The must-know ways to get the most from 4K

The Canon EOS C500 Mark II.
Shooting 4K video is easier than ever thanks to compact, professional camcorders with 4K capabilities – but the higher resolution means increasing your processing power to manage the extra data.

With the continued consumer demand for high-quality video, 4K capture is fast becoming the norm. "Consumers now expect 4K content and that pervades every area of filmmaking," says videographer and photographer David Newton, who has worked for leading global brands. "Once you've shot in higher resolution, you don't want to go back. And even if 4K delivery can sometimes be challenging, mastering in 4K improves the quality of HD footage.

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"I filmed in 4K Cinema RAW Light [Canon's compact RAW file format] on the Canon EOS C200, shooting a whirling dervish and a 4x4 in the sand dunes in Dubai, and it gave me so much gradability in post. When I shot in a hotel with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, I was actually filming 5.9K Cinema RAW Light. Shooting in Cinema RAW Light is always an experience – the amount of detail and data it captures is fantastic."

But what impact does shooting in Ultra HD have on workflows, and what do you need to get the most from the data produced? "The workflow itself is much the same as with HD footage – what's different is the size of the files that you're dealing with," says Paul Atkinson, Canon's European Pro Video Product Specialist. "You need extra storage, higher resolution screens and more powerful hardware to make the most of it."

From capture through to the edit, and including remote workflows, two professional filmmakers discuss how to get the most from shooting in 4K Cinema RAW Light on the Canon EOS C300 Mark III, Canon EOS C500 Mark II and Canon EOS C200.

4K footage of a classic car being graded on 4K monitors.
A 4K workstation requires a high-resolution 4K monitor, so that grading is accurate. © Joby Sessions

1. Dealing with more data

The first thing to consider when shooting in 4K is "data, data, and more data," says David. "You've then got more data once you get to the computer. That follows right through the workflow, so you need more storage and faster writing speeds."

"The Canon EOS C300 Mark III, the latest camera to feature Canon's Cinema RAW Light file format, will fill up a 512GB card in about 25 minutes," says Paul. However, the file format remains an incredibly efficient way to capture footage – a Canon EOS C700 FF can fill up a 2TB drive in just 21 minutes. "Cinema RAW Light gives you all the advantages of a RAW file in a manageable file size, which allows you to fully exploit the camera's capabilities," he adds.

Comparing his current workflow to a few years ago, David says 4K data generation – or even 5.9K on the Canon EOS C500 Mark II – is becoming easier to manage. "As technology in areas such as memory, storage, computer processing and graphics processing has caught up, it's no longer quite the challenge it was," he explains. "We still have a lot of data, but connections such as Thunderbolt 3 [with speeds up to 40Gbps] and memory cards such as CFexpress have made it considerably easier."

The Canon EOS C300 Mark III attached to a drone filming a ballerina on the wing of a 747.

Canon EOS C300 Mark III first shoot

Cinematographer Steve Holleran put the camera's new DGO sensor and 16+ stops of dynamic range to the test filming a ballerina in an abandoned 747.

2. Greater processing power

"You're dealing with much larger files and that can catch some people out, particularly when it comes to processing power," says Paul. "If you're capturing footage at up to 2.1Gbps on the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, or 1Gbps on the Canon EOS C300 Mark III and the Canon EOS C200, you're going to be creating a lot of data, and you need to be able to process that."

Minimum computer specifications for Canon's Cinema RAW Development software can be found on the Canon website, but the higher the spec of your workstation, the more efficient your workflow will be. "You need much greater computer and graphics processing power," says David.

Cinema RAW Light files can be processed in Cinema RAW Development or through native support in a range of non-linear editing systems (NLEs). "The Cinema RAW Light workflow is now very well established with support from all the major editing packages," says David. "Instead of having to convert through Cinema RAW Development, footage can be dropped straight into Adobe Premiere Pro or DaVinci Resolve."

Plugins ensure compatibility with programmes including Final Cut Pro X 10.4 from Apple (using the Canon RAW Plugin for Final Cut Pro X) and Media Composer from Avid Technology (via the Canon RAW Plugin for Avid Media Access). Search the Canon website for the appropriate editing system.

David Newton with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II.
David Newton says 4K data generation – even 5.9K on the Canon EOS C500 Mark II – is not as much of a challenge as it used to be thanks to advances in memory and storage capabilities.

3. Lean on proxy files

Even when shooting in Cinema RAW Light, high resolution capture results in bigger file sizes. Working with proxies – an exact copy of your footage in a smaller file size – can offer a distinct advantage in post.

"If you're recording RAW to a CFexpress card, you can simultaneously record a 2K or Full HD version to the SD card," says Paul. "With the Canon EOS C300 Mark III, you can also do that if you're recording XF-AVC. Instead of a 10-bit or 12-bit RAW file, or a 10-bit 4:2:2 XF-AVC file, you capture a 4:2:0 8-bit 2K or Full HD file to the SD card. It's much easier to quickly import that into your edit system. We are also going to enable recording of proxy files when recording XF-AVC on the Canon EOS C500 Mark II via an upcoming firmware update. You can make the edit using the smaller file size, then apply the edit decision list to the footage that's been through post-production."

A person stands behind a Canon DP-V2411 showing 4k video footage of cars.
Canon 4K monitors, such as the Canon DP-V2411, offer the true colour and contrast needed for accurate profiling of the additional colour data that 4K footage produces. © Joby Sessions

4. Invest in a 4K monitor

An essential part of the 4K workflow arsenal is a high-resolution screen, at a minimum of 4K. "The monitors are an essential part of the workflow," says Paul. "If you're filming in 4K for output in 4K, then you will need to see a 4K image. You need to make sure that when you grade your footage, you are seeing a true representation – you need a balanced, properly calibrated piece of equipment that gives you true colour and true contrast. Making sure the colour is accurate is a vital part of the workflow process, which Canon is able to provide a solution for."

Monitors such as the Canon DP-V3120 31-inch 4K HDR professional reference display offer top image quality for monitoring and post-production needs.

Sir Don McCullin stands, camera in hand, in the middle of a crowd in Kolkata.
After shooting a documentary in India with Sir Don McCullin, filmmaker and photographer Clive Booth returned to Derbyshire while his editor, Tristram Edwards, stayed in London. The pair were able to edit the 15 hours of footage collaboratively from their separate locations. © Lance Miller

5. Consider remote workflows

Advances in technology mean it is now possible to edit 4K files collaboratively from different locations – something filmmaker and photographer Clive Booth discovered while filming McCullin in Kolkata, a documentary following photojournalism legend Sir Don McCullin in India.

Returning to the UK with more than 15 hours of footage, Clive was faced with a lengthy and expensive stay in London to work on the edit. "I was looking for a solution that would enable me to work from 160 miles away in Derbyshire," he says. Team Projects, which is integrated into Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects and Prelude, enabled Clive and his editor, Tristram Edwards, to work remotely and collaboratively on the same edit.

"We each had a drive and the same project uploaded to our computers," explains Clive. "Team Projects accesses the same assets in the same file tree and we shared screens." Clive was able to watch Tristram working on the project and then, when he wanted to view the new edit, upload it to his second screen at the touch of a button.

"It was revolutionary," says Clive. "Once you know you can do that, it's liberating. I'm very much about collaboration and this workflow was no different – it was the same as being there in person. It's now possible to do a huge amount of filmmaking remotely."

Shkruar nga Lucy Fulford

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