DPP Home Gear Cameras Hi-Tech Studio: It’s Time For A New Hybrid Camera

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hi-Tech Studio: It’s Time For A New Hybrid Camera

4K is here, and it’s available and affordable for your backup, motion-dedicated camera

As a professional photographer, you recognize that motion capture is a service you need to be able to offer to clients. From wedding shooters to still-life product work, having the ability to deliver some moving footage along with your stills isn't just a nice feature to include; it can be a profit center that adds nicely to the bottom line. If you have to hire an extra motion-capture assistant, you can end up just swapping dollars, so it always will be more profitable if you can do the motion shooting with your existing staff—frequently, that's going to be you. To do that, you'll need to have motion capture in your bag and ready to go, and you'll need to be familiar with that gear.

Chances are, your primary DSLR has motion-capture capability already. That's convenient, but for a variety of reasons, it makes sense to have a dedicated motion-capture camera in addition to that main camera.

As an imaging professional, you're undoubtedly aware of 4K, but you may not know much more than the name. It's the next frontier in motion formats. Just as HD was the buzzword in 2005, 4K has been the buzzword since 2010. After years of little more than buzz, though, 4K is getting closer to the mainstream, thanks to advances in TVs, computer monitors and mobile tablets, as well as capture devices.

In motion capture, resolution advancements are tethered to a number of devices. In still photography, increased image-sensor resolution requires more processing power and storage capacity, but the necessities are incremental. In motion capture, every advance in resolution is tethered to dramatic requirements on the processing front. Furthermore, until there are TVs and other viewing devices that can show the benefits of that higher resolution, the investments being made to shoot, process and output at high resolutions are invisible. That is, without a 4K monitor or TV, you won't see the benefits of shooting with a 4K sensor or processing with a 4K workflow. The costs of that shooting and processing can be an order of magnitude higher than working exclusively at lower, mainstream resolutions. This is a long way of saying that when it comes to motion at increased resolutions, there's a chicken and an egg problem. Or, to switch metaphors, you can build it, but they still may not come because there's no road to what you built.

So, after years of 4K struggling to get out of the gates, we're finally getting to a tipping point. 4K programming is becoming available, 4K TVs are coming out and dropping in price, and on the processing side, computers and storage devices are emerging that can handle the 4K workflow. You'll notice we didn't mention 4K sensors. In a way, 4K sensors have been the least of the problem. There have been professional cameras that can shoot 4K for years. RED, for example, has had a 4K camera since before 2010, and that company's newest DSMC cameras with the RED DRAGON sensor can shoot 5K and above at high frame rates. The hurdles for higher resolution on the capture side have been overcome. We've just been waiting for the rest of the image chain to catch up.

Tortured metaphors aside, that brings us to today, and more specifically, how 4K will affect you and your business. As 4K slowly enters the mainstream, your clients will be asking about it. A couple of years ago, you could charge for delivering HD video shot with a DSLR and you'd be delivering cutting-edge resolution. Today, when your clients ask about some motion footage, if you say you can deliver HD files, it's almost like saying you'll deliver 4x6 prints processed at WalMart. That's an exaggeration, of course, but we all know that whether they need it or understand it, clients have a tendency to demand the very highest technical specifications. So, today, when you offer motion footage to a client, the response you're likely to get is, "I need 4K."


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