I recall a time in the not too distant past… where we watched television on square TV’s – the image was a little blurry, a little pixelated, but that was okay. It was just SD (Standard Definition), and that was the norm. If you wanted to see a sharper picture, you’d have to go to the theater and see a film.
Then all of a sudden, in comes this thing called “High Definition” trying to change our way of life! People thought it was a gimmick. Nope! Soon enough, cable companies had us changing out our square TV’s for rectangular flat screens, as broadcaster’s no longer used SD. Now, whether it’s 720p or 1080p, everyone has an HDTV. Well, Prepare Yourselves! There is another revolution in the video industry, one that will be bigger and happen faster than the transition from SD to HD. In fact, it has already begun… The 4K video revolution!
So What Is 4K?
4K has been proclaimed as Ultra-High Definition, or UHD, and the term”4K” refers to the resolution of the image and the amount of pixels measured vertically and horizontally. So without getting too technical, remember that SD television from the 90’s? There were 640 pixels going from left to right, and 480 pixels up and down. When HD was introduced, there were two formats. 720p, which was a small step up to 1280 x 720 pixels, and 1080p, or Full HD, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. With an increase in pixels, there is a more defined image – and more detail can be seen, thus creating a more realistic image. That’s exactly what 4K resolution does, but on an even larger scale – offering around four thousand pixels horizontally with a resolution of 4096 x 2160!
Without comparison, the results are incredible! It’s like putting on glasses or contacts for the first time. Everything is blurry, but then WHAM. You’ve never seen things so sharp, crisp or clear. That’s what 4K video is like. The realism is shocking, as if you’re watching through your own eyes. Of course, that doesn’t mean watching your favorite childhood Disney movie on a UHD screen is going to look much different. In order to get the full effect, it has to be filmed in 4K.
4K video is in no way “new technology”. It’s been around for years, mainly in cinema. Cameras, like the RED, united filmmakers to see that film-like quality was possible with digital cameras. In the recent years, there has been a real push towards increased resolution and image quality, especially in small devices. GoPro cameras and even cell phones are now capable of capturing video in 4K, making the technology more accessible. There are even cameras that record as high as 6k! But, like everything these days, once 4k goes viral there’s no stopping it.
Youtube, Vimeo, Netflix and Hulu are all already streaming content in 4k. The transition from HD to UHD has been quiet and seamless. In fact, the Business Journal claims that the adoption curve will be much quicker than with SD to HD. By 2025, more than half of all U.S. households are expected to have a 4K capable television. With broadcasters making the transition, too, imagine being able to watch that big game and seeing the sweat roll down a player’s face. INTENSE!
Like all new technology, 4K video poses a lot of challenges for videographers and filmmakers. Film techniques, data rates, storage and workflow will all need revamping, but the results are truly astounding. We’re in an age where MORE is indeed BETTER, and realism is everything. The closer we can get to creating what the eye actually sees, the more connected we will feel as the audience. Though 4K and UHD will certainly not be the last stop on the path to finding that, it is a big one I look forward to.
Here at BURKE, we’re working on a few 4K projects of our own… but that’s for another time… stay tuned.