4K Buying Guide And Tips: Part 1

I am very excited to be bringing you knowledge, tips, advice, workflows, buying guides and more for professional video every month with Adorama. The goal is to progressively get more advanced and detailed. However, I will be clear in every article so no matter where you pick up the series or if you miss an article, you will still be able to easily follow. While this is the first article and we should start in the beginning, I am going to kind of pull a Quentin Tarantino on you and start towards the end, which in this case is a new beginning. At least for most of you. This article is a 3 part article. In part 1 we will discuss 4K and infrastructure. Part 2 will be about work flow and part 3 will be a camera buying guide. Let's get to it.

We are going to kick this off with the technology that is certainly coming of age this year and is all the rage right now. 4K video, UltraHD (UHD) or DCI HD. I will explain all of this later in the article. This is the year of 4K. With 4K TVs and displays becoming very inexpensive and services like
Netflix streaming in 4K, your clients are most likely already asking for it. If not, they will be shortly. 4K can be confusing, but I am going to make it understandable.

Let's start with the gear, which really starts with understanding the workflow. The first thing is whether you edit on a PC or a Mac (I'm a Mac). You will most likely need not only a new computer, but a new infrastructure. The way my production facility is set up now is we have a Small Tree Titanium combined server/storage array (love it) feeding about seven editing computers. Now I know a lot of you don't get servers and set up things this way because it's expensive, but it's really the best way and I am nearly positive that with 4K you won't be able to daisy chain drives or handle the massive storage needed on individual drives or computers. So this will be the only way to go. I love Small Tree. They came in like knights on white horses and saved the day in the middle of an edit for a major client when another system had failed. That was years ago and I have never had a problem with any of their systems, plus customer service is tremendous and fast. We have had two systems and recommended countless others. All with no issues (knock on wood). I love them (it's well documented) so I recommend them and continue to use them. But no matter what you use, you need a server with raid redundancy and super fast drives that can handle the stress and load, and probably one that can handle thunderbolt or fiber, fiber being the best way to go if your computers can handle it.

Apple Mac Pro Desktop Computer

Getting back to the computer, I would recommend a Mac Pro that is loaded to the gills. We ordered ours and are waiting for it. You can talk to John in the Mac department of Adorama or any of the Mac guys at Adorama and order yours. If you choose to go PC get a terrific one with great graphics cards. If you are building one it is wise to start with one that was intended for gaming. This machine needs to be powerful. We did a 6 core, dual gpu, 3.5ghz machine, best graphics cards, and tons of ram (tons of ram is a technical term that means 32GB, lol). For a PC I recommend the same kind of setup. Basically, go to the Apple site and emulate what they offer. You might save a buck, but I still vote for Mac and I say don't be pound wise and penny foolish. So you probably think all you have to do now is buy the camera, right? Not so fast. This is a serious investment and you have to be ready for it. That's why I am laying it out. Ultimately I think it's worth it for you, your business and your clients, and I believe you will be able to make it work well for you and boost business. But you have to know what you are in for. 4K should help counteract the slashed prices and industry killing free productions thanks to YouTube, viral video and DSLRs. It should separate the real creatives like you from the pretenders. So this is exciting and good!

The next step is to get monitors. Dell has good reasonable monitors that display in 4K, Seiki offers the cheapest, but a lot of people question the quality. There are also a lot of other brands available. Another option is that you certainly could just buy a Samsung 4K, which would be my first choice because you can go in HDMI and they look amazing. You can get those at Adorama too, they are reasonable and look terrific.

Samsung HU9000 Series 55" Class Full HD 4K 3D LED TV (Curved Screen)

Samsung HU8550 Series 55" Class UHD 4K 3D Smart TV (Quad Screen)

In my mind the most important part of your infrastructure is your backup and storage. This shoot you should be backing everything up as you're capturing it if you can. There are many ways you can do this that I am sure we will get into later down the road, but be thinking about it now. The easiest is brining a computer and a mobile hard drive array (thunderbolt) to the shoot and run off copies as you shoot, another option is dual recordings while you're shooting. When you get back to your facility it is important to offload to a robust storage array that not only is set to a RAID level you are comfortable with, but also allows for a backup unit. Additionally this array should be fast enough to connect to multiple edit stations at once and also serve 4K video. We will get into this more in other articles, too. It's expensive but it's necessary. You can no longer daisy chain drives and hope for the best. Not with 4K. Not with the prices you will be charging and not being a professional. You can't go back to the shoot, so realistically, your footage for your client has become priceless and protecting it is paramount and peace of mind. This is what sets you apart from the competition. 

Infrastructure is extremely important. It is almost more important than camera selection because it will dictate your workflow and efficiency. If your setup goes down you could loose valuable client assets. So it's important to choose and setup your infrastructure wisely realizing this is your backbone. 

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