4k is a term we’ve all come across while reading about videography, but is it worth it to shoot and edit in that high a resolution?
4k is the term given for Ultra High Definition, which is also known as Ultra HD or UHD. It usually means a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels, which is four times the resolution of the standard 1080 HD resolution. Televisions that are larger than 50 inches have UHD-capable screens.
As a video creator, do you need 4k in your life?
The arguments against 4k are reasonable ones. 4k takes up a lot of storage, the memory cards capable of such speeds, not to mention the best 4k camcorders, cost a pretty penny, and you’ll need a computer capable of handling those massive file sizes during editing. All of this for a slightly better image on someone’s YouTube that they’ll no doubt watch on a mobile phone.
Experiments have also shown that shooting and editing in 1080p and then upscaling to 4k for the export offers some great results. And shooting in 4k versus shooting in 1080p HD in anything less than a professional camera doesn’t offer a significant upgrade in image quality.
However, the arguments for 4k are far more compelling. For one, you future-proof your content when you shoot in 4k. If storage space is a concern, portable hard drives aren’t too expensive, and neither are subscription-based cloud storage services.
Secondly, the time when 4k becomes the standard rather than the exception won’t be very far off, and on a massive TV screen, your 1080p HD video will look like it was filmed with a potato.
Third, with the right editing software, you can still edit 4k video reasonably well – some editors like Premiere Pro allow you to edit a 1080 sample of the video and preview at that resolution, while it applies the edits and upscales the video to the original 4k resolution during the export.
4k video also offers one massive advantage – that of applying crop and zoom effects without the resultant image pixellating. This is especially useful if you don’t have a zoom lens for your video camera. You can have all the ‘pan and zoom’ effects you want without fearing the image breaking up.
Stabilisation of footage also works better with a 4k base, for the same reason – the stabilised image is cropped around the edges.
Chroma key work works better with 4k resolution, as the extra pixel density allows the editing software to distinguish better between the actual subject and the green screen backdrop.
Finally, 4k video can be used as a still photography mode. Shooting stills gets limited by the ability of the camera shutter to open and shut, but 4k video at 30fps is literally 30 stills shot every second. Of course, it won’t be as great as a still shot, but for fast moving subjects like cars or a horse race, it can be used very effectively.
All the signs point toward a shift to 4k video in the future, and it is better to have 4k capability and footage and not need it, rather than need it and not have the capability to produce a video at that resolution.