Video Resolution explained – from 720 to 1080 to 4K

What is this 4K thing I’ve heard so much about and how is it different from other HD videos?  Well, it’s simplier than you think.

The numbers you commonly hear, 720, 1080, 4K, they all refer to the picture resolution in pixels per square inch. You’ve likely heard about shooting in 1080p.  This is a short way of referring to shooting in 1920×1080 pixels per square inch.  1,920 pixels wide and 1,080 pixels high.  The last number (height) is the number used when talking about resolution.  So instead of 1280 x 720, you just say you are shooting in 720.  Instead of 1920 x 1080, you just say you are shooting in 1080.  There can also be interlaced and progressive frames, represented by “i” or “p”.  However, that is another topic for another blog.  For now, we will just stick to the very basics of video resolution.

As you can see from the chart above, the real difference is size.  Think about it like a standard photograph.  If you take a picture with a little point and shoot camera with 16 Mega Pixels and try to blow it up to billboard size, it is going to look pixelated and very unattractive.  But if you use a professional camera with 50+ MP image, you can blow that picture up very large before it starts to lose image quality.  That is part of how people falsely market cameras today.  They boast about the mega pixels, but in reality, unless you are blowing the picture up to 8×10 or larger, you won’t really notice much of a difference between a 20MP camera and a 40 MP camera.  Those 3×5 pictures in your photo album will pretty much look the same.

The same thing applies to video (which is really just a series of still pictures anyway).

If you shoot a video in 720 or 1080, and play in on one of those monsterous movie theater screens, it will look ok, but it will lose some quality because of how much you are expanding the image.  But if you shoot the video in 4K (standard for the film industry), and play it on the big screen, it will look great because, more pixels per square inch, bigger image, better quality at the larger size.

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