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Film Math: When Is 2k Greater Than 4k?

A cinematographer with all the money in the world and three months to shoot a movie would have a gear list that’s fully organized and checked off. But if all you have is 12 days on a microbudget, you have to fight for the camera and technology that will work for the picture.

Such was the conundrum faced by DP Eve Cohen before production began on “Be Somebody,” a tale of young love and discovery between two opposites played by Sarah Jeffery and YouTube star Matthew Espinosa, which debuted June 10. Producers were pushing Cohen to shoot in 4K because they had been told the format’s higher resolution yielded a better image. “But that’s not necessarily true,” says Cohen. “It definitely wasn’t true in our case.”

“I favor dynamic range over resolution for most projects that don’t have any VFX or specialty shots.”
Eve Cohen

Cohen had reasons for choosing lower-res 2K technology, and they weren’t based just on budget constraints. She argued that when finishing the picture in post-production, 2K would provide more flexibility since it’s recording at a higher bit-depth and offers more subtly in the grayscale.

The producers ended up using Canon’s handheld C300 Mark II camera, which is able to adjust to the format that’s right for the project. Director Josh Caldwell, also a Canon aficionado, backed Cohen’s decision to shoot in 2K over 4K and was instrumental as they negotiated with the producing team.

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There were also trade-offs in terms of recording time, Cohen says. “You can record 4K internally to the cameras,” but that allows less time per media card, and “we needed more storage space.”

Cohen says she generally prefers 2K for work that doesn’t require VFX. “I think the 2K 12-bit renders a better-quality image than the 4K 10-bit,” she notes.

The decision paid dividends near the end of the fast-paced shooting schedule — 84 pages in less than two weeks — when Cohen had to ask Caldwell to shoot a scene on his own. It was a middle-of-the-night shoot, and they still had a small exterior they needed to capture.

Cohen knew the director was an experienced handheld camera operator, and would be able to film the scene the way he wanted. “But I was a bit worried about it being exposed properly,” she says. “As a night exterior, it was quite hard to light without a full crew.” Still, she felt that with the 2K camera being more forgiving in lower light, she’d have enough wiggle room to adjust the image later on if needed.

Indeed, post-production came to the rescue. “We had quite a bit of grading to do,” Cohen allows, “but it was easier to correct because we had enough dynamic range.”

(Pictured above: DP Eve Cohen at work)

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