Almost everyone knows that Netflix has a list of cameras that are approved for use in their 4K originals. However, not many are aware of the terms and conditions of non-certified cameras. Netflix has published requirements, features, and general guidelines for these cameras (including iPhone) so you can use them to shoot their originals in 4K. Check them out below.
Netflix knows that there are situations when the ideal camera for taking a particular photo may not be on the approved list. In fact, the list of certified cameras is quite limited and does not include many good cameras. For example, film cameras are not included. There are excellent performances filmed in a movie, such as Do not look for what we wrote about. Moreover, specialized cameras (ultrawide cameras for example) are also not included, as are action cameras and even cell phones. All these shooting devices are widely used in Netflix products like B-cam, C-cam, etc. As such, Netflix states: “When working with a non-certified camera, steps should be taken to ensure optimum capture quality… Consult your Netflix Post Manager and perform real-world tests to verify compatibility with your primary camera and workflow.” Hence the non-certified camera must be combined and matched with the primary camera, which must be “Netflix Certified”.
Netflix sets the default optimum picture quality setting for non-certified cameras. Here are the basic factors/rules to consider:
- Accuracy: Shoot in the highest resolution possible – The highest resolution available must be used on any unsupported camera system. Netflix understands that on some cameras, shooting at lower resolutions uses less of the camera’s sensor and changes the FOV (field of view).
- Recoding Format: Highest possible quality – RAW preferred. When recording compressed formats, choose the highest bit depth and lowest compression rate available. RAW formats supported by Netflix – R3D, CinemaDNG, ARRIRAW, Canon Cinema RAW Light, Sony-X-OCN. For compressed files: XAVC, ProRes, DNx, h.264.HEVC, and more. As you can explore, almost all formats can be used.
- the color: Use the “original color space” as defined by Netflix. Color space – Sony S-Log3, ARRI LogC, GoPro ProTune Flat, REDWideGamutRGB, Panasonic V-Gamut, etc. Rec.709 Not allowed for photography (may be allowed for monitoring).
- the time: Netflix recommends recording a time feed from the audio section of an audio track on the camera if there is no dedicated time code entry.
- camera card: Netflix recommends using only approved media (memory card approved by the manufacturer).
- file name: This is a bit tricky. Netflix says that non-certified cameras may use non-standard naming or may not allow manual configuration of file naming which may cause file names to overlap and cause problems during matching. In this case, Netflix advises you to contact the Netflix Post Manager for further instructions.
- High temperature: Netflix confirms that a non-certified camera must be verified and tested to be able to shoot in hot weather without any overheating issues.
Below are some examples of non-certified cameras commonly used in Netflix productions, along with recommended settings (as defined by Netflix). Click on the slides to view them in full resolution.
iPhone 12 Pro
DJI Zenmuse X7
Phantom Flex 4K
Although Netflix thoroughly tests the new cameras for inclusion in its “Netflix Approved” list, there are many high-end cameras that are not included. Many Netflix projects have been filmed using uncertified cameras. One of the best references for such a project is “Don’t Look Up” which was shot with film cameras (ARRICAM and Aaton) and still looks amazing when broadcasting. For other cameras not on that list, the instructions above can shed light on the requirements for taking photos in Netflix. Basically, use Raw, record shooting, and dial for the highest resolution possible to get the most out of the sensor. In general, the “Netflix approved” list is used as a status symbol for camera manufacturers who treat it as a marketing phrase. Still, it’s good to know that even an iPhone can shoot for Netflix, even though 90% of the final project’s total runtime should be captured on certified cameras.