Hi – I’m relatively new to the video scene and a little confused about all the different camera options, in particular the different resolutions available out in the market. Is it really important to have higher resolution cameras or does it not matter if i’m just shooting for web? thanks!
2K, 3K, 4K, 5K – when did filmmaking become about Ks and why do we need so many of them? and just what is K anyway and how does it relate to resolution? well friend, if you’ve read my last post on codecs you might have learned something about me – I love definitions, which is great because I now get to define two things! you may know what these things mean but I feel it’s important to reiterate them for people who are either new or maybe just less technically inclined.
the first of the definitions is the most important and really forms the basis of what I’m trying to talk about in this post and that’s resolution. when we say resolution what we really mean to say is image resolution is how much detail an image has. there are quite a few different contributors to how much detail an image has, the optics, the number of measured TV lines (horizontal lines of resolution), the compression on the image, and the number of pixels. I’m going to be looking specifically at the number of pixels this time around.
we’ve all heard of standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) and when expressed as their pixel values SD is 720 x 480 pixels (when talking about widescreen, also known as 480p) and HD comes in two flavours 1280 x 720 (720p) and 1920 x 1080 (1080p). 1080p is current gold standard of pixel resolution and was supposed to stay that way for a long time but if there’s one thing we know about technology it’s that it always changes. Thus the advent of the Ks is upon us! here’s a chart from marketsaw that may help you visualize what i’m talking about.
but which cameras shoot which resolutions? I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about this so it’s time for another table!
BUT EVAN! STILLMOTION IS ABOUT STORYTELLING AND ALL I’M SEEING ARE A LOT OF NUMBERS!
please don’t yell. now that I’ve given you the numbers I can finally get to how it impacts your storytelling. there are three positive reasons why higher resolution images can make your film better and one trade off from a production standpoint.
the first positive thing about higher resolution images is an overall “niceness”. what is “nice”? well, it’s a bit subjective, but we’ve noticed that the footage just has a “better” feel. as an example if you’re viewing high resolution footage on a 1080p or less display your footage will look better than if it was shot on a 1080p camera that’s been down converted.
the second reason is two fold, the first part of it is if you’re going to be showing your films on large screens in theatres like we’ve been privileged enough to do you’re going to need all the resolution you can get! as theatres finish converting to digital projection they will all have 2K or 4K projectors (4K is becoming an increasingly popular projection standard) and on screens of those size blown up 1080p just doesn’t look as good. the second part is as technology continues to progress we get closer and closer to having to having high resolution consumer devices in our homes. the iPad and MacBook Pro already have higher than 1080p resolution which means everything watched on them is already being upscaled to a degree and it’s just a matter of time until our TVs are 4K or higher too. UHDTV (Ultra High Definition Television) has already been created as a TV classification so just like everything else the sky is the limit! I can definitely see the ability to revisit your films in the future and re-export them at a higher resolution as handy.
the third reason is one you can put into practice right away, one that’s been useful to us at times, and that’s the ability to crop your footage. photographers crop into their images all the time to get the compositions they want, but us folks in cinema land couldn’t really do that without throwing away a ton of resolution until recently. a number of times we’ve been able to change a shot or make single camera coverage look like it was shot by two cameras because the Epic and Scarlet have afforded us so much resolution that we have such a large margin to reframe with in post while still having a 1080p or greater image.
here comes the trade off I mentioned earlier! the trade off when working in higher resolutions is post. more resolution means more data, large files that can eat up a lot of space, computer resources and time. sure there are things like the redrocket card that can help to mitigate the overhead when working with such high res files but it’s still isn’t as smooth, easy and quick as working in a 1080p pipeline. computers don’t yet have the processors and decoder chips needed to make working with high resolution formats quick and painless so you’ve got to take that into consideration when working on a high res project.
that said when all is said and done there is nothing quite like kicking back and viewing a project you’ve worked hard on in all it’s beautiful glory, whether you shot high res or not. high resolutions are here to stay but you’ve got to really take the time to make sure you pick the right resolution to shoot your project in based on your particular scope and constraints.