4K or not 4K: that is the question…
It’s a question as old as time: do I shoot my corporate video in 4K Ultra Hi-Def (UHD), or do I just stick with the “old” standard 1080 that I know so well?
Okay, to be fair, they probably weren’t asking that exact question in ancient times. Probably more like “Should I use those new-fangled brick-things to build my house, or just stick with the old mud and straw? Wait…what hurricane?”
In our modern age, the technology race is speeding up exponentially. It took over 50 years before there was a significant technological leap (going digital from analog) in the original, mass-produced color television. But since, in just half that time, our viewing devices have made huge leaps by going flat, and then increasing their resolution every few years. We are now at the point where we don’t even have a chance to see full adoption before the next advance takes over. It’s enough to make your head spin. And now, in our long-term quest for the ultimate prize – the perfect digital representation of reality – we have taken yet another leap.
What is 4K UHD, exactly?
4K UHD has a pixel resolution of 3840×2160, which is 4-times the resolution of today’s 1080 standard, or over 8 million active pixels. This is a stunning amount of resolution. It provides remarkable clarity and detail and, with today’s hi-res cameras and TVs, incredible color and depth representations.
Which brings us back to our big question: brick or straw? Wait, no – the other one. Should you be doing your video projects in 4K?
I guess it depends on which side of the fence you fall. Are you an early adopter, looking to proudly showcase your production at the highest available quality? Or are you one of those “wait-and-see” types – ready to let it shake out a bit before you commit to the “latest and greatest”?
If you’re the former, good on ya’, mate. It’s a wise decision to show your clients or customers that quality is important, and that you are on top of your tech game. If you’re the “not-too-sure about-all-this-new-fangled-resolutiony-stuff” type, pick up the phone and call one of the other folks so they can talk some sense into you.
See, here’s the thing – like it or not, the technology train is going to keep on chugging. And it’s picking up speed. It used to be that you’d have a couple of years before anything you produced became dated. That timeline continues to shrink. And it’s not just about keeping up with the Joneses. There are distinct benefits to the 4K game.
As I mentioned earlier, when we shoot in UHD, we capture a lot of pixels. This provides some useful flexibility come editing time. For example, it gives us extra headroom to crop, pan and zoom. That’s really helpful when you need to cut the unexpected photo-bomb out of frame, or create multiple framing options from one shot. It also provides some much-needed elbow room for stabilization in post-production.
Then there’s the down-sampling process. The footage will look amazing on a 4K display, but when viewed on the average 1080P (1080-pixel progressive scan) device, the monitor must convert the image from UHD down to its native resolution. Given that it has a good quality 4K sample to start, it has a lot to work with. This conversion will generally end up with a better overall picture than if it were filmed at 1080 to begin with.
A further side benefit to super-resolutiony video is the ability to pull high-quality still images for any number of additional uses. Remember, even at 24 frames-per-second, you have almost 3000 stills in your two-minute video. There’s got to be a good shot in there somewhere to use in an email blast!
As I write this, 4K is increasingly becoming the norm on the capture side, and is catching up quickly on the viewer side. Don’t be left out in the cold, dank wasteland of lower-res, soon-to-be-legacy-formats. Make sure you are getting the most for your money and build that brick house! Er – I mean – stunning video.