4K – Coming to a Store Near You

April 15, 2015
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Just when we are all finally settling into having Full HD content on our new flat panel television, a new standard is creeping up on us again. Wake up and smell the 4K resolution of digital cinema, and your next flat panel television… and your next video camera you have on your camcorder, compact camera, and mobile phone.
We are now quite familiar with the idea of Full HD resolution which is what all modern flat panel television sets display. It is also the resolution of digital television broadcasts. Full HD is about 4 times the resolution of the shows you watched on DVDs, and 4K is about 4 times the resolution of Full HD.

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What does that mean for the person on the street? Essentially, it’s clarity; which is something that most won’t discern unless they go back to watching their DVDs on a standard definition screen.
What it also means is that the next time you go out to buy a new camera or television, the sales person will try to upsell and get you to pay more for a 4K camera/television.
Let me now make a disclaimer: The following opinion is purely my own, based on my own understanding of current technology uptake trends, and industry standards… And my experience as an early adopter of video technology.

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Colour television was introduced in 1967 and full time colour broadcasts only started 8 years later, and most households only bought a colour television 3 to 4 years after that in the late 70s to early 80s. That’s 15 years or so.
High Definition (HD) recording was introduced commercially around 2004, and full time HD broadcasting in Australia only completed in 2013. That’s 10 years or so. 4K Recording is now commercially available so it will probably take another 8 – 15 years before it will be a full-time broadcast standard.
In 8 years, most households would have changed their television set at least once, mobile phones twice, and video/still camera 0.8 times (totally fictitious number here, but just think of the last time you bought a standalone camera). In 8 years, the price of 4K televisions and cameras will also have dropped significantly.
My point: Don’t shell out money to buy a 4K television because you will not need it for a while. Don’t buy a 4K capable consumer camera yet as you can’t enjoy the full resolution of your video anyway. But more critically, the industry standard of how to deal with 4K content is still fluid.
For us who work in Video and Film production, we have started using 4K cameras for many productions. And clients do ask why we do so because it cost more to get the most of a 4K production.

There are 3 compelling reasons:

  1. First Reason – it gives the option for upscaling and future proofing. When FullHD productions started, many organisations who insisted on shooting on SD because of cost, found that their videos didn’t look nice when they played their videos on their new HD flat screen TV. And there is little that can be done to enlarge the videos to HD when it is shot on SD. The same will happen with 4K. If the productions were done in 4K, it can easily be upscaled to 4K when 4K televisions become a talking point in corporate lounges and reception areas.
  2. Second reason – because the footage shot on a good 4K camera is stunning. The amount of detail it captures is amazing. So even though you may want your video in FullHD only, the quality of the images will still look really good, because the footage was captured impeccably.
  3. And the third reason – because of the higher quality and detail in the video footage; and because 4K is 4 times larger than FullHD; it allows us to zoom into a shot in post-production. So effectively, each shot can edited in 3 different sizes without loosing quality. In an interview or presenter to camera scenario, you may be able to cut production time by half as you can shoot once and get 3 shots; saving time and money.

For more information on what 4K is, cameras and screens, here is a good webpage: http://4k.com/camera. Happy viewing!

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