Dave’s blog: The pixel race

I was looking at TVs online for no particular reason. After a brief moment on top, it looks like 1080p HD television monitors have been exiled to the bargain basement, with prices falling so low most people will probably assume there’s something wrong with them. You can buy a nice TV for about $70.

Everything now is “4K 2160p UHD,” which is kind of a collage of techie terms that pretty much say the same thing. As a very, VERY basic explanation, the next generation of TVs measures something like 4,000 pixels horizontally (regardless of whether you’ve got a 19- or 60-inch screen), which makes the pixel count approximately four times as high as a 1080p screen. If you’re actually watching 4K programming on your new screen, (there’s not yet much available) the image will be significantly sharper with more information.

My TV, which is five or six years old, is 720p. I’m still astonished by what a great viewing experience it provides. As a viewer, I could care less about the rush to new formats.

As a videographer, however, and one old enough to no longer be quite as dazzled by shiny new technology, it’s an irritation. 4K is considered the standard right now, and while I have cameras and editing software capable of handling it, I’m still not quite ready to admit it’s necessary.

Four times as many pixels, you see, means four times as much data. You need four times as much space on your recording media and storage hardware. You need faster cameras, faster cables and faster computers to process it all. For most of us the workflow gets slowed down considerably by the new resolutions. Some editing software simply won’t do 4K.

Standard high definition, which is what we now call video that measures 1,920 pixels horizontally, with 16:9 aspect ratio, seemed like such a democratic medium. Any camera or phone was capable of shooting HD, and creating images that could be edited on just about any computer. For a few years, anyway.

Now, we’ve got to buy new cameras, more storage and update our computers. We need new TVs, and the electronics industry keeps us well aware that 8K is just around the corner.

I’m going to stick with HD as long as I can. The video, if well shot, is beautiful. Editing is quick, and my cameras can record for hours and hours on a 64 GB card.

And a camera isn’t a laptop. You get to know it as a friend, and you don’t necessarily want to give it up the moment a faster model comes along.

Yes, the quality of 4K can be lovely. There’s more detail, and it allows you to do tight crops without losing quality. I do use it, but the higher resolutions can also bring out flaws you wouldn’t ordinarily see. Focus, exposure and color reproduction all become more difficult as the size goes up. 

Other videographers may roll their eyes at what I’m saying, but remember that viewers aren’t driving the rush to bigger formats. Think about that the next time you record 4K footage that people will ultimately watch on a smart phone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *