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4k? No way! Yes. Way.

By: Stephen Toback


4k video arrived at Duke today. Through the cooperation of SONY, Duke Media Services, Duke School Of Medicine Medical Education IT Group as well some amazing faculty and staff from the Duke School of Medicine, Duke OIT’s Interactive Technology Services were able to test a specific use case of the emerging Ultra HD or 4k video format comparing it to high definition capture of the same content.


A common immediate reaction to video at this resolution is an immediate rejection due to the challenges of playback devices and storage consideration. Those are valid concerns and it is true that the professional and consumer support of this emerging standard is just that – emerging. However, the use of 4k recording in an HD delivery work flow has some very compelling advantages that may inf act warrant the costs and complexity of entering into this format ahead of the curve of common support.

If you think about that moment of capture, there are many use cases where you will not have a chance to capture that moment again. Today, we were filming the human brain, capturing it in its context in the human body and using the process of removing it to illustrate how it integrates itself into all the other systems of the body. Where do you focus your camera? If you zoom in too tight to get the details of the structure of a nerve, you lose the context of where that nerve is in relation to the rest of the brain or how it connects to the body. If your shot is too broad, you lose that important detail.

At the core, 4k videography allows you to shoot wide and capture close up detail simultaneously when delivering to an HD workflow. If you think about taking that blue square above and moving it around to any place on that large 4k frame, you will get full HD resolution of that part of your image. You can also show the whole image downsampled to HD resolution. It’s this ability to capture both that is of interest for the immediate need.

We can think of other use cases in capturing the natural world where you want to frame to capture a large image, but the areas of study of the movement or detail might be many regions around that frame. Animal biology and behavior, architecture, engineering systems. I imagine there are many applications for just this specific use case.

For the near future, if you think about the resolution per physical inch of an HD frame stretched across say a 70″ video monitor, the effective resolution and pixel density is less than standard definition on a smaller screen. We plan on coming back this fall and demonstrating a future use case of ultra high resolution videography by projecting a 4k image on a large screen and preserving detail that would be lost if you were projecting a standard HD image.

So this is part 1. The why are we doing this testing.  We’ve also documented the challenges and opportunities of todays video shoot. There will be details on the editing, the distribution and a measure of the final value for the process to see if this is an investment we make today or continue to monitor – monitor at 4k of course.

Here’s a video overview of the shoot produced by Duke’s School Of Medicine:

Some additional resources from Lou @ SONY:

Sony’s Digital Cinematography “CineAlta” Landing Page:
Links to 4K Monitor, other 4K Cameras, RAW recorders, etc

PMW-F55 Camera Landing Page on the Sony Pro Site:
Under the “Resources” Tab, you’ll find the links for the F55 Operations Manual and the CineAlta Brochure featuring the F55 and F5 camcorders.

Film and Digital Times – F55 and F5 Booklet is found here  

Categories: 4k Video, Video Production

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