Professionals in the Film, Television and Commercial industry are continuously on the hunt for the cheapest technology with the highest quality results - and we're no exception. But, what is the difference in quality? And what exactly, is 4K?
What is the difference in quality?
When looking at new and evolving cameras, there are a variety of factors at play when it comes to image quality. The stops of Dynamic Range, the output resolution, and the size of the sensor are some key examples. Dynamic Range in photography is the ratio between maximum and minimum measurable light intensities or in laymen's terms, the depth of colour and light achievable in a single shot without overexposure, over saturation or graininess. The amount of stops is usually your best indicator here, which varies by lens. Camera's with the largest ranges are the RED, Arri, Blackmagic, or Canon 5D Mark III where as a 5D Mark II, or 7D, offer less, for example.
Output Resolution, which determines how fine or grainy an image is, is generally easy to pinpoint on a camera. Most cameras indicate their max shooting resolution in the front of the box or camera itself. Popular terms gaining more traction in recent years are "4K" or "UHD", which we will discuss in more detail later on, but basically "4K" or "UHD" resolution compared your traditional television or web video on YouTube is about 4 times the resolution of 1080p. The picture below shows these comparing resolutions.
The the size of the camera sensor is one of the last things key factors to be looking for. There are many different types of sensors that determine the size of your frame on-screen. Some of these are Super 35mm, APS-H, APS-C, Four Thirds or 4/3 and smaller such as, 1/1.8, 1/1.7, 1/1.6, and 1/2.5. The larger the sensor is the less of a crop you will see on the image. So, why would you want a smaller sensor if the image generated on a larger sensor is better? And this is where it comes down to price point. A more expensive and prosumer camera offers a better sensor but at a higher price point. Industry professionals want to work with the largest image possible, opting for a 35mm full frame sensor, whereas an everyday consumer can easily shoot a high quality video for less. The majority of consumer cameras have a cropped sensor. A Blackmagic Cinema camera has a Super 35mm sensor which means a larger image on screen than an iPhone, which has a modern 1/3 sensor. We have included two photos below demonstrating crop factors and the visible image on screen.
What exactly is 4K?
4k or UHD (Ultra High Definition) is an output resolution used in digital cameras used widely in the film, television and commercial industry and now becoming more popular on a consumer level. But before embarking on your next film project, there are some questions you should be asking yourself before jumping to film in 4K. The first of these is, 'Where is your film or commercial going to be seen"? If your film is to be seen primarily on web or mobile, while the idea of shooting in 4K may be great, the video resolution will be lost because the video format will be compressed to fit online. But, for something like a short film, television commercial or series shooting on 4K provides a lot more control, resolution, colour and lighting and is thus, something you should consider. Always remember what you are shooting for because not every case is necessary to shoot in 4K.
I hope we have helped give clarification on what type of resolution, format and camera you can use when filming your production. By choosing the right method you can save money, time, and stress. If you still have any questions feel free to post a comment below. We have shot with a variety of formats and would be able to help guide you as to what would be the best format to choose.
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