Is 4K Right for Your Next Production ?

Categories: 4K filming 3 Comments


With the last few days of April remaining and the Panasonic GH4 arriving early May I thought I would give my guest writer Bob Miano a space to give us some thought provoking lines on 4K.

Bob “Recently an out-of-town client called asking if I would be willing to help his internal “web guy” with a video production problem.  He wanted to buy a new piece of hardware for their internally produced web videos.  My first question was “What issue are you trying to overcome?”  Long story short, he was trying to fix a pre-production planning problem with hardware.  I told him that he should save his money and then gave him suggestions on how to fix the issue with proper pre-pro planning.  Experience beats equipment every time!

In the coming weeks, months, or year you are going to be asked if you want to shoot in 4K ( is one of the companies that will be asking clients that question).  But is 4K the best choice for your next project?  The truth is, a knowledgeable producer/director (slight plug here for yours truly) can help make that decision easy for you.

If you don’t know what 4K is – frankly, even if you do – you owe it to yourself to walk into a Best Buy (or your favorite technology store) and take a look at a 4K television.  The difference in image quality will blow you away in much the same way High Definition did when compared to Standard Definition.  This little “field trip” will only take a few minutes but will be well worth it.

You may ask: “But how many people actually own a 4K television?”  That’s really not the point.  Let me give you a few reasons why 4K may or may not be the right choice for your next production:

4K is four times the resolution of High Definition!  Yes, that means the images are stunning but it also means that if your end product will be an HD production, capturing in 4K will allow you to “zoom in” to the footage in post.  So, if you are shooting an interview and plan to post in HD, with 4K you’ve essentially captured both a medium shot and a close-up with a single camera.

Another example?  If you want to impress your customers with a gorgeous video playing in your corporate headquarters lobby or bring customers into your trade show booth, a 4K production shown on a 4K television will definitely get their attention!

And of course, if you’re capturing images that you know you’ll want to use again in the future, 4K should give you the most flexibility.

Why wouldn’t you want to shoot 4K?  Well, for one thing, 4K can significantly slow down the post-production process.  All that quality takes more storage, more rendering, more horsepower.  To a certain extent that depends on the camera.  NOT ALL 4K CAMERAS ARE THE SAME!  A select few offer the choice of capturing images in a wide variety of file formats – some are more efficient than others.  This is where it gets tricky and it’s beyond the scope of this simple blog post to explain why one camera is better than another (and why not all “4K” cameras truly shoot 4K).

NOTE: Not to give too much information to my competitors but, depending on the camera and file format, 4K files can be more than eight times larger than what production houses are used to working with – this can cause significant challenges in post production, as well as massive storage issues.  In reality, a project might not need the “extra information” those large files hold – for instance, if you are not considering heavy image grading in post. As a corporate client, you need to be wary when a production house suggests shooting in 4K. Ask about the additional time, costs, and storage involved before you commit.

So here is the million dollar question:  Is 4K the right choice for you right now?  4K is aproduction tool.  Like so many production tools, you need to work with a production company that has the experience and knowledge to pick the best tools for each production – camera, lighting, audio, make-up, etc. – and the experienced production personnel to use those tools. is certainly one good option.

There’s a fitting story about violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz:  An audience member came back stage after one of his performances and said “Mr. Heifetz, your violin sounded so good tonight.”  He picked up the violin, held it to his ear and said “Funny, I don’t hear anything.”

Guest Writer Bob Miano


For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Company Ltd

3 comments on this post

  1. Peter Loughran says:

    “4K is FOUR TIMES the resolution of High Definition!” …really???
    I do wish people, some of whom should know better, would stop quoting the marketing hype by saying that 4K or rather QFHD (Quad Full HD: 3840×2160 pixels), is four times the resolution of Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) when clearly it is TWO times the resolution (on each axis) and therefore FOUR times the NUMBER of pixels (X x Y axis, image width x height) on the sensor.
    Resolution, in my 40+ years experience, has always been a linear measurement of lpmm (lines per mm) or, more accurately, lppmm (line pairs per mm: you need one white & one black line to see the difference).
    In the case of digital sensors, we’re talking about how many pixels (image sampling points) are potentially available on a given axis. I say ‘potentially’ as other factors such as AA filters on the sensors, image processing/codecs and the resolving power of the lenses in use may be the limiting factors, regarding actual achievable image resolution, rather than the sensors native pixel count.
    Hence QFHD (16:9 3840×2160) with 3840 pixels image width is twice the (sensor) resolution of Full HD (16:9 1920×1080 pixels) with 1920 pixels image width …simple mathematics: 3840/1920 = 2.
    4K or, rather, Cinema 4K (17:9 4096×2160 pixels) at 4096 image width might also be said to be 2.133333333~ times the image width resolution of Full HD (4096/1920) but still two times on the height axis (2160/1080).
    Using Bob Miano’s received ‘logic’ we might also claim that Full HD with an image pixel count of 2,073,600 pixels (1920×1080) is 2.25 times the resolution of HD at 921,600 pixels (1280×720) …that’s not a claim I ever recall hearing and, of course, the actual figure should be that Full HD is 1.5 times the resolution of HD (1920/1280) …a 50% increase, not 125%.
    As for “capturing in 4K will allow you to “zoom in” to the footage in post” …yes, up to a 2x crop (onto a Full HD timeline), any more than that and you’ll be looking at an image with LESS than Full HD resolution. Try going in by the implied 4x crop and you’ll be looking at a 960×540 pixel image …less than (PAL) SD!
    I can understand the marketing boys at Panasonic, and others, shouting the “4K is 4 times the resolution of HD” nonsense but ‘professional’ users might be better off not to over hype the possibilities and risk disappointing their customers …well at least until we get ‘8K’ cameras that CAN shoot at 4x Full HD (7680×4320 pixels)!…?
    Personally, having been happily using the GH3 for over a year, I’m just looking forward to exploring the additional possibilities of what I’ll be able to do, in both QFHD and Full HD, when my (pre-ordered) GH4 turns up! 😉

    • DirectorBob says:

      Thanks for clearing that up. You clearly are better at math than I am. ;^)

      • Peter Loughran says:

        You’re welcome Bob,
        I didn’t mean to sound as if I were getting at you in particular …it’s just that I’ve seen the “Capable of shooting 4K and Ultra-HD video, with four times the resolution of 1080p (or “full-HD”)” line in a number of places on-line (including some Panasonic pages) and I can understand how having four times as many pixels in an image might be (mis)interpreted as being the same thing as having four times the resolution by some.
        For example, here’s a Panasonic promotional video which repeatedly claims “4x the resolution” whilst also contradicting that by (correctly) describing how it is possible to crop into the 4K image by “up to 200%” (2x) when editing to 1080p (if the resolution were actually 4x you could crop in by up to 400% [4x]) …no wonder some people are confused when even the manufacturers are dishing out self-contradicting misinformation about their own products!

        Journalists are often accused of ‘Never letting the truth get in the way of a good story’ and it seems marketing departments and product promoters are similarly guilty of ‘Never letting accuracy get in the way of a good tag-line’.
        Sony even named some of their recent ‘Alpha’ cameras as ‘Single-Lens Translucent (SLT)’ …conveniently ignoring the fact that if the semi-reflective ‘pellicle’ mirror used were actually translucent (passing light but in a diffused manner like opal perspex or frosted glass) the cameras would be totally incapable of focusing an image on the sensor …wonderful!
        As for my mathematical skills …I’ll just say that, back in my school days, my long-suffering teacher did not share your confidence in my abilities! 😉

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