4K Video Photography, the Latest Stake into the Hearts of Traditionalists

Remember the digital vs film debate, no more than 10 years old? Some still insists on film being alive. Well it’s not. It’s dead, it’s just not extinct yet. But just as even the most diehard of traditionalists and the “righteous” have finally gotten over inserting memory cards rather than rolls of acetate into their rectangular boxes, another wave of innovation and, god forbid change, is swelling just over the horizon. It’s going to solve the ultimate Achilles’ heel of the still photography format. It’s going to put some people out of business. And it’s going to put off a lot of people.

Nothing to see here, another pretty lady on the cover of a photography magazine, right? Wrong. The cover image is not shot by a still photography camera. It is a single frame pulled from a 4k video, clean enough to grace the cover of a magazine. Image from http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/latest/photo-news/could-4k-video-replace-traditional-photography-ap-shoots-its-first-ever-cover-image-on-4k-video-33704

Question. What can’t you fix in post? I can fix mis-exposure. I can fix mis-composition. I can fix color, tint, and white balance. I can fix noise, vignetting, and distortions. I can even fix bad lighting. I can even fix depth of field (though crudely). And some pro retouchers, not myself, can even fix blinked eyes. Within a reasonable range, the answer is, you can fix everything, except focus and timing. You can’t fix those things because there’s simply no data in the files to extrapolate from.

Mainstream fashion magazine covers shot with the Panasonic GH4. The still frames were pulled from the 4K video, with superb results.

You already know about Lytro and it’s light field cameras. It seeks to address the focusing part by allowing you to focus after you take the shot. It’s still working out the kinks but the breakthrough is legendary. Well, guess where 4K video-photography comes in? No more waiting for the Henri Cartier Bresson moment. No more high speed FPS action shots or sound or light activated timing. No more waiting to capture those perfect micro-expressions. Just shoot video and pull a clean still. Check out the video below and notice the free flowing interaction the model has with a video camera. The model is free to emote rather than stopping for jerky robot poses after each shot of a still camera. Video photography opens up so many possibilities.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im6N9a8GfH8?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

Sports photographers will become 4K video photographers (or as I’d like to call them, “vidtographers.” I considered “votographers” but it’s too similar sounding to photographers and “voto” in Italian means “vote”). Wildlife photographers and photojournalists will become vidtographers. Paparazzi, wedding, and soccer mom photographers will become vidtographers. Fashion photographers are already becoming vidtographers. Any photography that involves motion and timing will benefit from vidtography.

How serendipitous or impeccable was the timing in order to get this image? With video, just pull it, after the fact.

It won’t be here next year, or the year after that. I don’t think it’ll reach the mainstream within 5 years. It’s not just that the technology on the front end (the cameras) is not ready, the tech on the back end (the workflow) is not ready. This may be a larger paradigm shift than from film to digital. It’s a new way of taking photographs. People will resist. It may be an addition/alternative to photography as we know it, or it may completely replace it. The industry and the marketplace will figure it out.

A pulled image from 4K video is up to 4096 x 2160 in size. It’s resolution is comparable to in-camera JPGs. Undoubtedly, it is much more difficult to work with videos than with still photos especially when it comes to uncompressed video. RAW also outshines video frames at the moment. But that could change quickly. Image from http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/

Can you imagine the possibilities? Can you imagine its impact? Can you imagine how much disruption it will cause? I can’t wait. 😉

If you want to read more, please check out these curated articles:

Excellent article from Canon talking about the current realities of shooting with a 4K camera (this one is a particularly good read, despite it being a marketing article). http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/education/technical/abraham_joffe_on_the_eos-1d_c.do

A video describing the process of grab stills form 4k video. http://news.doddleme.com/equipment/colorist-describes-method-to-grab-hires-stills-from-4k-video/

An in-depth article on the latest 4K gear and 4K photography trend. http://www.americanphotomag.com/photo-gallery/2014/10/gear-trend-4k-shooting-cameras

Shooting portraits with a 4K video camera. http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/technique/portrait_photography/shooting-4k-video-studio-portraits-38741 and http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/latest/photo-news/could-4k-video-replace-traditional-photography-ap-shoots-its-first-ever-cover-image-on-4k-video-33704