What is 4K Video and Do I Need it?
Updated: Oct 31, 2020
I will warn you, this is a fairly technical post and may bore the crap out of all of you. Although, this information is very informative and will give you the upper hand when you question your prospective video vendor for your wedding!
What is 4K video? HD? FHD? QHD? UHD? 8K? So. Many. Acronyms! All these are referring to is the resolution of a screen or image aka number of pixels. Let me break it down…
HD: 1280 x 720 (pink)
FHD: 1920 x 1080 (orange)
QHD: 2560 x 1440 (green)
UHD: 3840 x 2160 (Blue)
8K: 7680 x 4320 (grey)
4K is a term that is thrown around, a lot. So, without getting too technical, what exactly is it? It’s referring to the width of an image measured in pixels. So UHD 4k is just shy of 4,000 pixels wide, 3,840 to be exact, for a grand total of 8,294,400 pixels in an image.
4K seems to be the talk of the town when talking about video. You’re probably asking yourself, Why is it so great? Do I really need 4K? You probably have a 4K TV and probably the latest computer with ‘4k retina display.’ So why not get 4K videos? To be honest, to you, as a consumer with an untrained eye, it shouldn’t matter. Unless you are paying an arm and a leg for satellite tv, you aren’t even seeing 4K content on your flatscreens. Everything is being upscaled or boosted by your tv to be ‘4K’. The only content right now in 2020 being broadcasted in 4K are major sporting events like the Superbowl, Olypics, Masters, and the World Cup. Even with the top of the line satellite tv the amount of 4K content is very minimal… Right now, your best options for 4K content come from Netflix and Amazon. The internet right now is being dominated by Netflix’s traffic and that’s with most of its streams coming in at SD and HD levels.
So, now ask yourself again. Do you really need 4K? What I tell my clients is, yes. Confused yet? You probably think I’m an idiot contradicting myself. Let me explain. Recording in 4K is ideal. Why? To maximize the amount of information for me to use in my edit. I generally record all my content in UHD 4K. Then during post-production I’ll scale back on the resolution and give you a FHD 1080 video. Why? Better color and a sharper image! This is what’s called oversampling. By oversampling and downscaling from UHD 4K to FHD I increase both the color and sharpness (when comparing to FHD) creating a slightly sharper, color radiant product than that of a normal FHD 1080 video. This process is carried out by all high end commercials and filmmaking. They shoot in a much higher resolution and deliver small, HD.
That’s about all you really need to know when it comes to 4K resolution. Now how if you really want to test your video vendor, you can throw him this curve ball. ‘What color depth are you shooting?’ This in itself could be an entire blog post, but I won’t bore you with that. I’ll make this a simple and painless as possible.
Have you ever taken a photo of a sunset on your smart phone and you look at it after taking the photo and get a little disappointed because it looks nothing like the real thing? That's because a smart phone has a very small color depth! Currently the average DSLR/Mirrorless prosumer camera shoots with an 8-bit color depth. That’s 256 shades of the three primary colors. But as of recently mid-2019 cameras are shooting with a 10-bit color space. Big whoop, 2-bits? Big whoop?! Yes that is a big difference, about 4 times more! 10-bit captures 1,024 different shades of the three primary colors… What does this mean? It means truer skin tones, bluer skies, more radiant sunsets! You may not notice at first but you’ll thank me when you see your ‘Golden Hour’ sunset portrait :).