“Fleabag” is a comedy drama, shot for Amazon Studios and the BBC. Starring, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Olivia Coleman, Bill Patterson and Hugh Denis. It was originated in 4K, on the Alexa mini, shot and transmitted with a 2-39-1 cinemascope aspect ratio, with Cooke anamorphic lenses. Delivery was in UHD/HDR 4K.
But what is HDR?
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is the next major jump in imaging. HDR gives a significant improvement to picture quality. Greater contrast between shadow areas and highlights and deeper and more varied colour saturation. It has four times as much detail as 1080p (full HD), that’s eight million pixels compared to two million pixels. Just like other extensions – (my wife lives in hope!) the bigger the better.
You can get there using any of the latest cameras, all of which effectively shoot 4K images. If you wish to shoot with anamorphic lenses on the Arri Alexa Mini, as we did, you need to use 4×3 2880(x2160) mode. It shoots a full frame height image. Bearing in mind that 4K UHD frame size is 3840×2160 by un-squeezing your 4×3 image you will get 5760×2160 and you need to scale it down to fit the letterbox of 3840×2160 in post. I trust you are seriously nerded out!
But can Dick and Tom actually see the difference?
Of course not! We shot a scene on the top floor of the Tate Modern, for “Fleabag” of Olivia Coleman with her back to a glass window. The backdrop was the Thames, in full summer sunlight! In 4K, I was able to miraculously hold detail in the highlights that would normally burn out. Similarly, when we shot the same location at night, I was able to hold an amazing amount of detail, deep into the blacks, across a very broad angle of view. Yes, it is significant, but no it is not life changing and in a way, new detail brings its own set of problems and parameters….
Do I need a new TV?
Yes – a couple of grand for a decent 4K set should do it. But unless you have a way of receiving 4K content, you will have wasted all your precious pennies.
Soon Amazon, Netflix and others will start transmitting in 4K. Dear old Aunty, is a little behind of course, but I would guess in the next two years we will have 4K platforms broadcasting in the UK, including the BBC (if it still exists, once our Brexiteer government gets going).