So for filming corporate videomarketing videotraining videomedical videoTV commercials and web video I have been asking myself a couple of questions recently- 1) why do my company and I use DSLRs to film our projects and 2) would my production company benefit from moving to 4K for all our projects? Here at Provident Media Group, we film the vast majority of our projects at 1080p using DSLRs. Here are my reasons along with some pros and cons we have found, heard and learned about.

Disclaimer: I have never filmed using a 4K camera (I have been a camera assistant to a DP using a RED Epic for a project), but I have worked with and edited 4K files in Premiere Pro on a recent documentary project.The biggest reason why we film 1080p video from a DSLR is because 1080p video is fairly cheap to film, edit and store these days. When it comes to filming corporate video projects, file size plays a role in the budget. At the end of the day 4K files are almost always larger than 1080p files from a DSLR. This means more hard drive space and faster computers are required for editing 4k, which means more cost for the company and eventually the client. Now at this point it would be fair to point out that SD is cheaper to film and edit than HD, but I will address that later. So why do we film 1080p? Screen resolution and price is the answer. According to a 2012 article by TechCrunch the most popular screen resolution is 1366X768, which according to StatCounter.com is still true in the last 12 months.

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If I create a project at 4K and my client and the targeted audience don’t have monitors that support 4K, will they see a quality difference? From what I have been able to see the answer is Yes and No.

  • Yes. Cameras that film at 4K generally produce a better image than DSLRs that film at 1080p, in terms of dynamic range, color, etc, etc and the detail is better when 4K is down-scaled to 1080p. Now I say generally, because there are exceptions to almost everything.
  • No. While you will see benefits in down-scaling 4K to 1080p, you won’t be able to leverage all the benefits that are possible with 4K. I have viewed 4K footage on a 4K TV before and the results are stunning! However 4K shown on a 1080p monitor? Still very nice, but nowhere near the impact of 4K footage on a 4K TV.

With all that said, is the cost of filming, editing and storing 4K worth the benefits to me and my company? Right now for Provident Media Group it isn’t. Why? None of our clients have ever asked about filming or delivering a project in 4K. I will say that one client did jokingly ask (sometime in early 2011) about filming a training video for IMAX viewing. Gulp! Now I am not saying that cheaper is always better. SD is generally cheaper to film, edit and store than 1080p. However, 1080p footage looks much better than SD (barring operator error when filming) when viewed on a higher resolution monitor (1366 X 768 or more), especially when viewed full screen. Also, this benefit of increased resolution (SD versus HD) can be enjoyed by the majority of viewers as shown by the screen resolution chart above. By comparison, the resolution of 4K currently can’t be fully leveraged on the vast majority of computer monitors and TV screens.

Finally, a tool is a tool. Even if your camera shoots at 4, 5 or 6K the increased resolution won’t make a poorly composed, lit, staged or blocked shot look better. The viewer will simply see the mistakes more clearly. Now I know there are DSLRs that do offer 4K recording, however the issues with screen resolution still apply even though the cost of 4K capable cameras has come down. There are possibly still the same issues file size, though I can’t say that is true for every 4K DSLR.

So all in all, we will continue to film at 1080p for the reasons stated above. However, if a client specifically asks for a project to be filmed and delivered in 4K, I can guarantee that after getting off the phone with them the next phone call will be to the rental house to secure a 4K camera.Thanks for reading! If you have any comments, questions or criticism about the article or my opinions on the subject please leave a comment below. I love to have other people’s opinions and input on ideas. Cheers!


8 Comments

  1. Rex Warner

    Well thought out article. However disagree with most of the points. Especially the argument that no client has ever asked you to deliver in 4K. While the client might never ask for it, as video professionals it is our job to deliver the highest quality possible. I understand the budget constraints and that fact that 4K might not be right for every project but one thing is true, getting cinematic looking video is the right thing for each project. And if 4K gets sharper more resolved when finishing in 1080p, then I will shot 4K. Also clients love the fact that you can punch in on an interview shot and get two camera’s out of one.

    • Corey Cheney

      Hi Rex, thanks for the comment and for keeping your disagreement with me civil. It is hard to find people like that these days, so thank you! Just a question for you and please understand I am not trying to be facetious or rude, I just want to understand your argument a bit more and make a counter point. Do you shoot exclusively in 5 or 6k since both offer better images than 4k because of the increased resolution and in the case of the RED Dragon better dynamic range? And if not, why? Also, when delivering content to a client I am all about delivering high quality cinematic work. A well thought out and beautifully executed piece is that way because of the content though not the tool used. The tool can help, but content is king. And with beautifully executed pieces of film the camera ends up taking a backseat, supporting role to the content. I am not saying camera choice is irrelevant, but it is less important than the story it is used to tell.

  2. skylerbaird

    4k screens are coming. Another advantage to filming 4k now is it will still be acceptable quality in 5 years.

  3. Tommy Galmiche

    That’s a very discerning post here. Well I think your point of view is good about taking a case-by-case approach and rent some 4K camera according to a specific ask. Because it’s all about this : case-by-case : some clients would want, and would need, to show their film on a IMAX theater screen by most of them are just willing some videos to feed their websites… So, as today’s moment, if you’re not making feature movies, I don’t think you need to owe a 4K camera, unless you rent if to independant filmakers making features… I agree with tha fact that you have to offer the best quality as professionnal, but a renowed photographer said in the past that photography is not about the device, it’s about the eye of the operator… ” a tool is a tool” and you have to meet the necessity of using it. As said in the article, 4K will not delated or correct a unlighted spot or others troubles of the shot… And moreover, you could deliver a 4K movie to your client, with all the quality suppose and he could reproach you the fact it’s hardly watchable on computer… I think our mission as professionnals is of course to know the differents option available on the market to advise our clients efficiently ; but we have to adapt it to the will and need of the client. Juggle with all to deliver the best service. That’s my thinking. Anyway, I agree that 4K will be up for a few years, so maybe it’ll become the custom in corporate video business one day… But that will be tomorrow.

  4. Rick Meryman

    I agree with the comments about the problem clients can have trying to watch 4-6k on a computer that cannot handle that much data…. makes the format pretty much useless to the average client, I would say. This alone could be a game changer when the project is in discussion mode. A well shot and edited video in 1080p would be better than one that cannot be watched in 4-6k.

  5. Tom Peace

    I would love to drive a Ferrari, but that just doesn’t work in NYC traffic. Look at what your market needs and stick to that for consistent revenue stream. When the market demands, and has the means to display 4k everywhere, then upgrade. Case in point, VHS is still around even though DVDs are ubiquitous. Orient yourself to where the market and income are now but carefully watch where they are going so that you can make the proper decision at the proper time and keep the income production your first goal.

  6. Mike Plenty

    Agree with the points in the article but also with Rex… the decision of what resolution and quality to film at should be made on a project-by-project basis and depends on specific client requirements and budgets etc. Over time you’d imagine that 4k will become much more of an important consideration but it feels like 1080p will more than suffice for most corporate video for many years yet

  7. Aktar Khan

    Full HD DSLRs is famous for its features. Its market value is very good and increasing day by day.. Picture clicked by this cameras are very nice and also in these days DSLR is 1080p video is fairly cheap to film.


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