As the cost of 4K devices falls, and uptake rises, is it time to move to 4K? To begin, let’s just clarify the terminology we’re using. 4K refers to the 4096 x 2160 resolution in cinema technology, whereas the 4K offering in consumer devices such as TVs is a slightly lower resolution of 3840 x 2160. Strictly speaking, it’s called Ultra HD, but it’s almost always referred to as 4K, so we’re also using the term 4K to refer to both consumer and cinema technologies.
The superior resolution and faster frames per second delivered with 4K technology offer a noticeably enhanced viewing experience. 4K TVs are now available for under £500 and you can pick up a lower end 4K camcorder for less than £300. Many smartphones already incorporate 4K video recording capability and some have a 4K display, although it’s debatable whether the superior quality of 4K video can truly be appreciated on the six-inch screen of a smartphone.
As prices for 4K products become increasingly affordable, the demand for 4K content is on the increase. At the moment there is relatively little 4K content available, particularly broadcast on TV, but that is starting to change. Most feature films have 4K resolution. In fact, for several years the majority of feature films have been shot in 4K but archived in 2K as the lower resolution was all that was required for cinemas. Streaming service providers such as Netflix are now providing increasing amounts of content in 4K.
4K was a notable omission on the part of Apple with the launch of the new Apple TV at the end of 2015. Apple’s view was that 4K was not a necessary element at this stage in its development. However, the fact that its omission sparked so much debate is a strong indication of the interest in 4K. And of course omitting 4K gives Apple a good excuse for releasing another version of the Apple TV in the not-too-distant future.
Like it or not, 4K is the future of video content, but it’s clear that the transition for consumers will be gradual. So is it worth switching to 4K yet? The cost differential for shooting in 4K vs 2K is minimal, although you should bear in mind that you will need to ensure your computer equipment is able to handle 4K, if you will be editing material yourself.
Ultimately it comes down to how evergreen your content is, and therefore your need for longevity. If the relevance of your video has a short duration, you may prefer not to move to 4K for now. However, you should never underestimate the lifespan of a video – after all, the makers of the 1970s Smash TV ads could never have imagined their creations would be getting hundreds of thousands of views in the 21st century. If in doubt, now is the time to switch to 4K.