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4k: The Shoot

By: Stephen Toback


We arrived with a lot of equipment at the Anatomy Lab of the Duke School of Medicine at 1PM on Tuesday, June 25th. SONY pre-shipped a great deal of equipment, brought some more with them and Duke Media Services provided additional equipment such as lights and camera rigs as well as the background (neutral gray paper). The lights were standard Lowel Omni lights on stands with Chimera XS (as in extra small) soft boxes attached via a “speedring.” They were lamped with 600W elements. It would have been nice to have a third smaller key light to light the inside of the skull but the team made good work of re-aiming the lights and repositioning the subject for maximum illumination. The HD Camera used was the SONY PDW700. The shoot began around 9:30 AM on June 26th, 2013 and wrapped about 3 hours later.


SONY brought a 4k production viewing monitor (PVM-X300)that provided some interesting A/B tests when we ran the SONY XDCAM monitor through it as well. Standing close to the monitor, you can see how well the 4k captured the finest detail. It was almost as if the 4k video looked like an eps vector image and the HD looked like a typical raster image. The monitor is standard LED, but an OLED version will most likely be released in the future.


During the shoot, the monitor was mostly used for composition setting so that the doctors could see the shots as we set them up and as they worked. Although a small camera mounted LED screen was brought, the on camera high resolution OLED viewfinder was used in conjunction with the 4k monitor for shot composition and focus check. There is a software assist zoom for focus in the view finder since at this resolution, focus is hyper critical.


The SONY F55 Camera is actually quite small and light. Here you see it with the AXS-R5 Access Memory System recorder and battery attached. The AXS-R5 Access Memory System recorder allow you to record 4k raw. We discussed recording some 4k raw format but the workflow involved to manage and process raw footage would not have been more complex and really useful for our immediate use cases. We were impressed that the camera operated for a full 3 hours on the one battery charge.

IMG_3757 - Version 2

Although SONY brought an assortment of lenses, we decided to use the LEICA Summilux-C 100mm lens. The cost for that lens was equal to about the cost for all 6 SONY lenses, around $20,000+. The lens performed well (as expected) although we did have to truck out to get focus a few times and the depth of field was a bit challenging at points.


The greatest challenge of the shoot was data management. SONY brought (2) 64GB SxS PRO+ Memory Cards that sell for around $850 each. There are no 128GB cards yet, but they are on the way. These held about 13 minutes of content running in 4K XAVC Intra 4:2:2 60p at 600Mbps (this is SONY proprietary compression). I bought (2) 4 TB LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt RAIDs for redundancy and performance. The bottle neck in the process was the SONY SxS memory card reader that only supports USB 2.0. It took around 30 minutes to offload a card to the Thunderbolt drive (it was actually faster to offload directly to the Thunderbolt drive both in raw transfer time and it saved a file transfer to the drive after transfer to the internal hard drive). The cards had 48-60GB of data. I used Disk Utility to make DMG drive images of the cards so that they could be mounted again with all their metadata. Making the duplicate copy, from one Thunderbolt drive to the other took about 5 minutes! Scott asked about a possible external drive solution such as those made by AJA, but none are available today and none known.  There were delays in the rhythm of the doctor’s work while waiting for the cards to unload so they can be reused. (4) cards probably would have been better or (2) 128GB cards once they are available. We also asked about a Thunderbolt version of their memory reader but they felt that is unlikely since SONY likes to be platform agnostic and Thunderbolt is Mac only (which is strange because it is an Intel technology).

No microphone was used on the 4k camera. The HD camera was used to capture reference audio. The plan is in post production to have the doctors provide a voice narration to match the video.

Next Up

There will be more on the post production process later this summer with information on how when and where we’ll be presenting the content later this Fall.


Special thanks to all those that participated in today’s test!

Kennard Blake from Duke Media Services had worked with Dr. Len White from Duke’s School of Medicine on numerous shoots dealing with dissection of the brain so he was on hand to both operate the HD XDCAM camera which would be used for reference audio as well as HD comparison footage and provide shot composition and lighting input.

Scott Wells from Duke Media Services provided overall production coordination and was there to observe first hand some of the challenges of 4k production should Duke Media Services adopt this technology in the future.

Lou Gerhsenson, Broadcast Account Manager for the Mid-Atlantic States from SONY was lead on the SONY side. Joining him was Marty Meredith, SONY National Strategic Accounts Manager and Keith Vidger, Market Development Manager, Digital Cinema Production was the videographer and expert operator on the SONY F55 Camera. Shari Sentlowitz, Marketing Development Manager for Education Solutions was instrumental in getting this event set up but unfortunately couldn’t attend. She was Tweeting about it though.

Clinton Miller from School of Medicine’s Medical Education IT was a key technology partner along with Sharon Kaiser and Rick Melges. Rick was also shooting some hand held video and has promised to provide a behind the scenes video in the coming weeks.

Last but most importantly, the incredibly talented and dedicated faculty that did such a tremendous job today and lent us their time and talent in order to test this new technology. Dr. Daniel Schmitt and Dr. Len White who have been incredibly supportive from the beginning and Dr. Matt Velkey and Dr. Andrea Taylor who provided their skills and expertise during the course of the filming today.

Categories: 4k Video, DDMC Info


  1. Utilizing the auto-white adjustment on the monitor may have contributed to
    the (raster-like) perception of the monitor. Nice gear!

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