Should You Shoot in 1080p or 4K?

In Tips & guides by Jacob GrozotisLeave a Comment

It appears that every photographer has a camera with the ability to shoot 4k videos. However, 1080p videos are still, more common than 4k ones.  This article is all about answering those questions.

Should you shoot in 1080p or 4k? For shooting options, there’s only one answer. Shoot in 4k if your camera has the ability to do so. 4K simply means more resolution, deeper color, more clarity and more editing options in post-editing. More often than not, shooting in 4k doesn’t mean that your final video will be in 4k.  In fact, you will realize that 4k videos not only have a higher resolution output when in 4k, they also have more resolution when truncated to 1080p. Apart from the resolution, shooting in 4k also offers you more creative options to work with. Finally, there is the simple fact that 4k videos simply look better than 1080p.

5 Things you should think of when choosing between 4k and 1080p

The shooting resolution is a decision of the person behind the camera. That’s you. Before jumping into the gene pool of resolutions when choosing between 4k and 1080p, you should ask yourself these questions.

  1. What do I want my video to look like? If you want sharp videos with more color depth, shooting in 4k is your best choice.
  2. Where will my video display? 1080p is more common on screens than 4k. However, videos intended for streaming sites are better shot in 4k because most sites compress the videos massively during uploading. Besides that, an independent film-maker with intentions to upload the video to sites like Netflix has no other option apart from shooting in 4k.
  3. What is my storage capacity?  4k occupies four times more space than 1080p even when recorded in low bitrates. In case you can’t afford to have all your storage space occupied by a single video, I guess you wouldn’t mind going for 1080p.
  4. Can my camera shoot in true 4k? Though most of today’s cameras(including smartphone cameras) have inbuilt 4k capability, it is often slow, compressed and  not ‘true.’
  5.  How well can I edit 4k videos?  4k is way heavier than 1080p. For post-editing, you need a good PC or MacBook. For those just starting, a high-end computer might not be an option. This implies that it may be better to shoot in 1080 if you can’t pull off the editing and rendering.

In spite of all these questions, and the situations that make shooting in 1080p sometimes better than 4k, I am biased towards 4k for a horde of reasons. Come on, we all know that 4k produces clearer, deeper and more pleasant videos to watch, but that’s not the whole thing.

Why should you shoot in 4k?

I wasn’t a huge fan of 4k shooting when starting out. However, the fact that 4k is my go-to resolution today speaks a lot on how it has grown into me. Besides, I have learned a lot from such guides like this one here.

Here are five reasons why 4k is definitely better than 1080p:

It has a more aesthetic appeal

4K is not just about more pixels per frame. It is also about the reduction of color brading since shooting in 4k gives you higher bitrates and deeper color in your shots( 4k captures 1000+ shades of each color, which means there are almost a billion  different colors to be captured.)

More often, professional video producers opt to shoot in 4k, not because they intend to produce 4k footage, but because they understand that 4k videos will produce sharper and edgier than 1080p footage. The more beautiful end-product comes from the knowledge that 4k videos capture 4 times the details that 1080p does.

To truncate the 4k video to 1080p, if you intend to have your final video in 1080p, you need to downsample the video during editing. Here’s the thing, even when downsampled, a 4k video looks far much better than an original 1080p video.

Though there are lots of cameras that can effectively shoot better at 1080p than 4k, it is often better to consider the clarity of the final video. I recently compared the two video resolutions ( one an original 1080p video, the other a downsized 4k video.) The difference between the two was drastic. Even on a camera with more 1080p capability than 4k, the final video looks almost four times sharper! To cut the chase, the simple fact is that 4k shooting squishes 4 times more resolution into the same shot than 1080p.

More creative options

Video production is all about creativity. The more options you have while shooting, the better your final video cuts will be.

As an independent film-maker, I have come to learn that 4k gives you more field to pan, change depth, change the view and to seamlessly mesh all your different pans into one. This means that I often have more different camera views, angles and sights when shooting in 4k than I would have when doing the same in 1080p.

Better post-editing

I know we said it earlier; editing 4k videos might be harder, especially if you are using an old computer. However, the other side of the coin is that the same ‘hard’ editing gives you more editing options.

4k editing has various sides to it.  In case you require post motion stabilization (which everyone thinks about,) the fact that 4k videos are more detailed means that your editing software will get more inconsistencies to correct than what you would have with 1080p videos. Besides video stabilization, motion tracking with 4k videos is also easier. This too comes from the fact that 4k videos have way more data per frame than 1080p.

As an afterthought, I think that the weight of the video shouldn’t really be an issue. In case you are using a professional-grade video editor, you should use ‘proxy editing’ or cloud editing to work around your hardware incapabilities if you have those.

You can grab better stills from 4k videos

I’m more of a client-centered video producer. If you are a client-centric videographer like me, you know that some clients need a great video, and good still shots in the same package. You don’t need to have two cameras to get still shots. After all, you can grab interesting still shots from the video.

Just like with video resolution, still grabs from 4k videos have more depth, more color, clarity, and depth than 1080p ones. On a side to side comparison, you might notices that your 4k grabs will look sharper and more detailed. Just like with the rest of the reasons why I would choose 4k over 1080p any day, this one is also about the amount of details captured in a 4k video per frame. Once again, just remember than four always will trump over one when comparing resolutions.

The future of video production 4k!

I don’t understand why the debate is still around. After all, 4k has been around for more than a decade. We shouldn’t be debating and comparing the two, should we? It feels like comparing VHS to HD resolution.

Have you seen old 720p videos on 1080p screens? I bet you have, especially if you are as much a fan of old movies like me. They hurt! Some appear grainy, drugged out and undetailed. You definitely wouldn’t want your video appearing the same way in the near future when 1080p might be a thing of the past as 720p is today.

While 1080p is the natural viewing option for most of today’s screens and video outlets(4k TVs are still not much of a thing), the world is moving towards complete 4k domination at a fast, steady pace. For instance, it is worth noting that some streaming sites like Netflix require 4K videos only.

Conclusion

Though 4k has its own limitations, there’s no point in arguing on its suitability when shooting.  Yes, 4k is data-heavy, occupies more storage space,it takes longer to render, true 4k cameras are still pricy and all other limitations are realistic. Even then, those are not even reasons to move from 4k videoes to 1080p. Even when your final video will be in 1080p, it’s an established fact that shooting in 4k will give you better shots.

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