When 1080 is Superior to 4k: This GH4 Music Video Makes the Case
"Maybe the details are not as sharp, but on purpose. Sometimes you want less definition to make it more cinematic."
The music video for Jesika von Rabbit’s (of Gram Rabbit fame) “Going Down” is pretty trippy. It’s starkly black-and-white and minimal - a live recording of the band played over the studio track. The flicker of a projector that washes over the band provides most of the lighting and action to the video, while the band’s natural stage movements are partnered with the editing to create a kind of minimalist choreography. What makes this music video so immersive? According to director Giuseppe Asaro, surprisingly, downgrading his 4k footage to 1080 was essential.
To understand that decision, it’s important to know a little bit about Giuseppe. He’s been a continent-hopping filmmaker for 30 years (he’s from Venice and still shoots in Italy). Giuseppe has shot on Super 8, 16mm, and 35mm film, but he still adores the video capabilities of his iPhone. While he can’t shake his celluloid roots, Giuseppe finds liberation in modern filmmaking technology. His two inspirations are intertwined in “Going Down.”
To get the look he wanted, Giuseppe started with a Panasonic GH4, a Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8, 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, and a Canon 50mm f/1.4 with a Metabones Speedbooster. He needed a camera that he could maneuver with. He didn't want to impose too much on an audience that paid to see the show and the shoot required versatile lenses that were fast enough to capture the stage when the projector went dark. He still wanted a gritty image though, and that’s where the downgrade from 4k to 1080 comes in.
“In order to give it a little bit more of a darker and grittier sensibility, I uploaded on YouTube a 1080 version, taking out a little bit of the too-transparent and too-bright 4k footage. Basically, with the source of light as a projection, you have an unbelievable amount of light, but just for a few seconds, then you’re black again. In 4k you can really see the definition way, way, more than 1080. To make the footage seem more cinematic, a more film-look quality, the one that looks more like Super 8 or 16mm is the 1080 version… Maybe the details are not as sharp, but on purpose. Sometimes you want less definition to make it more cinematic.”
Giuseppe plans on having both a 1080 and 4k version of the music video on his website for comparison. For him, shooting in a way that conveys some of the grittiness of film is an extension of his strong desire to break down the barriers to authenticity. There was no crew on this shoot, no additional lighting, and no re-takes.
“Sometimes when you do that (re-takes), you lose the authenticity of the performance... You don’t have an interaction with the audience, the lighting, or the fact that you are basically in the hand of the unexpected. By shooting only one time, her performance, I was able to capture some moments because, knowing the artist for so long, I knew also what to expect. Then I shot the rest of the concert because I needed things like the eye of the dancer or the turnaround of the bass player because I knew how they would fit.”
In that sense, the GH4 was the perfect fit for Giuseppe’s needs. It’s small, creates pleasing images, and takes great photos, which allowed Giuseppe to do all of his own behind-the-scenes photography as well. The video for “Going Down” looks and feels like it came somewhere out of the 60's. The image is grainy, the contrast is high, and the editing flips between shots as manically as the projector flickers. Giuseppe Asaro's video for Jesika Rabbit is brimming with throwback energy, exactly as the artists intended.