 September 2015 - 02:17 PM

Hi all. 

I have never made a feature length film before. However, recently, a charity organization wants to make a feature length documentary film in a  low budget. They would like to screen it in certain cinemas and also some film festivals. They said, try to keep it as low budget as possible, because the goal of film is charity. So is it good enough to use my sony a7s and shoot with 1080p?

I'm just afraid that certain festivals have a requirement above 1080p. 


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 September 2015 - 03:16 PM

1080P will be fine for a documentary, though if you were doing a "Planet Earth" type landscape documentary, 4K might be better.  But for a typical talking heads + interior activity doc, 1080P will be fine unless you are specifically trying to make it for Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, who need 4K content so may take an extra interest just because you have a 4K version.

 

You may want to test the best method of downscaling 4K to 1080P -- you might find that you can do it better on your computer than what the camera does, particularly if you can record uncompressed 4K to an external recorder, so for particular shots where having a 4K image to play with in post, you could shoot those portions in 4K and then downscale to 1080P to cut into the rest of the doc.

 

You may also want to find the best way of recording to get the highest data rate as possible.  Unfortunately the camera only records and outputs 8-bit 4:2:2 or 4:2:0 but at least with external recorders, you can avoid compression.  Again, it depends on the nature of the documentary and how much color-correction you think it will need.  If the budget is really tiny, you may have to live with whatever the highest quality (lowest compression) that the camera can record internally.  

 

Also, keep in mind that for a theatrical DCP, you may have to add tiny, tiny side borders to create a 16x9 within 1.85 2K DCP (1920 x 1080 inside 1998 x 1080), so you might need to create that version as well as a 1080P version (perhaps on blu-ray for some small festivals.)

 

Content is king with documentaries, so if you can deliver quality 1080P footage, I think you'll be fine with whatever screening venues you are aiming for.


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#3 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 01:39 AM

Chris

 

Maybe as a compromise.. the cheapest way I would go.. find a Sony F5 that has had the internal 4K up grade.. you can now shoot to internal SxS 4K.. XAVC.. very small files for the quality .. or UHD 16-9.. you can shoot Slog3.cine.. which color space is relatively easy to grade.. in a very small and cheap gear package.. and not massive file size,s..  or just HD XAVC 10 bit and Slog3.cine ..shooting the whole thing on a DSLR could be painful.. unless you need it for under the radar mode.. 


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#4 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 02:10 AM

I bought both of my Blackmagic Pocket cameras, lenses, mic's, tripods, shoulder mount kit, all the batteries and cards you could ever want for around $3500 - $4000. All I shoot is documentaries today, multi-cam interviews, run and gun, lots of setup's per day, etc and I wouldn't dream of having anything else then the pocket camera.

So you get 10 bit Pro Res HQ or 12 bit CinemaDNG raw in 1920x1080 on standard run of the mill SD cards. The "cinema" look without the expense. You get 2.88 times the focal length on lenses which means, you can buy much cheaper glass and the imperfections won't show. Plus you can buy any glass you want from PL, Nikon, Canon, Zeiss, even C mount. The cameras are small, so you can go places most video camera's can't.
Plus and this is a big one, they're easy to operate. No fancy menu's you've gotta flip through constantly to change settings, they're so easy.

In terms of post production, I shoot everything in Raw color space 10 bit 4:2:2 Pro Res HQ, AMA link in avid (no transcoding) and edit my show. When I'm done, I use the free DaVinci software to color my sequence and export for delivery. The workflow actually works well and on multiple platforms as well, Mac and PC doesn't matter.

With documentaries, it really doesn't matter what resolution you deliver. You'll be building a DCP out of DaVinci and it will automatically scale to 2k because that's the minimal size and it's only 120 or so pixels different anyway. The last two documentaries I produced, both sold to relatively big distributors without anyone even flinching when we told them our source was an HDCAM SR tape (1920x1080). So I wouldn't worry unless as David points out, you're doing nature cinematography or something of that nature.

I'd save the money, get 2 cameras for the price of one and stick with 1920x1080. I have lots of samples of this camera on my website (link below).
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#5 cole t parzenn

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 01:12 PM

You get 2.88 times the focal length on lenses which means, you can buy much cheaper glass and the imperfections won't show.

 

How does focal length affect the visibility of optical imperfections? Shouldn't that be the other way around, anyway, since larger formats require less magnification?


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#6 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 02:38 PM

How does focal length affect the visibility of optical imperfections? Shouldn't that be the other way around, anyway, since larger formats require less magnification?


The center of the glass is always the best.

One of the biggest issues with large sensor cameras is that you need higher quality glass because the imperfections in lower quality glass are more seen, especially around the edges with the aperture all the way open.
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#7 cole t parzenn

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 02:53 PM

Higher quality glass or the same quality glass but more of it? You're still magnifying your glass more, the smaller the format you use.


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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 03:23 PM

It really breaks down to how glass is made. All measurements and testing of glass is done from the center outwards. So the center of the glass will always be the sharpest, no matter what glass you're using (unless physically damaged). This means if you're only using the center of the glass to create an image, you're using the "meat" of the element.

Cheaper lenses will have more out of focus edges and sometimes even artifacts. When you crop the glass, so only the center portion is used, those focus and artifact issues are less relevant.

So on a full-frame sensor camera, you can't use cheap Rokinon glass without seeing these issues. However, on a cropped sensor, it's not a problem. This means you can OWN glass vs rent glass for your shoots, which is a big deal.
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#9 cole t parzenn

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 03:53 PM

So why aren't 16mm productions using 35mm lenses and 35mm productions, 65mm lenses?


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#10 Giray Izcan

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 04:06 PM

They do. The Rum Diary was shot on UPs for instance. I just completed a feature on s16, where I used Optar 9.5mm and Cooke 20-100 lenses. It is hard to get wide enough 35 lenses on s16, hence I used a s16 wide angle lens and a 35 zoom.


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#11 Miguel Angel

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 07:44 PM

And a lot of commercials shot on Super16 use 35mm glass too!

Have a good day!
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