The Case For Shooting in 4K

Imran St Brice
Imran St Brice

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A simple definition for 4K (sometimes referred to as Ultra HD) is: A display resolution of 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall. This means that a 4K display has 4 times as many pixels as a Full HD display. Most of the latest smartphones and Mirrorless or DSLR cameras are capable of shooting 4K. So why not use the advanced technology now that it is here?

I’m willing to bet that if you were to tell someone “I’m shooting my videos in 4K now” I’m quite sure that they would reply: “Why? No one here (in St. Lucia) has a 4K display; The file sizes are too huge; It’s expensive; It’s not worth it,” and so on.

While few of those responses are somewhat near the truth, there is merit in considering it. Here is my reasoning for shooting my latest short film -Shattered (2018)- in 4K and why you should too if given the opportunity.

THE BEST HD VIDEO COMES FROM 4K

Shooting in 4K (or any higher resolution 6K, 8K etc.) and downscaling it to the more common 1080p will yield overall better results as opposed to shooting in 1080p. Of course your mileage may vary depending on the size of the camera sensor, colour profiles, and most importantly the size and resolution of the display that you compare them on.

Still in disbelief? Test it out for yourself. Record a video at 1080p and watch it on a 1080p display…record the same video in 4K and downscale it to 1080p, I promise you it will look sharper and more detailed than the original 1080p footage.

FRAMING FLEXIBILITY

I am the kind of director who prefers to make as many creative decisions as possible in camera, while on the set. I will admit that it pains me to make this point, but there are directors who prefer this method so I will highlight it anyway. With 4K footage, you can crop it in post-production and still maintain great clarity and sharpness. Trying to do the same with 1080p footage (or any lower resolution) will reap not so rewarding results.

What this means for you creatively is that you can use the extra resolution to reframe and compose your shots differently. For example: Maybe your close up is not as close as you would want it to be… shooting in 4K can allow you to get in closer in post, therefore eliminating the need to reshoot solely for such purposes.

THERE IS A NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE (BUT ONLY IF YOU LOOK FOR IT)

You can’t even tell the difference!” False. If you’re watching it on your camera’s 3-inch display chances are everything will look the same- subpar. But when showcased on a larger more capable screen, you can tell Full HD (1080p) footage from 4K. Maybe not on your first viewing… and you will probably need them side by side to truly tell… But if you are a filmmaker, you will do yourself no disservice by training your eye to know that 4K footage is noticeably different from any lower-res footage.

IT’S MORE AVAILABLE NOW THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN

Not too long ago, 4K was a privilege for the video enthusiast with money to spend. In this day though, most smartphones can record in 4K. Furthermore, very affordable cameras which cost less than those smartphones also shoot in 4K with the added bonus of a larger sensor and much greater control over what your shot looks like. Even though 4K displays are not as prevalent in households in St. Lucia it would still be worth it if you care for the added quality (see point #1).

THE DRAWBACK WORTH CONSIDERING

While my goal is to persuade you to shoot your next project in 4K (if you can), I do not propose you jump right in without being fully capable on managing such a “responsibility”. One of the things you will need to keep in mind is that 4K files are generally much larger than Full HD files. There are of course a number of variables that would determine the exact file size but a 5 second video in 1080p will definitely be smaller than a 4K video at the same 5 seconds. You may even want to do some more digging on the exact numbers if you are curious. In essence, you will need more storage space on your devices to store all of it (which is going to cost more to maintain).

Imran St. Brice is a young Filmmaker from Saint Lucia. He has two independently produced short films under his belt; Secure & Shattered. He also snagged a second place prize and award for Best Director at the 2017 Caribbean Youth Film Festival.

 

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