Video Production
Adrian Wong-Ken
by Adrian Wong-Ken
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4k Video in Advertising

10/07/2014
4k Video in Advertising

TLDR: It’s uncertain when 4K will become the new standard but it’s rapidly moving in that direction.  4K is great now for flexibility, in post and for archiving.  4K will eventually make HD production look and feel dated when it’s the mainstream

Ok, 4K resolution or Ultra High Definition (Ultra HD) is here, and it’s not going away like those silly 3D televisions. So what now? 4K means different things depending on who you ask. For the consumer, it means you need (sarcasm) a new TV; for a producer, maybe a new camera; and for broadcasters and ISP’s? Well, they’ve got a lot work to do to keep up with the forces pushing the new format. But what does this mean for the communications director or the business owner who wants an advertisement on television or another visual/digital route?

Dirigo cameras shoot 4K, Dirigo media servers can deliver it, and Dirigo editing systems have no problem cutting it all together. While other companies may not have planned for this reality, we are outfitted for the challenges that 4k, and even higher resolutions, bring. However, for most clients and businesses it’s probably overkill…for now.


While we do shoot commercials in 4K, we realize that bigger, sharper images don’t always mean better images or higher lead gen or sales figures. Lighting, contrast, dynamic range, and composition make a much larger difference than shooting in 4K. A bigger image means a larger margin for error, especially when people are the main subject on screen. 4K shows more of everything, including skin flaws. This means more time in makeup and more lighting time—and more costs associated. While most of the time it is worth capturing images in 4K, for our clients, it isn’t worth delivering the finished product in that format.


HD is currently what people are used to seeing, and while 4K does look noticeably different (better in some situations) there isn’t a lot in which to compare.  If you take traditional television commercials for example, most of what you see is broadcast in 1080.  When submitting a commercial for broadcast use video must be conformed to 1080 resolution to be shown.  Online video advertising, conversely, has an even lower average resolution than HD when viewing.  So why is 4K here to stay?  Let’s run through an example.  If you’ve ever seen a national commercial played right before a local commercial that, by comparison, looked like it was shot 10 years ago, that’s partly due to a difference in resolution.  Ten years ago that commercial may have been perfectly acceptable, but now it looks dated.  Once 4K becomes the mainstream resolution, HD will look like a thing of the past; not something you want associated with your brand.

We currently use 4K primarily to overscan images.  Overscanning allows us to create a pixel-dense 1080 image, resulting in higher HD images.  This process negates some of the disadvantages of shooting 4K while still maintaining flexibility.  Delivering 4K video in 1080 also allows us to crop and stabilize images without using lossy (image degrading) upscaling processes.   We can turn a medium shot into a close up without losing image fidelity and we can make shaky footage smooth.  These are more tools in our box that allow us to work more efficiently.


Concept and message will always be the most important part of selling with video.  Right now shooting an advertisement in 4K isn’t going to make a noticeable difference, just as using a shiner hammer isn’t going to make roofers work any better.  Resolution should be a pragmatic choice now, if future proofing is important then it could be worth the extra costs.  But, be ready though, 4K is coming faster than anticipated—and it will come with a unique set of rewards and challenges.

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