4k. Perhaps you've heard about it, perhaps you haven't. It's a feature that new TVs now advertise and streaming platforms such as Netflix and YouTube support. Whether 4k is brand new to you or you feel you already know a good amount, this article will tell you everything you need to know (well not literally everything, but all the important stuff).
*WARNING* Although this is an introductory article on 4k, it is still rather technical. Skip to the bottom if you want the main points as it might apply to your wedding film.
Issue: "Things have gone from "Full HD" to "4k" and I have no idea what that means."
In my opinion, "Full HD" has always been a horrible term. There was never any "Half HD" (although there was just "HD") and now "Ultra HD" is a real thing (it's synonymous with 4k, but 4k was the term that caught on). And, if you want to be super duper technical about it, there's also a Cinema 4k (DCI) which differs slightly from Ultra HD 4k, but we won't go into that. The whole naming system is convoluted, but I digress. All these labels are used to describe video resolution in terms of pixels (you know when you zoom into a picture and see the squares? Those are pixels). The higher the resolution, the higher the detail and quality of a picture (and the harder it becomes to notice the pixels). Here are the respective resolution dimensions (WxH) for each term:
SD (Standard Definition. DVD quality): 720x480 pixels (480p for short)
HD: 1280x720 pixels (720p for short)
Full HD: 1920x1080 pixels (1080p for short)
4k/Ultra HD: 3840x2160 pixels (2160p for short)
Here's a picture to illustrate.
Another way to make sense of these terms is to compare them to cameras designed for photography. Grab your phone (or point and shoot camera) and find its Megapixel (MP) count. MP also represents resolution. The higher the MP count, the more detail is captured in each image. If we were to use Megapixels to describe video resolution, it would look like the following:
HD: 1 MP
Full HD: 2 MP
4k/UHD: 8 MP
As you can see, the jump from 1080p (Full HD) to 4k is a four-fold increase in resolution. If you're saying, "My phone has more MP than 4k video!", keep in mind that video is essentially 24 pictures (sometimes much more) shown each second - so fast that your eyes don't notice. That's a lot of data to process on the fly, and it takes beefy (and expensive) CPUs to capture and encode such high resolution information. And in my humble opinion, photo MP counts are a bit excessive these days for what our eyes can appreciate. You often hear about the "megapixel race" of camera manufacturers, but in reality very few people ever make real use of it. That's a whole different conversation, though. In short, 4k captures amazing detail, but not excessively so to where we can't appreciate it.
How 4k applies to my wedding films.
Because 4k captures so much detail, I make a conscious effort to shoot with sharper lenses or with lenses at their sharper apertures. In Full HD us filmmakers can sometimes get away with a soft or slightly out of focus image. Not in 4k. Apart from this, however, my shooting style remains relatively unchanged whether I am shooting 1080p or 4k. The biggest difference lies in the quality and resolution of your final film. As discussed above, 4k provides significantly more resolution data, and as such 4k wedding films look stunning compared to Full HD. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, 4k Wedding Films are likely to hold their pleasing quality decades down the road (unlike VHS, DVDs, etc.). Now, here's the caveat. To enjoy your 4k wedding film to its fullest extent you also need a 4k TV. However, some clients who opt for a 4k wedding film don't yet have one. Just as we've all replaced our big and bulky vacuum TVs with flat screens, these clients understand they will eventually replace their 1080p TV with a 4k one. If posterity is important to you and you’d like to ensure your grandchildren can enjoy your wedding film in the best possible quality, 4k is the best way to preserve your investment.
I hope this was helpful and dispelled some of the mystery shrouding 4k. If you have any questions about 4k wedding films not addressed here, comment below!