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Top tips for producing sports in 4K and 8K UHD HDR

By 29th January 2020 February 2nd, 2020 No Comments

Insight TV executive producer Frank le Mair provides an assortment of tips for creating content in 4K and 8K UHD HDR

There is significant impact to the production process when creating a 4K UHD HDR programme. First and foremost, producers must have access to, and be using the right equipment to shoot in 4K UHD HDR.

We recommend using Red cameras, because they are the highest resolution cameras available today and produce outstanding images.

In addition to the right equipment, given 4K UHD HDR is of the highest quality, it’s crucial to shoot everything at 50 frames per second to achieve the best results.

As well as these things, we are producing adventurous content that encourages viewers to dive in to escape the day to day. Often this content needs to be shot outdoors, which can impact budget, time and manpower.

Our new series on sandboarding is set in the Chilean city of Iquique in the breathtaking Atacama Desert and shot entirely in 8K UHD HDR, to enable viewers to best experience the thrills of the extreme sport of sandboarding.

Shooting in 4K UHD HDR is still relatively new and there are a handful of DOPs shooting the kind of content we focus on that fully know and understand how to best use these new technologies.

With 8K UHD HDR, there are even fewer with relevant experience.

DoPs need to bear in mind that once a sequence is upscaled to UHD specs, it can look completely different in terms of camera movements, focus, and so on. Flaws are easier to notice on 4K UHD shots – from a reflection in sunglasses, mirrors and car windows to a smudge on the bonnet of a car and thick make-up on talent.

With this in mind, we strive to work with experienced DoPs, but we also hire budding junior production assistants and train them in the ways of 4K UHD HDR production, upskilling where required.

Another element to consider is the amount of data obtained when shooting in 4K UHD HDR, which is huge.

A crew shooting in HD can easily go on a day’s shoot without a data handler. However, when shooting in 4K UHD HDR, a data handler is necessary. Of course, experienced DoPs can handle the data themselves, but it requires a lot of time and effort and is difficult to achieve when you’re shooting against the clock.

The largest impact of shooting in 4K UHD HDR (and 8K) comes during post-production. Post-production requires a very specific workflow and open communication and collaboration with post-production partners.

The additional hours and manpower required for 4K UHD HDR postproduction mean it’s often more expensive. We expect this to progress and become more standardised and less expensive over the years, but for now this requires specialists.

That said, this should not scare off producers that are less experienced in creating 4K UHD HDR series or documentaries. On the contrary, it’s the perfect time to start learning and gain experience with 4K UHD HDR production as it is now more in demand than ever before.

Added to this, 4K UHD HDR live sports streaming has arrived on the scene.

Indeed, with international hits like the upcoming Super Bowl and the recent Red Bull Street-Style Football World Championships (aired live on Insight TV), live sports streaming is clearly an avenue that will fast become the norm.

But, as with any 4K UHD HDR production, there are a number of things to consider when it comes to live sports.

All devices must support the desired HDR format and colour space, from camera acquisition through to contribution feed decoding, including cameras, wireless links, replay servers, CGs, monitors and the vision switcher.

Devices that do not adhere will need to be appropriately re-mapped. The other challenge is to ensure the correct HDR signalling is also in place. Once production in HDR end-to-end is set up, it’s likely there will also be takers requesting the feed in HD and/or SDR, so ensuring the correct conversion is very important.

We use HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) as our HDR specification to reduce the complexity with these challenges.

It’s clear that production of 4K UHD HDR is becoming the new standard in high-end TV – all the big players are adopting 4K UHD HDR.

We’ve started investing in 8K UHD HDR content and as of 2020, we will be filming parts of every production in 8K UHD HDR. Last year, we filmed parts of the popular Supercar Blondie (pictured above) and 24 hours at Spa in 8K UHD HDR and our new show showcasing the fascinating world of sandboarding has been shot entirely in 8K UHD HDR.

Frank le Mair is executive producer at 4K and 8K UHD HDR producer Insight TV.

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