We’ve previously featured some impressive cover photos from magazines like GQ Esquire and Vogue that weren’t really cover “photos,” but instead individual video frames shot using our 4K video footage.
The magazine industry, though, can make any photo look impressive thanks to its (often controversial) Photoshop wizardry—so we put our own footage to the test by ordering 8×10 prints from 4K video frames taken straight out of camera (and straight from our 4K library).
Preparing and Processing Our Prints
Because most print shops aren’t accustomed to processing raw R3D video files from 4K footage, we opened up a few of our clips and did the conversion work ourselves. Essentially, this just meant exporting single videos frames as .TIF image files using REDCINE-X software, then applying some light sharpening to them in Photoshop.
Here are the clips we selected to turn into 8×10 prints:
Why Add Sharpening?
The need for sharpening has nothing to do with the quality of video footage. The footage we used, for example, could not have been any sharper. However, the resolution of printers is generally higher than the resolutions of computer screens, so it’s a standard across the industry to add sharpening to digital files before they’re sent to printers.
Most print shops add sharpening as part of their own workflow (even if you don’t ask for it), but we did the work ourselves because, well, we’re great big pixel geeks.
The Results—Or Why 4K is (Partially) the Future of Photography
We knew that, mathematically, 4K video footage has more than enough resolution to make an 8×10 print. However, the results still impressed us—particularly as we were working with footage chosen at random from our library that wasn’t ever intended to end up in print form.
After handling the 8x10s, there’s no question these are “photo quality” prints. The real question is, can 4K motion cameras replace the still cameras of photographers—and, after that, how large of a print can these cameras produce?
The prospect of being able to simply hit record for a few seconds and choose the best frame is certainly tempting—as is that of returning home from vacation with both videos and “pictures” in a single file. Combine this with the fact that companies like Sony and Panasonic are already shipping mirrorless still cameras with 4K recording abilities, and video’s future role in print looks pretty certain. Particularly for casual users, the ability to print photo-quality frames as an afterthought is a big selling point of this technology. However, it does require extra workflow (for now), so it’s unlikely to be used by the masses just yet.
For professionals, there’s more of a division. As noted at the top of this article, fashion photographers seem quite in love with 4K. It allows them to capture far more exposures than they’d capture with even the fastest still camera, and it allows models to pose more fluidly without the disruptive click of mirrors and flashes. These are all benefits that can clearly transfer over to any genre of photographer.
However, there will always be photographers loyal to film—and film techniques. For many, photography is all about capturing what Bresson calls “that critical moment,” and capturing an entire stream of moments only to choose one later on will seem like cheating. Similarly, many photographers are never going to give up their workflow. Photography has always come down to a single click, one many photographers won’t be eager to part with—and the same goes to switching from strobes to a constant light source (which is a whole new topic).
As soon as there’s a button to upload a 4K video frame to Facebook or an online print shop, we can expect a major embrace from everyday consumers. Until then, the format will likely remain primarily in the camera bags of high-end videographers and early-adopter photographers.
Also, the cat’s name is Sophia.