4K or not 4K? That’s the question many videographers ask themselves when they approach any video project. Most editors export videos in 1080p (even if the footage is 4K) so…
As a producer at a Manhattan video production company, the answer depends on the client.
If the videos are meant for social media, then most likely the end product will end up on Instagram or Facebook. In today’s digital world, most people view social media with their phones.
This fact is important.
True 4K cannot be seen with a 5.5 inch view screen. Even CNET found 4K is not necessarily beneficial on a 65-inch TV. So why hassle yourself on post production with large, bulky 4K files when you can shoot 1080p?
1080p is a common video resolution that many people are familiar with. It offers decent quality and has long been the gold standard as far as clarity is concerned. Even regular, budget consumer DSLR cameras now have 1080p resolution as a minimum feature or expectation.
In recent times though, 4K has risen to popularity, casting 1080p in its shadows. It is redefining our metrics of excellent resolution going places of picture quality not seen before. So what is 4k and how is it different from 1080p?
Let’s take a look:
1080p is usually branded High Definition, HD, while 4k has earned the tag UHD or Ultra High Definition. The caliber of resolution or arrangement of pixels along one axis is what earns either its name. Additionally, the p in 1080p stands for pixel, and the term generally refers to a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
4K is roughly 4000 pixels in terms of the horizontal arrangement of pixels in the display resolution. The most common 4K standard is 3840 x 2160 although in the movie projection sector that rises to 4096 x 2160.
If you’re getting together equipment to shoot your first movie or gathering tools for your videography business, you may be wondering which path to take.
4K has become the new definition of excellence, impressing with its level of quality and much more. With that said 👉
Picture quality can make or break a film. If the resolution looks all fuzzy and unappealing, chances are a good story will come off the same.
While 1080p, also known as full HD, has long been the reference for clarity, 4K has pulled miles ahead in that department. Specifically, 4k offers four times the resolution of 1080p.
In other words, it is four times as clear. While 1080p will seem quite clear on smaller devices like laptops or smartphones, it doesn’t seem so HD when cast on a large screen like in a cinema.
Even on 40” TVs, 1080p seems like child’s play compared to 4k HD. The images appear pixilated and obscure on really large screens with 1080p while they are sharp and detailed on 4K UHD. You can almost make out the strands of hair on the protagonist in 4K HD. That’s how good the detailing is on such a powerful resolution.
In fact, it’s so good that the recommended sitting distance is twice closer than 1080p. Viewers closer to a large screen still get the full HD experience, unlike with 1080p where the details appear blurrier the close you get to the screen.
Of course, all this 4K goodness comes from the TV manufacturers. You can go to any Amazon listing of a 40+ inch TV and they will all claim the holy grail of video watching with 4K.
However, some argue that you can’t tell the difference. Here’s a videographer’s take:
The video is well done. It was likely edited by a professional. So this is a big caveat when it comes to creating 4K video –
✔️ It also comes down to lighting and the editing.
In theory, 4K footage is superior (if you know basic cinematography and lighting). Then you’d need a decent editor who can color correct your flat footage and make a good video.
4K footage is worth nothing if you don’t understand the basic principles of filming and editing a video.
A film is not only about what story you’re telling but how you tell it. Good quality cinematography reels in the audience and enables them to be part of the story. It offers an immersive experience where viewers feel like they’re right there alongside your characters.
1080p is usually more than enough resolution for most projects. However, you don’t have to work in 4k just because you’re filming via such equipment.
With quadrupled clarity, 4K allows you to downscale to 1080 and still pull off an extremely clean zoom.
A good source video ensures you can work splendidly with the resolutions under 4K UHD like 2k, 1080p, 720p, and so on.
What’s more, if it becomes necessary to display on a 4K panel in future, you won’t worry about picture quality akin to a Wii U game. The same cannot be said for 1080p. It’ll embarrass your filmmaking prowess if the need arises to output to a much larger screen.
Can you imagine what 1080p would look like on an 8k panel?
The ability to zoom in without adversely affecting picture quality makes 4k an asset in film editing. Close up shots still look as good. 4K also enables you to easily get rid of jump cuts.
You don’t lose picture quality and can add movement or crop without worry. Should you need stills for social media or YouTube thumbnails, 4k footage affords decent stills compared to 1080p.
In a previous article, I championed the need to create native videos for social media. Some platforms like YouTube prefer horizontal videos (think 1920×1080), but vertical videos or even square videos do better on Instagram.
Here is me talking about “what are native videos and why you should use them:”
4k also captures color better and tends to recreate the environment to perfection. Color banding is reduced because of the typically higher bitrate of such cameras.
Aspects like progressive changes, for instance, the deep blue sky comes off spectacularly. Elements in nature appear more vivid as 4k is known for its solid hues.
Your film looks better and you have many options to work with in terms of resolution.
With greater HD comes bigger files, and that’s why many people prefer to stick to 1080p. The same video, for example, maybe four times larger in size in 4k UHD than in 1080p.
However, storage options are getting cheaper by the day enabling many to make the switch. Portable terabytes-capacity hard drives like Seagate Backup Plus and WD Passport, for instance, offer affordable storage options.
Space is no longer a concern if you get a good backup in place.
4K videography also gives you an edge on the competition. Many companies offer resolution in 1080p but you can upsell if you have 4k capable equipment.
You can easily convince clients to dig a little deeper for the price of spectacular resolution. That wedding or special day will look much more captivating on 4k than it ever would on 1080p.
What’s more, its future proof aspect is also an excellent selling point to get on-the-fence clients onboard.
Let’s illustrate this quality with an example. Some of our favorite 90s shows, like Friends, were shot in standard HD, the epitome of picture quality back then.
Streaming services bringing these shows back have had to deliver subpar quality that feels cartoony on a 60” for example.
With 4k video, clients will preserve their special day in quality that’ll still be superior beyond this generation.
Personally, I feel 4K was invented to sell more TVs. In fact, it’s even harder to see true 4K.
In the beginning, I mentioned that most social media content is viewed with a smartphone. I’ll even add to that. Most films are viewed via streaming services.
4K films are very large and bulky files. If viewed on a smartphone or with your laptop, you’d still have to deal with internet connection. So when connection is spotty, the streaming provider will auto format (downplay the “4K” film) the video stream so there’s no interruption.
4K footage is great, but when the actor is sputtering his or her lines due to internet connection, the luster of watching 4K dissolves real fast.
Where 4K truly shines is in post production. As mentioned before, 4K shows better color and has overall better quality. Plus your “palette” is quite large at 3840×2160.
If you output in 1080p, you render the video in 1980×1020. So with 4K you can “punch in” or zoom in the footage without losing clarity.
It’s this reason many working videographers like to shoot in 4K. It grants them superior video quality plus the ability to zoom or pan because 4K’s dimensions.
So is 4K filming that much better than 1080p? I feel it is. 4K provides superior quality and the flexibility to be more creative in the post production process.
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