Video production is entering yet another major transition – the move to 4K. Much like the move to high definition (HD) several years ago, the new ultra-high definition (UHD) 4K-resolution formats have the potential to disrupt workflows, strain existing infrastructure and require costly unplanned upgrades. Those who remember how bumpy the change from SD to HD was are understandably nervous about what this looming 4K transition will bring.

With lessons learned from the past, the industry is ready to make the change from HD to 4K. The technology has evolved, the tools have evolved and workflows have evolved. The challenge, however, is to make sense of all this change and put the right pieces together to enable a successful transition. The following five key tips will help you to make a smooth transition to full 4K production.

Understand Your Format Requirements. You have many options today for capturing 4K images and working on them in post-production. The codec and bitrate you choose will have a direct impact on the infrastructure you will need to support your workflow. Just a single uncompressed 4K stream at 24 frames per second (FPS) can demand more than 1 gigabyte per second of data throughput. These demands only get higher if you happen to be working with stereoscopy and higher frame rates. Knowing your format requirements will enable you to design an infrastructure that will effectively support the work you need to do, without requiring time-consuming format conversion steps.

Match Your Tools to Your Workflow. Most content producers want to produce their work at the highest possible quality level, and so it is important that the production tools being used are capable of working with 4K material. Likewise, most production environments are becoming more collaborative, with teams of people (often geographically dispersed) sharing production tasks on stored content. An extremely important part of getting ready for 4K is understanding what kind of workflow you want and what applications your teams will work with, and then making sure that your underlying infrastructure can support those tools within your desired workflow. It also makes sense to ensure that your workflow system can grow as the tools change. The last thing you want is to be locked in by your production platform.

Make Sure Your Storage is Ready. With 4K, there is a lot more data in every frame, and the performance needs of your infrastructure are greater. This makes it important that you have the right storage ready to support your workflow. Storing all of this extra data on expensive fast storage can be cost-prohibitive. The best way to keep costs under control is to steer the right content to the right storage tier, but not all storage systems are designed to do this. The ideal storage system allows you to mix high-performance and high-capacity disk and to move content between them in a way that is transparent to the creative team.

Transition Gradually. Just because you’re moving to 4K doesn’t mean you need to make an overnight switch. The industry kept analog infrastructure live and in place while broadcasting digitally, and it did the same for the transition from SD to HD. For the smoothest 4K transition, operate new 4K workflows alongside existing HD workflows in the same facilities. Start by standing up new environments for the projects that require 4K today. Then, as you retire older equipment, replace it with 4K-capable components that can be used for both 4K and HD projects.

Three Trends That Could Disrupt Your Workflow: Cloud

Don’t Forget the Archive. Everyone knows that content lives forever, and in today’s on-demand society, content must always accessible. The move to 4K means larger files, which put more strain on already stuffed content archives. Users need a way to hold more data, make it available for re-use and protect it for future monetization. Doing it cost-effectively means taking advantage of tape archives that can be accessed as if it were disk storage, so be sure that your storage environment supports that option.

Finally, making the transition to 4K will likely raise questions about technology capabilities, workflow considerations and where the industry is headed in the future. Vendors and integrators with proven track records in open-system workflows have weathered this transition before, and can help you avoid the pitfalls. Partner with these companies, choosing those that have established relationships with other vendors whose tools you rely on. With the right team, your transition to 4K can be painlessly nondisruptive.

Want to Learn More?

Preparing for your transition to 4K? Learn how to build a true 4K workflow. Download Quantum’s “4K Ultra HD” eBook today:

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