Saturday Night Live is preparing for the possibly inevitable future of UltraHD (4K), which contains four times as much data as today's high definition does.
The NBC series has tested 4K cameras in recent years, but it was not until this most recent season that it began to finish and deliver some pre-produced segments of the show in the new format. Set makers are beginning to offer 4K consumer displays, but the technology is not very widely spread at this juncture.
Rhys Thomas, an SNL film unit director, and Alex Buono, the show's director of photography, spearheaded the movement. They have been experimenting with the format to master it, so that if it becomes the future standards they are prepared. Fitting it into SNL's airtight schedule provided a challenge.
“We shoot [the pre-recorded content] on a Friday and broadcast on Saturday," Buono said. "[The question is,] can it be delivered in 24 hours?”
The team used different cameras during their time with the format. They found that some of the formats did not fit what they needed.
“We love the look of the Canon C500 camera, but with our production turnaround schedule, we don’t have time to deal with processing RAW camera files,” he added. “We tried alternate 4K recording devices, but Ki Pro Quad is the only one that let us go straight from the camera to ProRes. Not only do we save a ton of processing time, but we’re also chewing up way less hard drive space—uncompressed RAW ties up at least 1TB of storage per hour of footage; with Ki Pro Quad recording to ProRes, we’re down to less than 600GB per hour."