Display technology is exhausting to keep up with. We understand your fatigue, dear consumer.
It wasn't long ago that advertisers were hurriedly persuading us to buy HDTVs, Smart TVs, 3D TVs ... not to mention the dizzying array of different screen types in all our computers, phones and tablets. So what makes 4K worthy of its own blog post, you ask?
When it comes to your personal electronics, 4K will eventually find its way into your life, much like what's already happened with 1080p HD. However, for our company, upgrading our cameras and editing displays to 4K was a deliberate and calculated choice that has paid off in ways we never anticipated.
We wanted to pass along some of these hidden advantages, not just for the benefit of other filmmakers looking to switch, but to anyone who questions the validity of this increasingly influential display standard. It may not be a must-have technology for the average consumer yet, but here's why pro users and content creators love working with 4K.
1) BEING WELL PREPARED FOR A 4K FUTURE
At face value, 4K is just an incremental upgrade from High Definition screen resolution. The HD standard is 1920x1080 pixels, whereas 4K UHD (Ultra High-Definition) gives us 3840x2160. Or in simpler terms, if you stack four HD displays in a 2x2 grid, that's 4K resolution.
Technically, the leap from Standard to High Definition was greater. And looking at the tech landscape as a whole, the average consumer isn't exactly rushing out to buy 4K devices just yet.
However, current data suggests that 4K TV shipments will continue to accelerate, and ultimately achieve faster adoption than HDTV's did within the same time frame. Those who doubt this prediction will likely point out that there's not a whole lot of 4K content out there to really drive the technology forward. It's true that TV providers and streaming platforms like Netflix have yet to offer more than a handful of programs in true UHD resolution.
However, smartphones have been capable of shooting in 4K since 2013. Imagine the sheer amount of video content those phones have captured in the last 4 years, and how much more they'll record in the future. As 4K TVs and monitors get cheaper and more accessible to the average Joe, it'll make less and less sense for them to own a TV that can't even display the best video their smartphone can capture. And when 4K adoption truly hits its stride, you don't want to be the professional video company or freelancer who's still exclusively riding the stale gravy train of 1080p HD.
2) ACHIEVING BETTER RESULTS WITH HD VIDEO
Fortunately for us here at Flight Creative Media, adopting 4K tech wasn't an all-or-nothing affair. Just because we bought 4K cameras, didn't mean we lost the ability to shoot in good ol' reliable HD. Which is great, because for now, most of our clients still prefer 1080p resolution. However, even when we know the finished product will be delivered in regular HD, we still choose to shoot mostly in 4K, for several reasons.
First and foremost, we love the wiggle room it affords us in the editing room. When you shoot 1080p footage for a 1080p project, whatever is in the frame is what you get. No takebacks. And since the resolution ratio between capture and delivery is 1:1, any zooming or cropping you do will result in a loss in video quality. But when you shoot in 4K for a 1080p project, your ratio is 4:1, meaning you can zoom in on any spot – up to a quarter the size of the original frame – and you're still looking at full HD video.
But even if you don't end up doing any zooming or cropping at all, capturing in 4K and downconverting to HD will still result in better image quality than shooting natively in HD. Even though the final exported file may be in 1080p, it still benefited from the advanced functions of your 4K hardware. So long as you edit the footage while it's still in 4K, you'll still get significant benefits like better noise reduction, definition, detail, and even image stabilization.
3) PULLING STILL FRAMES FROM FOOTAGE
This perk may seem relatively insignificant, but in the last 3 years or so since we started shooting in 4K, it's potentially saved us hundreds of hours of work.
As a full-service video marketing agency, we often work with our clients on multiple aspects of a marketing project, not just the video portion. We can't tell you how many times we've had clients request still images from a series of film shoots, after the fact. We'd pull the best frames we could find, and polish them in Photoshop as much as possible, but then the client would be puzzled by its apparent lack of quality compared to the video it came from.
Full HD video has a resolution of 1920x1080, which amounts to just over two million pixels. This sounds like a high number, until you consider that 1 million pixels = 1 Megapixel. So no matter how good the video looks in motion, any still frames you pull from a 1080p video will have a resolution of about 2 Megapixels. That's the resolution of the camera on the first iPhone, which was released a full decade ago. We can do better.
We used to work around this issue by bringing a separate DSLR camera on film shoots. Sometimes we'd even make a special trip back to the location, if it was important enough. But with 4K, every frame we capture is about 9 Megapixels. That's potentially hundreds of great photos per minute of footage, and most are high-quality enough to print.
Equipping our drones with 4K cameras has given us incredible photos like this one. What more do you need to know?
If we had known all the benefits 4K would bring to our work, we would have adopted it sooner. The additional space requirement on our hard drives was a minimal price to pay for all the functionality we've gotten since we switched. For all the flexibility, quality and efficiency it's given us, we highly recommend that anyone working in filmmaking consider upgrading asap, if you haven't already. You won't regret it!