4K video, What is the real cost of upgrading?

Paul Shillito Cameras, Computers Leave a Comment

Over that last few months I have spent a lot of time looking for the best way to upgrade to a 4K camera but which one to choose.

I started off with the Blackmagic 4K in mind but due to the delays and then a chat with a engineer at a major UK distributor I changed my mind to the Panasonic GH4. However not all is rosy in the 4K garden.

I really wanted an uncompressed 4K version of my Blackmagic 2.5k cinema camera but having put up with the huge increase in data size and the slow down in computer performance that brought with it and not to mention the storage of the Terabytes of data, I was looking forward to the GH4’s 100Mbps data rate, even if it was compressed.

However, after having used the Panasonic GH4 for a shoot now, (this video was shot almost completely with the GH4 in 4K) , I have been very pleasantly  surprised by the quality of the H.264 output of the 4K video, which is matching in some cases the quality of the uncompressed output from my BMCC but without the huge storage issues.

Anyway in this video I look at the some of the things you may well end up needing when you finally make the jump to 4K.

Link to YouTube http://youtu.be/t0rgJQCZyfk

{Video Transcript}

Thinking of up upgrading to a 4K video camera?, well if you think that it’s just about buying a new camera and that’s it then you may be in for a bit of a surprise. In this video I’ll show you what you need for both your camera and computer and give you an idea what the real implications of upgrading to 4k may well to be to you.

In the last few months we have started to see the first of what you could call “affordable” 4K cameras like the Panasonic GH4, Blackmagic 4K Production Camera and the Sony FDR AX100.

But buying the camera is just the first part in the upgrade process. Because 4K video contains at least four times more data than 1080p HD, everything from recording the footage through processing and editing and finally storing is going to be affected by this quadrupling or more in video size.

If you use a consumer camera like the Panasonic GH4 or Sony FDR AX100 the first thing that is going to be affected is the recording media your camera uses, usually an SD card, it has to be quite a bit faster to cram in the four times the amount data in the same time as recording 1080p HD.

You will need to use one of these, it’s one of the new Ultra High speed SDXC card that can record 4K2K video.

The ones that you want are the UHS Class 3 and they have a minimum write speed of 30 megabytes per second which is the equivalent of 240 megabits per second, so they can easily handle the 100Mbps coming out from say a Panasonic GH4.

Luckily , the price of these cards is coming down fast so you can get one now for not much more than the price of the Class 10 cards you currently use for your 1080p recordings.

Now that’s recording compressed video but if you want to record uncompressed 4:2:2 video then you need a lot more hardware to work with the Panasonic GH4, which I’ll cover shorty.

However, If your using the Blackmagic 4K it will record it’s 4:2:2 video directly on to the SSD’s in the camera. Remember that this camera does not record compressed video like consumer cameras.

Again because of the amount of data that created, especially in 4K CinemaDNG RAW format you will need the 480Gb ones to record around about 30 minutes of footage and you will also need the very fastest versions like the Sandisk Extreme II because not all SSD’s can keep up with the amount data created by the camera. If your recording in 4K ProResHQ 4:2:2 format you can get approximately double recording time so about 60 minutes for a 480Gb SSD.

Recording the uncompressed 4K ProRes 4:2:2 from the Panasonic GH4 is where things can get a lot more complicated and also much more expensive.

In order to record the higher quality you will an external recorder that can capture the output from the HDMI port because the GH4 cannot record it’s uncompressed video to the internal SD card.

The new Atomos Shogun 4K recorder is the one which many people are looking at for use with the GH4. When it is available it will have a projected price of just under $2000 or less and you will also need the solid state drives or SSD’s to actually record the video footage on to as well so you need to factor those in to the price too.

Again storage wise, a 480Gb SSD drive would hold about 80 minutes of 4K at 10 bit 4:2:2 which is what the GH4 will produce.

But there is a problem with this setup and the problem is that the Panasonic GH4’s mini HDMI port is not only small and fragile but more importantly it can’t drive long cable lengths at the speeds of 4K uncompressed video, and when I mean short cable lengths I mean about a foot in length.

To get around this Panasonic make the DMW-YAGH or YAGH interface which gives you 4 x SDI outputs for the uncompressed video as well as XLR audio inputs so you can use professional Microphones or audio equipment. The SDI outputs can drive much longer cables so you could then use a rack mounted recorder like the Blackmagic HyperDeck Studio 4K, which is also this is cheaper than the Atomos at about $995.

The down side to the DMW-YAGH interface is that it will cost you just short of another $2000, or less on the street, so in all you could be looking an extra $3500 – $4500+ on top of the GH4 for the YAGH interface, a 4K recorder and the SSDs to reliably record 4K in ProRes 4:2:2 from your GH4.

So That’s the recording but what about your computer. If you’re working with compressed 4K like that from the Panasonic GH4 and Sony FDR AX100 or other similar cameras then the load on your computer will still about four times that of 1080p HD but that is a lot less than if you’re working with uncompressed video formats like ProRes 4:2:2 or CinemaDNG RAW where you can be looking at upto 20 times the data rate of compressed full HD.

So lets look at the what sort of things you need to handle this extra data. I’ll be look at it in the context of buying or building a new computer.

As for MAC or PC the specs are going to be very similar as the hardware in both is basically the same these days.

Firstly your CPU is going to be key, because there is going to be a lot more data to process, the faster your CPU and more importantly the more CPU cores you have, the better but also some modern CPU’s have specialist hardware built in which benefits 4K video.

At the moment Intel CPU’s still have the upper hand in the power stakes with things like Quick Sync Video, a built in hardware encoder/decoder for H.264 which supports 4K on the latest Haswell i7 quad core CPU’s. Now bear in mind this won’t affect you if your running ProRes 4:2:2 or CinemaDNG RAW, it’s only going to be for compressed videos like you get from the consumer range camera’s. Now this processor is ideal for entry level systems. And then you have got the previous generation Ivy Bridge Extreme with six core CPU’s which is the one your going to need if you want to build single processor power systems.

If you can afford it, the workstation quality Xeon CPU’s can have up to 12 cores and can run as a dual CPU system with the appropriate motherboard but they will cost you about double the price on a per core basis compared to the i7 CPU’s and they don’t usually have the high clock speeds as well.

Don’t forget that the Intel CPU’s will give you hyper-threading which effectively can double the number of cores but with some slight performance degradation on each one.

AMD CPU’s still don’t have the equivalent firepower to match the latest Intel ones but they are a lot cheaper and the AMD supported motherboards are also cheaper than Intel versions. However the lack of PCIe 3.0 on most of the AMD motherboards means you won’t get the best performance out of the latest top end graphics cards. They are also not as efficient, with the FX 9000 series using double the power for an 8 core CPU compared to the equivalent Intel .

Graphics card these days are often more powerful than the computer they are used in when it comes to handling graphics and many of the editing and VFX packages can now use the power of the Graphics card if you have the right one.

Most commercial graphics cards are geared towards gaming but it’s the CUDA based ones from nVidia which are primarily used by editing and VFX software like Adobe Premiere, After Effects , Sony Vegas, Final Cut Pro.

The ones that currently give the best bang for the buck are the nVidia GTX760, 770, 780, 780ti and GTX Titan. These are all PCIe 3.0 so you will need motherboard that is PCIe 3.0 compatible to get the best performance from them.

Professional workstations will use the Nvidia QUADRO and Tesla cards but these are also much more expensive and unless you going to doing a lot of CGI work it’s probably not worth it for an editing/VFX machine.

Whilst we are on the subject of graphics, if you want to see 4K properly then you’ll need a 4k monitor and although you can get a cheap one for around $600 or so a good one which is colour calibrated will still set you back over a thousand dollars or more but this is an area when prices are going to fall rapidly as 4K replaces HD in the coming years and don’t forget you don’t have to use a 4K monitor in editing, you can still use a full HD one perfectly well.

These powerful video cards also use a lot of power so when they working at full load so make sure that your power in your computer supply can handle it.

Something like a 700W or even 1Kw PSU is not uncommon in powerful system with multiple CPU’s or graphics cards, don’t forget, this is not what they WILL use, it is what they have the capacity to supply. Its always better to over specify the Power supply than under specify it.

RAM these days is quite cheap and those 4K files can certainly eat it up especially if use Adobe After effects or have multiple lanes of 4K video in your editing software. You should look to fit as much as you can afford or your motherboard allows. You should be aiming for 32Gb and 64Gb if you can do it.

One of the biggest performance boosts you can get for your computer is to use an SSD for your operating system and a separate one for your temporary storage or disk cache. Operating system drives don’t need to be very large, something like a 250Gb SSD drive would suit even a fully loaded editing or VFX machine.

A similar size SSD for your disk cache will also speed up operation like RAM preview’s and rendering previews as well.

Storage of your working footage is going to be one of the biggest issues especially if your using uncompressed video. Going back to our Blackmagic 4K camera with CinemaDNG RAW, you’re going to be looking at 30 minutes of footage filling up a 480Gb SSD. You’re going to have to store all this data somewhere and also for security it should really be in a RAID format so if you have a hard drive failure you not going to lose any of your valuable footage.

You can either use large capacity Hard drives like 4Tb ones internally in your computer or you can use a NAS or Network Attached Storage which is basically a box that can hold many hard drives in a RAID format and that connects via a network connection so it can also be shared amongst many users across a network if required.

Any Hard drives should be 7200 rpm devices or better to ensure you’re not waiting around for your data and there is also the option now of hybrid SSD’s which combine an SSD with a conventional hard disk drive. These use the SSD as a buffer to provide the high speed and the conventional hard drive for the high capacity backup.

Long term storage of the raw uncompressed footage will be an issue because of the sheer size of it. Probably the cheapest way is to load it on to a very large capacity hard drive like a 4Tb one but even then you would only hold 4 hours’ worth of RAW 4K CinemaDNG footage and a single drive would not have any backup against failure of the drive itself.

The other alternative if you don’t have the funds or means to store the RAW footage is to convert it to a compressed format like H.264, like they do with the consumer cameras, not ideal I know but it’s better than the other alternative which many of you won’t like to hear and that is to just delete it.

And Finally the editing or VFX software your using may well require updating to handle 4K. Currently Adobe Premiere CC, After Effects CC, Final Cut Pro X, Sony Vegas support 4K in most of the popular formats.

These are some of the main points which most people are going to encounter.

If you’re going the be shooting 4K with a consumer camera in a compressed format then the effects of an upgrade are not going to be as severe compared to shooting uncompressed video.

Remember that the minimum specs which are often quoted by both software and hardware companies also means minimum performance. You don’t have to go mad spec’ing up a new pc but it will serve you better in the long run if you can get the best you can afford rather than the cheapest you can get.

So what are doing about your 4k upgrade, if you have any issues then why put them in the comments box below and if you liked this video then give it the thumb up and if you know someone who might benefit from it why not share it with them.

Don’t forget to subscribe and you can hop on over video-alchemy.com to join our newsletter.

So my names Paul Shillito and this has been a Video Alchemy production and until the next time …….byeeee

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