Why you shouldn’t shoot 4k for your videos

‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’

This was one of the best pieces of advice I got while working up through my career as an eager video producer. It’s stuck with me. For the content of this blog I’m using this to talk about technology. I’m not a technophobe but I’m not the first one to rush out and buy the newest shiniest bit of kit. We need equipment to film and edit videos - There is no denying it. However I don’t believe that technology is the most important factor to consider when making a successful video.

I’ll cut to the chase. Just because you can shoot in 4k, doesn’t mean you should. I have shot in 4k many times and given the right projects it can give you fantastic results. Here are a few things to consider before filming that could help you make a more informed decision.

1. 4K files are a lot bigger than HD files. (I’ve removed the science bit - boring). What is important to know is that as soon as you hit RECORD on that camera you’re going to eat through your media cards like Augustus Gloop in a sweet shop. Do you have enough media storage for what you are going to shoot?

2. Following on from point 1. All that lovely fat footage is going to need a solid workflow. You’re going to need a decent computer with editing muscle power to run this project and playback 4k video in real-time. Editing jerky video content can be a real chore and limits creativity and compromises the quality of your final video.

3. Is the quality too good? Sounds funny right! It happened with the introduction to HD. Suddenly directors and actors could see every blemish and detail that Standard Definition was blind too. Too much detail. 4k will give you much more definition but just be conscious about what, who and where you are shooting.

4. Where and how will your video be shown and shared? For me this is the most important point and the decider as to whether or not I’ll consider shooting 4k. If your video will be shown as part of a presentation in a 4k cinema, then yeah, let’s load up these media cards and go 4k. In reality for most of us the video will be shown online or social. Your maximum upload file limit might be 1920 x 1080 HD, or smaller. This would mean considerably downscaling your 4k project to HD. There is an argument that this might give you sharper image quality but other factors like the camera and lenses would also need to be considered.

In conclusion…
Ultimately if you are filming a talking heads interview, that will be uploaded to YouTube and likely to be viewed on a smartphone then I’d ask myself... is 4k overkill? Horses for courses. Choose the right kit for the job and get the best value out of video production if you are commissioning a production team.

Remember, just because you can doesn't mean you should!