4K Church

Approximate 6 minute read

When I talk to tech-artist friends about 4K video for church productions I usually get one of the following responses:

[Me] “So what do you think about 4K?”
[Church Tech Friend #1] {No verbal response. Eyes roll upwards and backwards into the head}

[Me] “Do you see yourself ever upgrading your system to 4K in the future?”
[Church Tech Friend #2] “Sure, right after we go 3D!”

[Me] “Would a 4K work-flow help make your job easier and allow you to produce a substantially more cost-effective product?”
[Church Tech Friend #3] {Uncontrolled laughter}

Granted, some of the churches represented by these tech-artists are still shooting SD. Some are still using analog composite video or DV video infrastructures. An upgrade to even HD may seem years away. So when I ask what they think about 4K, they may feel I might as well be asking them what they think about human intergalactic deep space travel. Because in their view, 4K’s use in their church and intergalactic deep space travel will probably occur around the same time.

So why write about 4K in the Church?

First off, 4K production (image capture at 4096×2160)  or Ultra HD production (3840×2160), for a deliverable of 4096×2160, 3840×2160, 2048×1080 2K, 1920×1080 HD 1.5 Gbit/s HD or 3 Gbit/s HD and the eventual Ultra HD deliverable to the home is right around the corner.  The Federal Communications Commission has approved the (voluntary) adoption of ATSC 3.0 (the standard governing over-the-air terrestrial transmission of Ultra HD broadcasts to the home).  NHK Japan has already announced that they will be producing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 8K! So whether we like it or not 4K, whether over the air, streaming and VOD is coming fast.  We in the Church can choose to ignore it, or we can learn now how to leverage it so when the prices fall to the point where it is cost-effective we are ready to fully implement 4K for the greatest impact.

One of the neat things I get to do in my day-job is experiment with new technologies. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of research and testing of work-flows incorporating 4K acquisition into entertainment specials alongside traditional 2/3” HD cameras where the end result will be a 1920×1080 HD deliverable.  This week I am working on a concert with ten traditional 2/3” HD cameras, one 4K (compressed recording) and one 2K resolution camera. I am also consulting on a fashion show shooting next week with ten traditional 2/3” HD cameras, one 4K (RAW recording) camera and four large sensor Super35mm shallow DoF 1920×1080 HD cameras.

After preparing for these shoots and others, and seeing what 4K technology can do now as well as what is on the horizon, I am convinced that 4K production could be biggest game-changer we’ve seen in many years! For those doing video production in the Church, once the new technology has been monetized and prices begin to fall I predict 4K, 8K, etc., will allow us to do things the Church never dreamed of before, less expensively, with fewer distractions to our on-site congregations.  What follows is a glimpse into that future…

POST CROP:

Let’s set the foundation we’re working from.  For a few years (some) feature films, shorts, commercials and narrative storytelling projects have shot 4K. Recently some churches have starting shooting 4K for things like interviews and announcements. The vast majority of these shoots, both in the church and in the secular marketplace are not shooting in 4K because they want a 4K deliverable, but they are instead acquiring in 4K for a 1920×1080 HD final deliverable product.

Now let’s look at a typical church interview pre-tape. For this type of shoot it’s fairly normal to set-up a “A” camera on the talent and a “B” camera to simultaneously shoot a different field-of-view than the “A” camera is giving us. For these non-live applications the flexibility the additional field-of-view “B camera” offers can mean the difference between an easy or a difficult edit, an esthetically pleasing cut or a pretty rough one. However from a cost, complexity and media management perspective, even if you only have one camera operator on-set operating both “A” and “B” cameras, you will still be doubling the amount of camera gear needed.

With 4K acquisition however shooting with only one camera you can frame a master-shot at your widest required field-of-view.  If you need that wide field-of-view in your edit you’ll simply down-rez the total 4K image in post to 1920×1080 HD.  Need a second, tighter field-of-view? Crop the 4K image to a field-of-view tighter than the original 4096×2160 4K but now equal to or greater than the 1920×1080 HD deliverable. Need a third field-of-view? Repeat the steps .

Here are some examples of how this works:

Full frame 4K acquisition image cropped to 1920x1080 HD
Full frame 4K acquisition image down-rezed to 1920×1080 HD

In the first image we see a 1920×1080 HD four-shot down-rezed from a 4K acquisition of the same field-of-view.  All we’ve done is change the resolution.  The field-of-view is practically unchanged.

50% zoom from 4K image resulting in a 1920x1080 HD crop
50% zoom from 4K image resulting in a 1920×1080 HD crop

In the second image we’ve decided to crop the original 4K four-shot to a tight two-shot of the girls on the left.  The edit system has performed a 50% zoom from the original 4K image resulting in a deliverable image which is still 1920×1080 HD.

2013-09-06-FCRetreat_TD 055 HD crop2
50% zoom from 4K image resulting in a 1920×1080 HD crop

In the third image we’ve decided to crop the original 4K four-shot to a tight two-shot of the man and the boy on the right.  The edit system has again performed a 50% zoom from the original 4K image resulting in a image which is still 1920×1080 HD.

We’ve tested Avid’s Frameflex with very cool results! Want the camera to virtually pan from the two-shot of the two girls to the two shot of the guys? Frameflex can do that, timed exactly when you want, more accurately than a cameraman could live.  Want to have the camera virtually push (zoom) in from the four-shot of the entire group to a two shot? Frameflex can do that too!

Yes, but what about live video?

Shown at the BIRTV 2013 trade show in Beijing and to be shipping by 2014, Sony demonstrated a fiber optic CCU system for their PMW-F55 4K camera. Although that in and of itself is very cool (single SMPTE cable 2000m connectivity, return video, tally, comms, timecode, paint control), they also demonstrated a technology whereby their BPU-4000 processor can manipulate and crop a 4K image to 1920×1080 HD “live” on air. That’s right, not in post! Live!

This essential means that the camera operator could frame one field-of-view (typically a wider field-of-view) and a technician in the control room can simultaneously crop a second field-of-view in 1920×1080 HD. That means we’ll be able to achieve TWO fields-of-view, live, all from one camera, all from just one camera position in the house and with just one camera operator. In applications (like churches) where there is often sensitivity regarding how much gear, technology and crew is visible to the audience, or sensitivity to excessive seat kills, we can now achieve multiple simultaneous fields-of-view with minimal equipment and staff visible.

STITCHING:

Stitching is a technology on the horizon allowing producers to set-up multiple locked-off 4K cameras, framing the entire stage or sports field with slightly over-lapping 4K images. A processing unit then “stitches” the multiple 4K images into one super high resolution video image (at 8192×2160 if two 4K images horizontal, 12,288×2160 if three 4K images horizontal, 12,288×4320 if three 4K images horizontal by two vertical, etc.).  The processing unit then allows an operator in the control room to create a cropped 1920×1080 HD or 3840×2160 UHD image (or multiple simultaneous images) out of any part of the whole stitched super high resolution frame. Live!

An application for churches might be to set-up two or three unmanned locked-off 4K cameras in the back of the house whose fields-of-view cover your entire stage. Super telephoto lenses will not be as required for close-up fields-of-view as the crop from the stitched cameras do not require them. Now, as everything on the stage is already being captured in a super high resolution image, an operator in the control room can simply choose what part of the total frame he wants to send out as 1920×1080 HD to I-mag screens or a web stream, all in a very similar fashion to how churches currently use PTZ cameras, but without the need for actual PTZ cameras and heads, without the need to physically pan or zoom the actual cameras, without camera operators in the house and without the need for longer lenses.  A recording of the super high resolution stitched image will allow you to re-edit in post (if you wish) as if you had individual camera isos, all originating from the one data file.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

In the words of Arthur C. Clarke, British science fiction and science writer, undersea explorer, television host and inventor, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”Yes, maybe 4K in your church seems like science fiction however when I was a staff Media Director at a church, video cameras had pick-up tubes, all audio systems were analog and editing a radio show required a china pencil and a razor blade. If someone had told me that video cameras would now have chips, digital audio consoles would allow scene recalls or could be controlled from a handheld tablet, and that radio show edits would be done on a laptop computer; I would have rolled my eyes, said, “sure, right after we go 3D” laughing uncontrollably.

The original version of this article was published October 29, 2013. Title photo attribution – Steve Kelly

Tom D’Angelo has worked in television production and AVL corporate theater for the last thirty-eight years. He has been nominated for a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award (Best Director category) and has been part of various teams that have been nominated and won national Emmy’s. As the Media Director at a megachurch in the 1980’s he developed a love for the Church and church performing and technical artists.

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