Why most consumers don’t need video productions in 4K

The era of 4K is here… but it’s not what you’ve been told..

LG sold the first 4K (or UHD) television in the United States in 2012. Since then, manufacturers, salesmen, and even video production companies have used 4K as revenue-generating gimmick. Before you exit this blog, let us be clear by stating 4K DOES have its place in productions, but it’s often something consumers don’t need right now, especially if such technology is pushed upon them at an extra cost.

The majority of popular video content won’t be in 4K for years to come…

Many people don’t know that none big four networks broadcasts in 4K, or anything close to it. CBS and NBC broadcasts in 1080i while FOX and ABC are 720p. Broadcasting in 4K presents its own challenges and isn’t supported by satellites and over-the-air transmitters. With declining viewership and revenue in broadcasting, don’t expect these broadcasters or providers tripping over themselves to deliver content in 4K.

Unfortunately, many television manufacturers and salesmen target sports lovers and boast “how great” their live sports will look on their 4K television. Little do they know they’re actually watching a up-scaled (or stretched) 1080p broadcast, at best. That is not to say that 4K doesn’t have a place in broadcasting. Professional sports are shot in 4K to give broadcasters the ability to crop (or zoom) in instant replays without loss of quality in HD broadcast.

There are most certainly places where 4K, and even 8K content can be viewed. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon are the big players in offering shows and movies in 4K. However, it is mostly limited to their original content. So for those expecting to watch “The Office” in 4K on Netflix, sorry folks, the show was shot in 1080i for NBC and can only be viewed as such. However, even if delivered in 4K, you most likely wouldn’t know the difference…

Even when 4K content available, there’s little benefit in most viewing situations…

The fact is, research shows that even when a consumer is watching a broadcast on their 4K television, the difference at the typical viewing distance of 10 feet is negligible compared to the same content in 1080i. If you’re outside and on your lawn, you can look down and count every single blade of grass. However, when you’re looking at the lawn from your second story window, you can see there’s grass, but no such detail at that distance.

4K resolution is mostly useless for small form factor devices such as smart phones, tablets, and even most laptops. When watching on a such a small screen, there’s no benefit to viewing video content higher than 720p. This is primarily why we ask our customers where do they intend on showing their product. If the answer is something other than a movie-sized projection screen, then 1080p is almost always more than enough for their needs.

Delivering content in 4K also presents other issues, mainly bandwidth and data rates. This is a primary reason why broadcasters are unable to deliver 4K content over-the-air. On the non-broadcast side, file sizes for 4K content are significantly larger than those of 1080p. As outlined above, considering that most of the content won’t be viewed in places where 4K is noticeable, the larger file sizes and spent bandwidth offer very little benefit.

Television manufactures are most certainly improving the build quality of television sets. Such changes in technology such as OLED makes video look more natural, smoother, and crisper. But such improvements in processing and displays have almost nothing to do with 4K. If a manufacturer made a 40′ television set in both 1080i and 4K resolutions, watching a 1080i NFL broadcast would look exactly the same on both television sets.

How 4K is used against consumers in the video production business…

Simirally, many video production companies use 4K as a way to up-sell the customer, either using it as an add-on gimmick or using the purchase of 4K gear as a reason to inflate their rates, despite most customers not requiring such resolution. For these reasons, Tampa Bay Video Service does in fact shoot in 4K for many projects for editing opportunities, but almost always deliver our final video productions in trusty 1080p to our customers.

Tampa Bay Video Service believes in transparency in all phases of our customer relationships including pricing, process, and our products. With that, we believe customers should be well-informed and not sold on gimmicks they don’t need. This is one way we’re able to keep our overhead costs down and pass the savings on to our customers. If only other production companies operated with the same principles…