A lot has changed in the world of digital cinema in the past ten years, especially in view of the enormous increases in resolution that we have seen in recent years. It feels like yesterday when many of us took pictures with the Panasonic DVX100 or a Canon XL1 – completely satisfied and in many cases enthusiastic about the quality we received from these cameras, which of course only recorded 480p on MiniDV tapes . But then HD came. And we all wanted to replace our DVXs with HVXs or similar HD cameras, because the resolution jump from standard definition to high definition was simply too much. But after the hype about HD had subsided, it didn't take us long to find DPs, shooters and producers for the next best …
Enter the DSLR (or specifically the Canon 5D MKII), an affordable full HD camera with a large sensor and the ability to use interchangeable lenses. While the 5D (and any other video DSLR) always had its shortcomings, they were probably the best thing that ever happened to the lower budget cinema market because they reminded us that a film image isn't just about resolution. We focused more on lenses that allowed us to play more with the DOF, traditional lighting techniques and camera movements that deviated from the simple old tripod or handheld look. Yes, these cameras lacked many features like timecode, audio functionality and many other important functions, but the fact is that we were able to take pictures in a way that came much closer to conventional film / cinema cameras than we were ever used to camcorders like the DVX.
It didn't take long for the next big jump in resolution, of course, and this time in the form of 4K. RED was one of the first to deliver a 4K digital cinema camera, but as we all know, the technology ultimately affected prosumer and consumer formats. As of today, you can buy a camera like the GH4 for under $ 2,000 that takes beautiful 4K pictures. You can take 4K pictures on some phones, and more and more 4K cameras are appearing every month. 4K has a lot to offer, and it is undoubtedly the way of the future in terms of acquisition and delivery, but I think we are currently in a time that is pretty similar to the early HD days. before the boom in DSLRs. I say this because both manufacturers and consumers are currently paying such a high premium on resolution that 4K is in itself the main selling point that goes beyond other important features such as the high dynamic range.
So where is it going from here?
Well, it's really the year of 4K. Next week is NAB and I am sure that we will see more new 4K cameras than we know how to do – which is great as it paves the way for camera manufacturers to focus on other important components, not just resolution . Yes, there will be some companies (like RED, Sony, or Kinefinity) that continue to offer cameras with even higher resolutions (6K, 8K and beyond), but I really think that this will be the exception and not the rule. The reason for this is that 4K is literally more than enough for film projects – in many cases even too much.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles and founder of the boutique production house Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television and in various publications around the world. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!