When Is 4K Video Essential?

As the world of 4K video production has evolved during the past two years, interest in the format has grown substantially – and we’re often asked, when is 4K video essential? Producing 4K video in 2015 isn’t as a challenging proposition. At the same time, there is a reasonable argument that in many cases, there is no benefit or reason to move to 4K.

We’re going to discuss this from the viewpoint of a producer – because that’s what we do. We create content. Without question, our productions are viewed by our clients as “quality” pieces. Our work continues to win awards. And, we have yet to release a product that was shot and edited in 4K.

Why Consider 4K at All?

There are many possible answers to this question and a core response would be that 4K will future-proof your productions. In 2013, 4K was a novelty, and during the past year, some good content has started to appear. Today, you can purchase a 4K TV for under $800, so the price is now reasonable as well. 4K cameras can be purchased for less than $500, so equipment is coming widely available as well.  So, even though HD is gorgeous, if you want to consider longevity of products and equipment, 4K is becoming the standard for “new” equipment purchases.

A number of people will want to stay at the leading edge of the technology curve. This isn’t ego-driven, either. If you’ve worked with HD for awhile – and more importantly if you worked in SD format and upgraded to HD, you already know how important a shift like this is. Getting in early and adjusting to the new workflow, rather than putting it off and falling behind is often the preferred route, especially considering there isn’t an huge price barrier involved. Besides, with 4K equipment, you can capture your footage in ultra-high resolution, and deliver in HD. You gain the ability to produce in multiple formats, and you don’t give up any functionality in the process.

Creative Benefits

There are also creative benefits involved with shooting in 4K for projects that you plan to deliver only in HD. A 4K image is four times larger than a 1080p image. This gives you the option to shoot wide on set, and then crop in later in post—without giving up a hair of 1080p resolution. You can automate crops that pan across the frame, which creates a dolly-like effect, or you can do things like zooming in or out, and making Ken Burns-style effects. With a talking head shot, you can frame a wide shot, and in post you can punch in on the same footage for tighter shots, essentially getting a mulit-camera setup from a single camera. It should be noted that when you crop in, you will no longer be able to blow that footage back up to 4K, so these creative benefits are strictly for projects that will remain in HD, foregoing the benefit of future-proofing.

In our film studio, we’re making the move to 4K gradually, with every new purchase. We now have 4K cameras, and 4K capable post production tools. We’ve upgraded our software and we’re shooting more content in 4K. We’re still delivering most of our work in HD, but it’s only a matter of time before we’ll be working 100% of the time in this new high resolution format.


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