My Thoughts On 4K Video


Sony 4K

We recently added a Sony 4K Handycam camera to our workflow at the studio. I’m not personally excited about it, because it’s just another tool to get some specific paying work done. It’s been sitting here for a week and I haven’t even tested it. In 2 years it’ll probably be in pile of tangled cables and old crap in the closet, with the rest of the video cameras we’ve grown out of in the past 5 years). We’ll be using it because we do a lot of zooms in post (for instructional purposes), and we want to be able to not go below 1080p as our final resolution. This will give us room.

Am I curious to see what the footage looks like? Yes, but 4K video isn’t impressive to me. I’ve worked in graphics and photo editing for years, and 4K is still a relatively small image. Still images will probably always be far ahead of video in the resolution department — because what is video, but 24 still photos per second? So it requires what, 24x the bandwidth? Something like that.

Funny to see so much hype about 4K these days. Last year, most of the talk I heard about it was negative. Worthless opinions like “No one can tell the difference” and “It will show too much skin detail and blemishes on the actors.”

Notice these same people don’t complain about a 22 megapixel still photo taken on a 5Dmkiii. (Why would you NOT want to capture and process with that much resolution in 24 fps video if you could? Would it not be beautiful if 5Dmkiii photos could move?)

In the next year, 4K hype is going to permeate the consciousness of the rabble, and I’ll hear about how so-and-so down the street shoots with a Blackmagic Design Production Camera 4K (because any film student with rich parents can afford one of those), and of course that’s good, because 4K is a higher number than 2K. Right? Anyone who can count 1-2-3-4 can figure it out.

Yet I’d guess most of the consumer-level 4K cameras right now are SHIT QUALITY, just like the initial HD consumer cameras were (remember those? I have some in my garage that I can’t even sell). Camera companies generally want to sell you the worst possible quality you will tolerate, because it’s the cheapest and most profitable for them. So until the general public gets used to what 4K should / could look like (remember, most people are totally satisfied with iPhone photos and videos, ugh), that 4K area worth of el cheapo pixels is probably not any better looking (in general) than current high quality HD pixels (or photosites, or whatever term you’d like to use for those microscopic conceptual units on the sensor and in the codec).

Back to 4K. The fact is, it’s higher resolution. It’s nothing revolutionary. It’s just an inevitable, incremental step in technology. The capacity to build it has existed for a long time, but it’s just now starting to become profitable for the consumer market. It’s the same with most technology — it *appears* to not exist until it can be manufactured and sold in mass quantities.

So, get ready to throw your current cameras and monitors and TVs away, I guess? Hooray for marketing!


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