Although the majority of video being viewed around the world today is still at 1080p, you should always shoot video in 4K if your camera is able to. The simple reason is this; the more resolution you have, the more you can do with your video in post-production to make the most out of it. You also hear a lot of talk about people using “Log” and “Flat” camera profiles when shooting video to get better image quality results. This is something you should be implementing as well.
Starting with the first point. 4K UHD video has 4 times the resolution of 1080p video. If you plan to output (render) your video at only 1080p, and you shot your video in 4K, this means you can crop in on your video to the area of sharpest focus by up to nearly 400% without losing detail. This can be a really nice benefit to have if you want to crop your video later to show multiple camera angles from the same segment of video footage. Other examples of things you can do are zoom in on a video by 200%-300% while the video is running or even zoom in by 300% first and then do a tilt on the video. Or do both a pan and zoom at the same time. All this can be done in post without having to touch your lens or use any other equipment like a tilting tripod head or a slider to get the effect that the camera is in motion while recording. Things you would not be able to do so easily with video shot at only 1080p.
I shot some sample footage recently with the Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR at 4K to show you some of these methods using 4 short clips I created below. They demonstrate how you can make use of the same 4K footage in various ways without any loss of quality when rendering native 4K video out to 1080p.
Flat Picture Profiles
On the subject of using Flat picture profile settings (also referred to as Log profile settings) to record your video, these are settings made in-camera and help prevent the camera from blowing out highlights or losing detail in the shadows that could become unrecoverable in post. Flat profiles help preserve video detail by removing most of the in-camera sharpening, contrast, and saturation as the camera is recording the video. Technically this does not increase your dynamic range because dynamic range is a fixed component and depends solely upon both the bit depth and rate of compression your camera uses to record video. But a flat picture profile at least prevents as much loss of dynamic range as possible during recording. This also allows you more control over saturation, contrast, and colors when editing, as it is easier to change colors on video that was shot Flat. Plus it provides a lower potential for loss of detail in your final video output after color grading.
With Sony mirrorless cameras they offer a couple of built in flat color profile video recording options known as S-Log II and S-Log III. With Canon, many people have come up with their own neutral picture profile settings to pull out all the sharpening, contrast, and saturation when recording. With Canon I prefer though to use a 3rd party Flat profile created by Technicolor called CineStyle specifically for Canon cameras, which can be downloaded here for free and loaded permanently into the color profile menu of your Canon DSLR.
On the 5D Mark IV, Canon is now offering a hardware upgrade to the camera that provides a few stops more of true added dynamic range to video recording by utilizing a hardware embedded flat picture profile that Canon calls C-Log. The camera upgrade costs around $100 and also comes standard on newer versions of the 5D Mark IV, but I have not upgraded my original version 5D Mark IV so far.
The above test videos were all shot with the CineStyle color profile and then color graded in Adobe Premiere Pro to restore the video to real looking colors. Below is a sample video showing you a combination of the same pan and zoom test video shown above but with its original colors out of the camera created by the CineStyle Flat color profile. With this footage you can see what the video looked like before I color graded it. Not very pleasing to look at when it first comes out of the camera, but the color graded results are rather remarkable; thus I feel it is worth the extra effort to shoot video in this way.
A lot of people choose to not shoot video in Flat color profiles though because they are worried about the task of having to perform color grading to restore things later. But there is something known as LUTS (Look Up Tables) for video editing, which are color preset files that you can load into Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro to apply and restore the natural colors and contrast to your footage with just one click. Many people create these LUTS for free and share them online or sell them for just a few dollars so that people can download and apply them to their own video productions.
In the screen shot below you can see the above video footage on the timeline in Adobe Premiere Pro and on the right is the Lumetri color settings area. To restore the color to this footage I used a LUT that someone created specifically for the Technicolor CineStyle profile which can be downloaded here for free. You can see that in Lumetri I also adjusted the sliders a little more after I applied the LUT in order to increase Vibrance, Saturation and Sharpness to the video the way I like it.
If you have any questions or comments on this article please feel free to post them below.