Is Shooting 4K Video Worth It? Here’s How To Decide


Shooting in 4K is the trending aspiration among many videographers because of the assumption that it’s a professional format and that filming below 4K is for novices. But is 4K the panacea to all Oscar-worthy presentations, or just hype?

Shooting 4K video is worth it if you want to submit your entry to Netflix, which imposes the format. The higher resolution is also better for larger projects expected to be shown on the big screen. However, for smaller productions, such as independent movies, HD would be more than enough.

This article discusses what a 4K video is, the circumstances that determine whether it’s appropriate to shoot in this format and whether it is worth the trouble. Read on for the details.

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Why You Should Shoot in 4K

DP Review defines 4K as a video specification that has 4,000 pixels of footage width or a resolution of 4096 x 2160. 

Some of the top reasons to shoot in 4K video include:

  1. Improved resolution.
  2. Top production companies use it.
  3. It offers post-production flexibility.
  4. It provides motion tracking and stabilization.
  5. It extends creative possibilities.
  6. It’s more available than ever.

Compared to earlier standards, 4K images are sharp, significantly more detailed, have four times as many pixels, and look fantastic when viewed on a large screen. 

According to the folks at Borrow Lenses, 4K is four times the previous 2K standard. 

The consumer standard (computer monitors, TVs, and YouTube) aspect ratio is 16:9. True 4K—aka Cinema 4K, C4K, or DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives, the entity that set this standard)—is wider.

Many displays boast 4K when actually, they are using Ultra High Definition (UHD), which is four times better than its predecessor, HD. UHD is the leader in consumer electronics, while DCI 4K is the dominant format in movie projection.

So, if the lead in consumer electronics is UHD, why should you shoot in 4K?

Improved Resolution

4K provides four times the number of pixels on a screen compared to 1080p. That’s why images are noticeably sharper.

You’ll easily notice the difference because a 4K shot contains more than 1,000 shades of each color or a billion different colors. 4K cameras have modes that gather more color data, and the more colors a 4K file has, the better you can grade it post-prod.

Even if a video is presented in 1080p, filming it in 4K produces a higher-quality downsampled image, and in many cases, you need maximum resolution files for commercial jobs.

Top Production Companies Use It

Netflix imposes a minimum of UHD and 4K for entries, so if you’re planning on submitting something, it needs to be top quality.

4K is most rewarding in a film shown in theaters, but it doesn’t take a fancy camera. Steven Soderbergh shot an entire movie, Unsane, with his iPhone, which has a 4K option.

In addition, YouTube supports uploading and viewing 4K videos, meaning it plays back in high resolution and delivers a higher bit rate regardless of the viewing monitor’s resolution.

It Offers Post-Production Flexibility

Shooting in 4K lets you reframe, zoom, pan, and fine-tune composition even after filming. 

With a pan-and-zoom effect to a still shot, you can crop or add movement to any shot without losing image quality. You can also correct mistakes like framing mishaps during post-processing. 

That’s why it’s prudent to use 4K in case you get more creative ideas after shooting.

It Provides Motion Tracking and Stabilization

Keeping a camera still is cumbersome, so you need software stabilization. 4K lets you create a tracking camera motion, assess motion in a clip, and rectify inconsistent movement. 

It gives stabilizers more detail to work with: 8 million pixels compared to 1080p’s 2 million. 

For 1080p productions, 4K source material delivers software-stabilized footage without sacrificing image quality.

It Extends Creative Possibilities

Whether you’re shooting a movie, commercial, or funny skit for TikTok, it’s important to have as much creative freedom as possible. 4K gives you that.

Some of the creative possibilities with 4K include the ability to:

  • Crop in and create an entirely new shot.
  • Downsample files.
  • Produce a quadrupled resolution.
  • Avoid accidentally shaking the camera/
  • Zoom in smoothly, cut to close-ups, and eliminate jump-cuts from the finished video.
  • Reduce color banding because shooting in 4k gives shots higher bit rates and deeper color.
  • Capture crisp, high-resolution photos from video footage, which may not be remarkable, but are adequate for use online as Instagram posts, samples to show clients or YouTube thumbnails.
  • Offer the most latitude when it comes to color correction and video special effects.
  • Manipulate shots and images without losing too much resolution.

It’s More Available Than Ever

4K cameras are cheaper now than when the tech was first introduced. You no longer need to spend thousands of dollars on a huge camera. As mentioned before, the newest iPhones have 4K capabilities built right in.

Also, keep in mind that when 8K becomes the standard, 4K videos will only be one generation (of video quality) old. That will make keeping up with new technology far easier. 

Reasons Not To Shoot in 4K

As good as 4K video can be, it’s not for everyone. For one thing, large files take up lots of space, resulting in increased storage demands. 

Not only that, but the footage is not easy to view – even with a 4K television, you can’t easily watch 4K videos taken with an iPhone.

Below you will find some other drawbacks to shooting with 4K:

  • Lack of access for consumers: Most people don’t have 4K televisions or displays, so they can’t take advantage of the higher resolution.
  • Slow editing: When working with 4K videos, you may find it much slower to edit due to the size of the files.
  • Long upload times: Videos take a long time to upload, which means you need a great internet connection.
  • 8K is on the way: 8K video is coming soon, so you may want to wait before investing in new equipment.
  • No direct iCloud access: You can’t view 4K videos online from iCloud because it doesn’t allow streaming in 4K (you can download them from iCloud, though).
  • Slow or lagging playback: A common issue depending on the playback device and post-processing is a lag in the playback. Although some say that unless you change the transmission quality from 720p to 1080p, shooting in 4K doesn’t affect the lag on a device.
  • The need for expensive and specialized equipment: Shooting and editing 4K video requires advanced equipment and resources not available to everyone, such as extra memory, editing software, extra storage, a powerful CPU and GPU, a fast internet connection, a 4K monitor, and a 4K-capable camera.
  • Choppy playback: Shooting 4K adds an extra step in the editing process, resulting in slow and choppy playback.

If you’re producing a web video, you’re better off shooting with a superior 1080p camera. 

Questions To Ask When Deciding To Shoot in 4K

Before you take the plunge and invest in a better internet connection and huge external hard drive, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are you filming? A music video, fashion shoot, feature film, commercial, or product demo? Small businesses or creators don’t necessarily need the higher quality like a larger commercial video would. 
  • Where will you show it? Online, on TV, or on the big screen? As mentioned above, 4K is ideal for the big screen, but most people don’t have 4K TVs. 
  • How will your audience view your video? If they’re going to watch it on phones, tablets, or traditional computer screens, it doesn’t make sense to shoot 4K.
  • Is it better than 1080p? Can the audience tell the difference? In most cases, they probably won’t notice.
  • Is having extensive image data necessary when shooting an independent film with a limited budget? Maybe it’s best to use the budget on better wardrobe and set designs. 
  • Have you considered the additional costs of 4K post-production? You can’t edit a 4K video on an old laptop without the proper software. 
  • Can your camera shoot in true 4k? Even with built-in 4K capability, most cameras and smartphones shoot in slow, compressed, and not true 4K. 
  • What is your storage capacity? Even when recorded in low bitrates, 4K files occupy four times more disk real estate than 1080p ones.

Is 4K Video Worth It?

Shooting in 4K is worth it, provided you have lots of storage and the post-production equipment to handle it. Bigger projects, such as movies or visual effect-laden commercials, require the highest resolution possible. However, it’s not worth it for smaller projects, such as online videos.

If you’re shooting nature documentaries, sports commentaries, or features that require well-defined images, it’s best to shoot in the highest possible resolution. More so if you’re expecting to do mammoth alterations and heavy-duty editing post-production.

However, if you’re shooting an independent presentation or web series with minimal special effects, HD footage is enough. Similarly, for a movie on a small budget, 1080p will suffice.

If you’re shooting a drama, whether short or full-length, but only for online release, 4K may be excessive as most audiences cannot distinguish high-resolution image quality from the standard.

Conclusion

The potential of 4K extends way beyond output resolution. Despite this, the experts at Linus Tech Tips advise online content creators not to get distracted by the 4K-1080p debate nor be too focused on matters of resolution. 

Most professionals who shoot in 4K are doing it more for post-production flexibility than aesthetic appeal.

If you’re considering shooting in 4K, see if your circumstance matches one of those outlined above, then take it from there. Ultimately, your content and how you present it is more important than pixel density and the highest resolution format.

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Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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