How Much Hard Disk Space Do You Need to Shoot in 4K?

Planning your feature film production is essential. In fact, one of the most important aspects that you should take into consideration is the hard drive space you will need for your captured material and backup.

Depending on your shooting ratio, the length of the material to be shot, the number of cameras you use, the format you choose to shoot in, the hard-drive space you will need will vary.

So, let’s take a look at some of the common scenarios that will help you with your creative decisions when choosing what to shoot your next project on while considering storage space requirements.

Scenario #1 – Shooting in 1080p with two Canon 7Ds:7D_Front_01

If you decide to shoot in 1080p (23.976fps) with two Canon 7Ds, you’ll probably end up with around 2 hours of raw (H.264) material at the end of each shooting day, an hour per camera for a full (10-12 hours) day.

This is roughly 42GB in 1080p. If you shoot 25 days that equates to 42GB x 25 days is about 1 TB (1,024 GB).

You must make a least 2 backup copies of your raw material, which means that you’ll need around 3 TB of hard drive space to store your video files. If you are an Adobe Premiere CC user and you don’t plan to transcode your files to some more friendly editing codec like ProRes or DNxHD you’ll be just fine with the editing of the H.264 files.

Ok, so far so good, but what will happen if you decide to transcode into ProRes? 50 hours of ProRes 1080 HQ equals to 3.78 TB. So, if you want to keep your original H.264 files and you decide to transcode them into ProRes HQ file and want to have at least 2 back up copies of all of the material you will need:

1TB (H.264 raw files) + 3.78TB (the ProRess transcodes) x 3 ( for the back up)= 14.34 TB of hard disk space total.

In this case, if you shoot with a single camera you’ll need 7.17 TB total.

Scenario #2 – Shooting in ProRes 1080p with two BMCCs or BMPCCs:

Blackmagic-Pocket-Cinema-Camera-Front1If you choose the option to shoot your project natively in ProRes HQ 1080p (23.976fps) with two BMCCs or with two Blackmagic Pocket cameras for 25 days and you have 2 hours of material each day.

Then you’ll end up with 50 hours of ProRes HQ footage that is 3.78 TB total.

3.78TB (the ProRess files from both BMCC cameras) x 3 ( for the back up)= 11.34 TB of hard disk space total.

If you shoot with one camera than that equals 5,67TB of hard disk space total for the entire project.

By far, that’s the most cost-efficient and time-saving option. There is no need for transcoding. Furthermore, with the newest 1.8 firmware (released from Blackmagic Design just yesterday) the owners of their cameras have sharper and better looking ProRes and DNxHD files due to the better internal debayering of the captured data by the sensor.

Scenario #3 – Shooting in ProRes 4K with a single BMPC 4K:

pc4k_front_sensorShooting in 4K is a whole new thing. A single minute of ProRes UHD file  (3840 x 2160) is around 5.3 GB (880 Mbits/s). You would need to expand your storage definitely if you are shooting at such high data rates.

A single hour of 4K footage is a whopping 318 GB. 25 hours of 4K ProRes equals roughly 7.76 TB.

7.76TB (the ProRes UHD files from a single BMPC 4K camera) x 3 ( for the back up)= 23.28 TB of hard disk space in total required.

Scenario #4 – Shooting in 4K 4096 x 2160 with a single Panasonic GH4:

GH4_H_HS12035_frontThis is an interesting case. Let’s see how more efficient is the new XAVC codec in the new LUMIX GH4 camera. So one hour of 4K footage (4096 x 2160) equals around 42 GB. Then, 25 hours (1 hour per day) equals around 1 TB.

1TB (the 4K H.264 4K files from a single GH4 camera) x 3 ( for the back up)= 3 TB of hard disk space total.

This is a really great and efficient option and definitely will be my personal choice. For 25 hours of 4K files  (4096 x 2160) from GH4 you will need only 1TB of hard disk space.

You can also edit the GH4 files natively in Adobe Premiere CC at 1/2 resolution flawlessly.

In the table below you’ll see the estimated hard disk space you will need according to the scenarios above, including the option of shooting raw on BMCC, the Pocket camera and BMPC 4K:

Codec Resolution FPS  Size/Min Size/Hour
5D mark II  H.264 1080p 23.976fps 284.76 MB  16.69 GB 
7D  H.264 1080p 23.976fps 359.7 MB  21.08 GB 
5D mark III H.264 ALL-I 1080p 23.976fps 682,5 MB 39,99 GB
BMCC  ProRes (HQ) 1080p 23.976fps 1.32 GB  79 GB
BMPCC  ProRes (HQ) 1080p 23.976fps 1.32 GB  79 GB
BMPC 4K  ProRes (HQ) 4K UHD 23.976fps 5.3 GB 318 GB
GH4  H.264  4K DCI 24fps 712 MB 42 GB
BMCC RAW 2.5K 23.976fps 7.2 GB 432 GB
BMPCC RAW 1080p 23.976fps 3.09 GB 185.4 GB
BMPC 4K RAW UHD 23.976fps 12.36 GB 741.6 GB

Choosing the most convenient codec for your project is a mandatory prerequisite for the creative process. That’s why it should be considered wisely during pre-production.

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