A Quick Guide to 4K and Other Video Resolutions

Whether you’re an electronics consumer, or you work in the world of video production, you’ve most certainly heard about 4K.

It’s an incredible, new quality of video that’s soon to be the standard quality for any TV, computer screen, or camera.

It’s not just a buzzword. Understanding what it means may help you when making purchasing decisions on 4K labeled products, whether they’re at the consumer, prosumer, or professional level.

This post will define video resolution, educate you on 4K video and explain why it is a superior video quality.

What is a Video Resolution?

If you want to understand the concept of 4K, it’s important to know the meaning of video resolutions altogether. It’s actually pretty simple:

A video resolution refers to the number of individual pixels (the smallest element of an image) that make up the image. These pixels are arranged into lines of resolution in a video image—and the more lines, the more detail you’ll be able to see in the picture.

Take a 1920x1080 image (commonly referred to as 1080p).

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A 1080p video is made up of 1,080 horizontal lines stacked one on top of another, with each line being 1,920 pixels wide – that’s what it means when people say a video’s resolution is 1920×1080.

So when you hear things like 4K, 1080p, 720p, etc, that’s actually referencing one half of the equation.


Ok, so what is 4K?

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4K refers to a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. That's four times the 1,920 x 1,080 pixels referred to above.

While 4K is the more common term, some brands prefer to call it Ultra HD, or UHD for short, because technically 4K actually describes a resolution that’s used in digital cinemas of 4,096 x 2,160. Whereas most of your TV’s and prosumer/consumer cameras that are described as 4K,will actually be 3,840 x 2,160.

Why is it Better?

The graphic below visualizes the fact that 4K provides far greater image detail than any other resolution. What this also means is that if you’re shooting video in 4K, you even have the capability of zooming into that image 4X’s, and you can still expect to see a quality 1080p HD image.

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Should I Buy Into It?

For Consumers: Yes, but the pressure isn’t on you. You still have some time before most broadcasters and video content producers make the shift to 4K. The key to remember is that buying a 4K TV today won’t necessarily get you 4K results if the video you’re watching wasn’t recorded in 4K (although many 4K TV’s will upscale the image to appear as if it’s as sharp as 4K quality). In fact, it’s probably wise just to wait for prices on display devices and televisions drop before investing thousands of dollars into 4K.

For Video Producers: It’s a definite yes if you want a camera that will deliver clarity like nothing you’ve ever created before. At the moment, you will use up a great deal more memory on your storage devices, but many cameras are already offering 4K capabilities at reasonable price points.

For Live Video Streaming: It’s definitely coming soon, but unfortunately many cameras that record in 4K can’t actually output 4K video to a streaming device. If you’re looking to live stream in 4K, stay patient in purchasing a camera while the market makes the shift.

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JoshHeadJosh Clemence is the Video Content Specialist at BoxCast. Whether it’s producing live events, flying drones around cities, animating short explainer videos, or telling stories through documentary style shorts, Josh loves anything and everything video.

During his time in college, Josh found his true love for media and entrepreneurship. Pairing these passions with his degrees in Marketing and Entrepreneurship enabled him to co-found his own video production and design company.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Josh loves being in the Downtown Cleveland tech scene. In his free time, Josh will likely be trail running, playing basketball, making videos or doing anything else creative.