Video resolution doesn’t matter

With an increase in 6K and 8K cameras it can be hard to decide whether to shoot and edit a project in the highest possible resolution or to simply stick to a lower resolution like HD.

The main argument for the latest and highest resolution has always been “it’s future proof”. At first it sounds logical. The more pixels, the better the video quality. Unfortunately that is rarely the case. First of, 4K is still not the broad standard yet. Second of, 8K video doesn’t necessarily look more detailed than 4K. Why? Because 4K has been around for over a decade and camera manufacturers had plenty of time to get the best out of it. 8K on the other hand is rather new and we all know that technology of the first generation has its quirks and is rarely future proof.

Finishing an 8K recording in 4K to be able to use the extra resolution to crop in or re-frame a shot can be useful.

What is arguably more important though is to have better pixels instead of more pixels. Some cameras deliver a more detailed image in 1080p than others in 4K. Dynamic range and color depth are also big factors of how good a video looks like. More and more phones can record in a high resolution but most professionals still won’t use them because video resolution isn’t the key to a professional image. Besides having a digitally over-sharpened image, which is additionally ruined by compression, phones often lack dynamic range and color depth.

Often overlooked is the issue of storing these big files both offline on hard drives but also online in the cloud and streaming websites. Not only are the memory cards expensive, the computer power needed to edit 8K footage shouldn’t be underestimated either.

In the end it comes down to for whom the content is made for: If it’s made for the average consumer on the web than 1080p is still fine for now. Why? Because phone screens are rather small and most video applications even limit the playback to a maximum resolution of Full HD.

Written by filmmaker Moritz Janisch on February 16, 2021

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