A Guide to Resolution and the Benefits of Shooting in 4k

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What’s going on guys Billy here and today we’re only going over some of the different benefits that you can get from shooting your footage in 4k. The reason I’m making this video is because I get a lot of people coming to me asking which resolution they should shoot in when flying their drone – so hopefully this video can clear it up for you guys.

Shooting in 4k is becoming a lot more popular as more products are coming out with the ability to actually shoot in this high resolution. So of course we have drones, we have action cameras, as well as cell phones that can now take 4k video.

In order to really understand the benefits of shooting in 4k we need to go all the way back to the basics. So with every resolution size we get a name, in this case we have 4k. With this name we also get a dimension, so we have 3840×2160 and these dimensions are measured in pixels, which are the units that we use when we’re talking about this dimension. Basically what this dimension means is that we have 3840 pixels across the top, and 2160 across the side. That adds up to a total of over 8 million pixels.

Another way to really understand the benefits of shooting in 4k is take a look at it compared to the other resolution sizes. Here we have 720p, 1080p, 2.7k, and 4k. Some of these resolution sizes also have a different name. So for example 720p is known as HD, 1080p is known as full HD and 4k is known as UHD or Ultra HD. Now 1080p is the most common resolution size to shoot at as is pretty much the standard across the board. A lot of monitors are 1080p, almost all TVs are 1080p, all broadcast are 1080p, I mean really everything right now is 1080p, is looked at as the standard. But if we look at that compared to 4k it’s only one fourth of the pixels.

Now let’s take a look at the difference between the two different 4k resolution sizes. So first of all we have just regular true 4k, and next we have C4k also known as cinema 4k, and this just gives you a longer or wider picture. With this wider picture you won’t get any distortion, I know that a lot of people are afraid of distortion in their shot. If we look at something like a GoPro with a wide angle lens, we know that there is a bunch of distortion and it almost looks round around the sides. But with this you won’t get any distortion as it’s basically the same as 4k. You’ll notice that the ending dimension is 2160.

One thing you should be aware of though is that if you do upload C4k footage to YouTube it’s going to have these black bars as you can see on the screen right now just because it’s a wider picture than most monitors can handle.

Now that we’re finished going over some of the basics – let’s get into the pros of shooting in 4k. First of all we’re going to get a sharper image quality and this is pretty much already stated itself. We get more pixels and a larger resolution size when shooting in 4k, which ultimately will result in a sharper image quality.

The next pro that we have is that you’ll be future proofing your footage. What I mean by this is that soon we’re going to switch to all 4k, that will be the standard. Now just like we switched from the tube TVs with a 4:3 aspect ratio up to the HD TVs with the 16:9 aspect ratio, soon we will move on to the 4K TVs and although they don’t look that different aesthetically they are going to have a lot of different technology inside.

The reason that I shoot all my video in 4k is that so when the standard is 4k and I have pretty much all 4k monitors in my house and I go and look at the footage its still going to look stunning. If you have footage thats shot in 1080p I’m sure they will look good on a 4k monitor, but some of it will look just a little bit fuzzy and blurry. Just like when we look back at old videos that are let’s say in for 480p or 360p.

The next pro on our list is that we’re going to have the ability to scale our footage down, so let’s say we shoot a video in 4k we’re then able to export at 1080p or even uploaded to YouTube in 1080p just that maybe the upload and processing time can take a little bit shorter. But if we shot in 1080p there’s no way to go up to 4k. Being able to have the freedom and play around with the footage and export it in pretty much any resolution size that I want under 4k is always a plus.

The next two pros are going to go hand-in-hand with scaling down. So basically if you’re shooting your footage in 4k and exporting in 1080p. Now first of all we’re going to get the ability to crop our image or crop our video without losing any quality. So let’s say you’re going to take a 4k image or a 4k video and crop it down to one fourth of its size. You’re still going to be good. It’s still going to be considered 1080p, and from there you’re going to lose no quality when exporting in 1080p.

The final pro on my list is that you’ll be able to get much clearer still’s coming from 4k video rather than 1080p video. What I mean by a still is basically putting a frame from a video and using it as a picture or a still image. And when shooting in 4k the images do come out a lot more clear. I use this a lot when I’m trying to make the thumbnails for my videos rather than going and taking a brand new picture I’ll usually take a still or a frame from a video and use that as it does save me a lot of time. This is a huge benefit for me as I’m always in video mode when shooting with my drone and usually never taking pictures, so therefore if I need to take a picture from one of the videos I’ve taken I can.

Now that we’re done going over all the pros. Let’s get into some tests and comparisons. There are a few things that I need to warn you guys about though. First of all I would highly recommend watching this on a computer monitor in full screen. If you’re on your phone it really won’t have the same effect. Also if you don’t have a 4k monitor you probably won’t be able to see the difference between 4k and 1080p as both will look like 1080p to you guys. So that’s just something that I wanted to point out.

Now our first test is going to be looking at one clip that was rendered in all the different resolution sizes. First of all we have C4k, then 4k, then 2.7k, then 1080p, and then 720p, and from this test you’ll be able to look at the footage and see how much more clear 4k is than 720p is. So let’s jump into it.

The next test is going to be the cropping ability. Now you really won’t get the full effect. I’m going to show you guys pretty much what I mean by the cropping ability. The reason you won’t get the full effect is because this video was rendered out in 4k so you will see some video lost when I cropped the image down. Here we have some footage shot in 4k, and let’s say I want to take this and render out 1080p but the only thing I want to get in the shot was the cars, I can do that by simply cropping down the image to one fourth of its size, and just putting the cars in the video. And as I said when you export this in 1080p you’ll get no quality loss in the video.

Next we’ll take a look at two different stills, one the left pulled from a 4k video and one the right pulled from a video that was rendered in 1080p. The 4k image is obviously clearer than the 1080p, but there are a few things that really do stand out to me. First of all is the face just above the camera on the drone. And the next thing are the ridges inside of the camera. Even on a 1080p monitor you’ll probably be able to spot the differences as the 4k image is a lot more clear than the 1080p image.

Now just like with any set of pros there also is a set of cons. But in this case I feel like some of them are fairly easy to overcome.

The first con on this list is that a 4k video file will be much larger in size than a 1080p file. Now it doesn’t really affect me all that much as I do have a six terabyte archive drive and my SD cards are some of the largest capacity. So again it doesn’t affect me as much – but if you are just using a laptop and you don’t have a backup drive it may be hard to fit all these files on your computer.

The next thing on this con list is an inconvenient workflow. What I mean by this is pretty much every process during the editing phase takes so much longer, whether you’re rendering, uploading, or even processing through YouTube, every single thing is going to take longer. And you may have a super beast computer you’ve built up that handles 4k video like it’s the job. But for me with my MacBook Pro even fully specced out it does take a lot longer than 1080p video.

Next we have more frames per second options when shooting in a lower resolution. So let’s say we take a look at the Phantom 4 Pro and we go ahead and shoot a video in 1080p. We’re able to use a frame rate of all the way up to 120, whereas if we shoot in 4K we’re only limited to a frame rate of 60. Now although 4K at 60 FPS is a feat in itself, I would have to say that it’s nowhere close to being able to slow down the footage when you’re at 120 FPS. So if you are looking to shoot a slow motion video you may want to look at 1080p.

The next con on our list is that it’s going to be much more expensive to shoot in 4k. Now if you look across the board at any 4k camera whether it’s a drone, an action camera, or a phone, its going to be a lot more expensive than just a regular traditional 1080p camera. This can be a big factor for a lot of people but I have been noticing that quite recently 4k video equipment has been going down in price as it is becoming close to standard.

The final point on my cons list is that it simply is just not the standard, a lot of people are trying to play catch up right now to adapt to this new 4k resolution. A lot of cameras right now can shoot in 4k but the only problem is that a lot of people don’t have 4k monitors. So some people say why shoot 4k when my audience can’t watch in 4k? Although I do agree with the statement I kind of have to bring this full circle back to the future proofing aspect, I love shooting in 4k right now as I know that in the future I’ll be able to enjoy all of my clips and nice 4k resolution on my 4k monitor.

So now that we’re done going over some of the cons lets get into some of the different tests that I’ve run comparing 4k footage and 1080p footage. The first test that I have here is this same 10 second clip rendered out into to all different resolution sizes – and the thing that we’re going to look at is the file size.

So first of all I have 720p and this is going to come in at 18 megabytes. Next I have 1080p and its going to come in at 40.4 megabytes. Next I have 2.7k coming in at 81 megabytes. Next up I have 4k coming in at 163.1 megabytes, and finally I have cinema 4k coming in at 140.2 megabytes.

Now as I said these are only 10 second clips and if we look at 4k coming out at 163.1 megabytes, it really isn’t going to take a lot of 4k footage to totally fill up your hard drive.

Next up we have export speeds and as you can see on the left side we have 4k on the right side 1080p, and 1080p is absolutely crushing for 4k in this race. The final export time for 4k came in at two minutes and 53 seconds, and on the right side and 1080p came in at 48 seconds. Now bear in mind this was only a 10 second clip – so just imagine the workflow that you’d need when exploiting a full video and in 4k. As I said pretty much everything that you do when editing for 4k footage is going to take a lot longer.

For our last test we’ll take a look at the different FPS options available under the different video resolutions for the Phantom 4 Pro. So first of all we have 4k and were able to shoot 24, 30, 48, or 60 FPS with 1080p we’re able to shoot 24, 30, 48, 60, or 120 FPS. So as I said if we want to shoot slow motion video we should always use 1080p as we can slow that down a lot easier.