What is 4K? Is it really worth it? Do you need it? Do you even want it? Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a 4K video is worth 4,000. So here’s 4,000 reasons why you should care about 4K video. (Really it’s just 4 reasons, but that doesn’t sound as impressive as 4,000).
1. Zoom and enhance.
What if we lived in a world where this was possible?
Oh wait, we do, thanks to 4K video. With four times the resolution of full HD, 4K allows you to crop the video image significantly while still maintaining adequate output resolution. This can extend the reach of your lenses, or simply be used to reframe a shot for creative purposes. And 4K isn’t just about resolution. The new color space (Rec. 2020) shows many more colors than the current HD (Rec. 709) standard, giving 4K footage a significantly “enhanced” look (when viewed on a TV capable of displaying all those colors, which yours probably isn’t, so you’ll need to upgrade your TV, too).
Post-production stabilization works by zooming in slightly on the video image, then animating the frame to counteract camera shake. Given the extra pixels of 4K, this type of stabilization can be applied aggressively while still keeping at least a 1080p output resolution. That shaky helmet-cam footage from your last snowboarding adventure? Perfectly smooth. The handheld video of your wedding shot by Uncle Bob after he had one too many? Yup, perfectly smooth.
3. Better 1080p.
Another way to think of 4K video is simply as “over-scanned” 1080p, meaning you are recording more lines of resolution than what your output is. By shooting in 4K and then downscaling to 1080p, your final result will be much sharper, with less moiré and aliasing, then if you had shot in 1080p from the onset. This is a great way to improve image quality on current HDTVs and projectors, without actually increasing the number of pixels on the screen.
4,000. Everyone’s doing it.
Like Pokémon and pogs, peer pressure is at play in getting you to 4K. (Wow, alliteration and rhyming! And pogs!) Sooner or later, everything is going to be created in 4k. It will become the default standard of video production, not just for professional studios, but at the consumer level, as well. Cameras like Panasonic’s FZ1000 are already proving this to be true. While the adoption of 4K TVs may be taking a little longer, as prices continue to fall and more consumers get their hands on 4K cameras, the TVs will become more common. YouTube and Vimeo already have 4K support for Internet streaming video, and Netflix has announced that all future episodes of their original shows will be shot in 4K. But don’t worry, you’re not just another sheep. The commoditization of 4K products means improved, less-expensive workflow solutions. From cameras to computers to storage, 4K video production will only get easier. You’ll have just enough time to get comfortable with everything before 8K video becomes the best new thing.
Bonus reason. Prints from frame grabs.
That’s right, with roughly 8MP of resolution, a single frame of 4K video is suitable for decent-sized prints. Always missing “the moment” with sports or wildlife photography? Just hit the record button and shoot video instead, then scrub through all the footage in video editing software and export the frames you want to save and print. That was easy.