HD vs 4K – Not as obvious as you think

“Should I go 4K”? That is the question in the film making community these days. IMO, if it is for web streaming, don’t bother.

Before you get angry that I said your GH4 was unnecessary let me explain.

  • I know that 4K has more detail than 4K.
  • I also know that you can record in 4K and punch in to HD to get more angles.
  • And yes, down scaling looks much better.
That is all true.
The problem is that is all just BS as well.

It all depends on your camera, codec and most of all where you publish it.
Since I seriously doubt anyone reading this is going to project their videos in a 4K theater we can skip all that. Lets instead focus on the platform we use, YouTube.

On YouTube the bitrate handed to 4K is about 30Mbps. For HD it tops out at around 10Mbps.
So even if you record a 100Mbps 4K video it will be “dumbed down” to 30Mbps.
Many HD cameras go well over 30Mbps.

So what does this all mean? It means that both the 4K and the HD Upscaled hits the roof of what YouTube currently has to offer.
When GoPro or Canon release their official videos its another thing. They get higher bitrates. But for you and me it doesn’t matter.

This doesn’t mean that your GH4 is bad and that you shouldn’t use it in 4K. It means that if you have for example a BMPCC which has a image quality superior to the GH4 you absolutely do not need to buy a GH4 or NX1 just for the 4K. Its not gonna do you any good.
If its the larger sensor, stills, smaller files (lesser quality) you are after then that’s another story.

My big point illustrated in the two videos are, dont let 4K be the main deciding factor over look, workflow, Dynamic Range, codec etc.

  • Tim Dittmer

    Thought your video on 4k vs 1080p was really interesting. I’m looking to buy a new camera for video and stills, (mostly shooting bands in small clubs) but I can’t afford to invest in the CPU, etc. to edit 4k video. Your video made me wonder if I’d be better off trying to find a camera that does a great job at recording quality 1080p. In body image stabilization would certainly be a big plus. Leaning toward the Pen F, but would love to get your recommendations?