Is 4K Video right for you?
Just about a week a go we received a call from a very important client who wanted us to produce a new Corporate Video for his Corporate Headquarters in Miami. He asked lots of questions about the Video Production process and gave us tons of information about his industry, target market and so on. He wanted us to write a script and produce a video that really represented his brand . When all his questions had been answered ; and we were about to say good bye until our next meeting, he said that he had one last question. Is my video going to be shot and delivered in 4K ? . Why 4K Video? – I asked. Are you planning to stream your Corporate Video in 4K on the internet ? Yes – he replied. 4K has a better image quality than regular HD and I want my Corporate Video to be future proof. Besides, Youtube and Vimeo now support 4K resolution videos, don’t they ?
The upcoming technologies.
He, like many of our clients, are well informed and know that 4K resolution will be the new tv / internet streaming video resolution of the “near” future. Companies like Netflix, Amazon and Google have already started the revolution with many TV Series being delivered in 4K. Having said that, there is an important issue when streaming 4K material over the internet and that is, size. Many people do not have a fast enough internet connection to stream 4K content. Any 4 minute video of 4K Video is over 7 gigabytes in size. You might lose valuable views if people do not have enough bandwith, nor the right UHD device to watch it.
On the other hand, what you are watching on a HD computer monitor is not 4K at all, but HD Video.
Well, while he was still worried that HD resolution was dying and that 4K video technology will take over soon, I was worried about sounding too techie and losing his business. I was about to say that we would deliver in 4K , no more questions asked. We had the cameras, the post-production capabilities to produce 2K, 4K and even 8K content but I could not just do that. It is vital for us to tell our clients everything there is to know so they can achieve their goals with their corporate videos. .
Though many affordable 4K DSLR Cameras and Cinema Cameras are being sold , HD is going to be with us for a long time, and that is a fact. I would dare to say for the next 10 years or so. Do you remember how long it took to switch from standard definition to HD? Every consumer had to change from one technology to the other. On a greater and more complex scale every Broadcast Station had to invest millions of dollars in order to change their editing suites, cameras, and broadcast systems. It was not easy, neither cheap. I am going to explain to you the difference between each one of those resolutions so that we are on the same page.
4K, 2K and HD Video.
4K Video Resolution refers to 4096 horizontal pixel count on any digital device (Video Camera , TV Set , Proyection Screen, etc) and it is 4 times the size of HD (1920×1080) . 2K Video has 2048 lines of horizontal resolution, making 2K doble the size and resolution than HD. 4K definitely wins over the other two but, is 4K right for you?
Why he thought he needed a 4K Video?
My client told me he wanted to stream his Corporate Video on Vimeo and Youtube, both video platforms are already capable of streaming 4K Video and you can switch between resolutions of 720, 1080, 2K and 4K on Youtube.
Some of what he was saying was true but the other part was not so. When you play 4K video on Youtube, what you are actually watching is a compressed 4K image on a HD device. You need a 4K (UHD) device and at least a speed of 50 to 100 Mbps to enjoy 4K in all its splendor, otherwise you will get a very slow and choppy version.
There are different kinds of codecs, with VP9 and H.265 being the most popular today. The video is compressed in these codecs to a manageable bit rate and size for streaming on the internet. Another fact is that a great percentage of those people will watch the video on their smart phones and tablets, which defeats the object in question. Most of them are only HD capable.
Ask yourself the right questions.
Then I ask myself, how many of your prospects already own a 4K (UHD) device or have an internet connection of 50 to 100 Mbps? The average household internet speed in USA is 12 Mbps , that is way too slow for 4K Video streaming. It is expected that by 2020 there would be only 50% penetration of UHD devices in the US market. It is a slow climb; taking into account that many folks are not ready to get rid of their HD Laptops, Tablets, TV’s to welcome this new technology. Eventually the switch will come, but we are not there yet.
The end of our meeting over the phone.
If you are going to stream your content on the internet you are still fine with HD (1920×1080). Do you want to have a future proof Corporate Video ? 4K is great if you want to save your original files and final masters. That way your Corporate Video will be future proof when everything and everyone is ready. When you upload a 4K Video to Youtube or Vimeo you get a really hight quality HD video, since you are uploading extra pixels. When Youtube or Vimeo compress the image you get a much better looking HD over the internet and your videos will still play really smooth over slow internet connections.
4K Video and 6K Cinema for Post-Production.
Many of us are filming with 4K and 6K Cinema Cameras. There is nothing like that supersized image in your favorite flavor of codecs (Apple Pro-res, XAVC, etc).
These big resolutions let us reframe a shot, do an artificial dolly, pan and tilt or you can actually do your camera movements in post, as long as the delivery resolution is in HD.
Another advantage of filming in 4K is that it offers a higher bit rate file with higher pixel count and a robust codec, which makes color grading a beautiful experience. When we are doing VFXs our best friends are the 4K, 6K resolution files. I love the extra pixels. Oh, what a liberty we have now as creators!
Now, let’s take into consideration that not all 4K is the same. Compare the 4K image of an Iphone 6S to a Panasonic GH4 or the 4K quality of the amazing Arri Alexa, to both of them. There is a huge difference in latitude, chroma and flexibility. In my opinion, the quality of the codec and bit rate is what matters. It is a blessing when you have both together in one Cinema Camera !
The battle of the 2K, 4K, 6K and 8K is coming up. Technology Companies want us to consume, but they refuse to share all the information. It is not in their best interest to point out all the differences, advantages and disavantages. They just want us to buy, buy and buy. We, as filmmakers, content creators, marketeers, etc have to really understand the ins and outs of these new possibilites. Our mission is to put all the cards on the table. It is not about the best Video resolution on the market but what works best for your client.
Always think, get the right information and make a wise decision.