Skip to content

Editing 4k Content In HD Workflow

By: Stephen Toback


Since we shot our 4k footage last summer, we’ve been seeking a way to use the full resolution of the 4k images in an HD workflow. We believe that in the near term (and maybe even the long term) using 4k footage in HD will provide content creators with much more flexibility in post production – allowing digital pan and zoom at full quality up to 50%.

Final Cut Pro X remains the most popular editing tool at Duke. We were perplexed that bringing a 4k image into an HD project allowed you to see the entire frame, and the inspector showed it at “100%”. We thought that this was impossible and the tool must be then scaling the image to HD in the background. We did not want to scale the image because you’d lose the ability to zoom in.

We had successfully use After Effects CS6 to do this. When you dragged the footage into an HD composition, it “did the right thing” showing you a cut out of the center of your content. AE CS6 also had no problems directly reading the SONY 4k XAVC files.

We wanted to try Adobe Premiere, but unfortunately the only version of Premiere on the Mac that supports the SONY 4k XAVC was the Creative Cloud version. Duke is currently working on ways to deploy this new licensing model so it didn’t seem like a good solution. That said, we installed the demo version and sure enough, it brought in the SONY file without a problem and again “did the right thing” – showed it at 100% and you were looking at a 1920×1080 cut out of the center of your 4k file.

Apple was very receptive to helping us work through this problem with FCP X, but we were having difficulty communicating the issue effectively. So, using QuickTime X, we recorded a screen movie to show what we were experiencing:

That did the trick. It was fairly simple switch (as we hoped it would be) that solved the issue. In the inspector, there’s a section called “Spacial Conform”. Fancy (and confusing) name. It defaults to “fit”. If it is set to “fit”, FCP X does make the 4k footage scale to HD. Technically, it IS at 100% because the footage has been re-rendered. If you set the spacial conform to “None” – it behaves as we want it – a 1920×1080 cut out of the center of your 4k file and you can pan and zoom to your heart’s content.

We’re happy to now recommend this workflow to those experimenting with 4k footage.

Oh, and why do we thing 4k in HD may be the best long term use of this footage? Still very early on, but if you stand in front of a 55″ 4k display and a 55″ HD display, it’s hard to tell the difference. Once you get to screen sizes above 70″, I think working in native 4k will make more sense. You certainly won’t be able to tell the difference when streaming to your laptop or iPhone. In the mean time, try zooming in 200% to an HD image and then move to 100% of a 4k image and there’s a HUGE payoff in quality.

We hope to get a 4k camera soon so we can shoot something other than brains to share more content with you.

Categories: 4k Video

One comment

  1. Great post. I was editing our first project shot with the Blackmagic Production 4K camera and wanted to punch-in and reframe the 4K footage in a 1080 timeline in FCPX. Setting Spatial Conform to “none” makes sense and is preferred (as you point out). We ran into trouble, however, when we output XMLs to send over to DaVinci Resolve (full version) for grading. Resolve seemed to “see” the spatial conform, but did not “see” the positioning metadata — so framing was all over the place and we had huge background black areas.

    I went back to FCPX and changed the Spatial Conform to “fit,” resized 4K from that fit start-point, and the Resolve trip worked fine.

    Not sure if this is a bug in the XML out of FCPX or a bug in the XML in to Resolve, but looking forward to either or both parties fixing. For now, we’re using the “fit” spatial conform when going out to Resolve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *