In 2017, Will We Look Beyond 4K Video?

2017 is fast approaching and professional videographers and agencies are once again evaluating their technology needs. As 4K resolution becomes increasingly widespread, the question for many has become: Is it time to look beyond 4K?

4K Benefits and Limitations
4K video, also called Ultra HD, boasts 3,840-by-2,160-pixel resolution for televisions, or four times that of 1080p. Perhaps even more importantly, it also offers enhanced colors and High Dynamic Range. While certainly wonderful from a technological standpoint, the added pixel detail 4k offers is unable to be resolved by the human eye, except on very large projection screens while sitting close to the screen. For smaller screens, 1080p already delivers rich images with no visible pixel structure.

1080p shot on a DSLR at 100%
1080p shot on a DSLR at 425%
4K image at 100%
4K image at 425%

The color difference on the other hand, is something we can perceive on any size screen, to a degree. You see, many of the “new colors” Ultra HD offers are also beyond the range of human vision. However, the result is certainly gorgeous and professional looking, and 10-bit color depth does get rid of banding artifacts in color gradients, which limit the 8-bit color of standard HD.

Another benefit is increased flexibility. At Visual Country, we like shooting in 4K because it allows us to “push into” images beyond the focal point, zoom in or crop footage after recording, and add in digital pans—moves that are much more limited when shooting in standard HD.

An example of this is “The Milliner,” a short film we recently shot for Savannah College of Art and Design’s SCAD FASH museum, which was done in 4K RAW on the Canon C500. In that case, working in 4K was really nice for color correcting and shaping the image to the specific way we wanted it to look and feel. It provided more color grading flexibility to create our own look vs ProRes 422 and it gave us more freedom when we were shooting, since we didn’t have to make final decisions on the spot, but could tweak later in post.

4K RAW image from “The Milliner,” uncolored
4K RAW image from “The Milliner,” colored

Hitting It’s Stride
In video production circles, 4K has been considered the “new norm” for the past couple years. Consumers, on the other hand, are just beginning to catch up after purchasing 1080p televisions en masse for the past several years. This makes a lot of sense, considering that just a couple years ago 4K televisions were incredibly expensive and there was very little 4K content for viewers to consume. The costs simply outweighed the benefits for most people at that time. This is beginning to change, however, and the consumer market is a good benchmark for those of us on the production side. 4K is finally gaining consumer traction as a standard in much the same way HD once did, with prices falling and the amount of available content increasing significantly.

Today, blockbuster shows like Narcos, Daredevil, and Stranger Things are shot in 4K and many consumers will kick off 2017 with a shiny new 4K television. But just how many consumers are we talking about?

View the rest of this article on Production Hub here.