The 4K Revolution
Changing The Way We Capture the Shoot
VIDEO IS NOT JUST FOR CINEMATOGRAPHERS ANYMORE
PHOTOGRAPHER, TRAVEL WORKSHOP HOST, AND EDUCATOR ROB KNIGHT EXPLAINS:
As multimedia presentations and electronic photo delivery continue to evolve, it is important for photographers to explore new ideas for creating powerful images. Our tools and techniques are constantly changing, but the fundamentals remain the same. Whether we are shooting photos with a smart phone, a DSLR with video capabilities, or raw video with a cinema camera, we still need a clear subject with appropriate light in a pleasing composition. And today, as our work is more commonly viewed on electronic screens we have even more opportunities to share and market our work.
I have spoken to a lot of people who say they don’t shoot video, and I get it. When the first DSLR had the capacity to shoot video, I said the same thing. However, when I began to explore moving pictures, I was pleased to discover ways to incorporate video into my still photography workflow. The mirrorless camera models I use make it even easier to switch between photo and video in an instant. Now, I don’t always have to think about how I’m going to depict motion in my still images. I can capture the motion in my subject as it appears, and share that complete experience with my viewers. After training yourself to see images in split-seconds it takes some time to think of a scene in terms of moments and motion. But I can tell you from experience, the content you create is worth any growing pains you may encounter.
I had just started to get the feel for shooting video when the team at Panasonic | Lumix presented me with a new tool
to explore, the Lumix GH4 mirrorless camera. The GH4 4k video is four times the resolution of HD video, and the Lumix is the first camera system to bring that functionality to a unit that most photographers can afford. Much like the introduction of DSLR video, I didn’t fully understand its benefits at first. The video is beautiful to be sure, but why do we need all that extra resolution?
I now see there are more advantages for video shooters than I could have imagined. You can pan across or zoom into a single 4k shot in full HD resolution. You can use sections of a single 4k clip to simulate multiple camera angles. And then I discovered 4k photos and was impressed to say the least.
Each frame of 4k video is about 8 megapixels (mp). The GH4 shoots 4k at either 24 or 30 frames per second. You can grab any frame from a 4k clip in the camera or using image editing software, and you end up with an 8mp JPEG image. Most video capture is limited to the “widescreen” 16:9 aspect ratio, but the GH4 has a “4k Photo” mode that allows you to shoot 4k video in any aspect ratio and retain the 8mp resolution. Eight megapixels might not sound like much these days, but I was convinced when I saw my first 20″ x 24″ print from a cropped 4k frame!
In order to capture sharp still images from 4k video it is necessary to use exposure settings that are optimized for
photos instead of video. A general rule of thumb for video is to use a shutter speed that is twice your frame rate. That means for smooth 30p video you should shoot at 1/60th of a second. That works fine for video, but any wildlife photographer can tell you that 1/60 is almost always too slow to get sharp photos of moving animals.
When I’m shooting 4k video to extract still images, I use the same exposure settings I would use for photos. Most often that means Aperture priority mode so that I control the depth of field and the ISO setting, and I let the camera figure out the appropriate shutter speed. As with conventional still photography, I monitor the shutter speed and make adjustments when necessary based on my subject. In bright light the camera chooses faster shutter speeds that sometimes result in “choppy” video, but most times it is not a problem. I regularly end up with both sharp stills and useable video.
Most of my video clips are rather short, and 4k is no exception. If I am using the video clip in a slideshow I will generally trim it to around 10 seconds. My average clip for 4k photos is even shorter than that. Since I’m capturing 30 frames per second, I don’t want to sift through hundreds of images to find the right still photo. Even a five second clip contains 150 images, so you definitely want to shoot efficiently. I try to anticipate the action and think of the 4k video as a sort of extended burst mode.
If I’m shooting the GH4 in 4k Photo mode, I can capture frames from the video in the camera and the JPEG image will have full EXIF data. The extracted JPEG will be on the SD card next to the original video file. It is also easy to capture frames from video clips using just about any image or video editing software. I regularly use Adobe Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC to extract still images from 4k video. Once I have the still images I simply edit them as I would any other JPEG.
Video is not just for cinematographers anymore. We have technology built into our DSLRs and mirrorless cameras that allows us to capture moving images in unbelievable quality. Even if you just add a few short video clips to your slideshows, I think you’ll find that the addition of motion can enhance your still photography and expand the way you tell stories. As 4k technology becomes more prevalent, I believe that more photographers will embrace the idea of harvesting still images from video. When it comes to “getting the shot” it’s hard to argue with 30 frames per second!