What is 4k video and why shoot in it?
You’ll hear the term “4K” being thrown around a lot when it comes to filmmaking, televisions, monitors and gaming consoles. Essentially 4K is a phrase to describe any resolution where the horizontal axis is around 4000 pixels. This is usually 3840 x 2160 pixels on most televisions and monitors. The next most popular resolution being 4096 x 2160 pixels which is pretty much exclusively used to show a wider aspect ratio in film production. With these facts known, perhaps a more important question is: Why does it matter?
At Mude, we shoot 100% of our work in 4K. Yes the file sizes are large, but storage is so affordable that shooting this way isn’t at all a burden. But why do we shoot 4K? Because we can, and because we kind of need to (more on that later).
Most of the world currently watches in HD 720p (1280 x 720 pixels), or Full HD 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels). However, people aren’t buying HD TV’s anymore and the majority of TV’s in the market are now 4K.
YouTube, Vimeo and VOD services like Netflix are capable of streaming in 4K, but your ability to stream in that resolution is limited to how fast your internet is. Facebook for some reason still only streams in a maximum of 720p. This might be because they want to optimise for video views on their platform.
Why we shoot in 4k
- By principle, a 4K picture is more detailed than any other resolution.
- 4K is the future (if not now) and any video shot in a lower resolution won’t hold up to the standards of modern motion picture viewing.
- Downscaling 4K to 1080p or lower will provide cleaner, more detailed images than shooting natively in 1080p.
- One of the main advantages of 4K is that it provides a lot more flexibility to crop and reframe shots during the editing process. (really handy for getting closeups on interviews). This would however, mean distributing in 1080p or unfortunately 720p (harsh reality is that a lot of our content is shared on Facebook with a 720p limit).
Can I shoot in 4K?
The awesome reality is that there are a plethora of cameras being released that can shoot in 4K. An old iPhone 6S+ can shoot in 4k for crying out loud! Despite this, we’d rather shoot on our 4 year old Canon C100 cinema camera (which is only 1080p) than on an iPhone. This is because there are a whole range of other factors that can impact the quality of a video such as the lens used, dynamic range, white balance, etc. Chances are you probably have a device that’s capable of shooting in 4K (smart phones, GoPro’s, consumer stills cameras etc).
People say 4K is the future. Well it’s not, because 4K is now. Filmmakers are already getting their hands on 6K or 8K cameras which will probably become the norm in 5 years time. Creators looking at purchasing a 4K camera should consider making the move to an even higher resolution camera now so that their equipment isn’t phased out in a few years by new resolution standards. While you may not be able to share your fancy new high resolution footage with everyone straight away, it will still immediately improve your current filming capacity and future-proof everything you shoot from here on out.