How Much Video Resolution Do You Actually Need?

In the last decade or so, video resolutions have exploded and show no signs of stopping, particularly as 8K is starting to make its way to market. But at what point have you reached more resolution than you really need? This great video takes a look at the history of video resolutions and what you need as a filmmaker.

Coming to you from Basic Filmmaker, this great video examines the topic of video resolutions, both their history and the question of how much you really need. Resolution keeps leaping ahead every few years, and whenever we settle on one as the standard, it seems that the next step up begins to trickle to the market. On the same token, while you might not need that extra resolution in a direct fashion, it can be useful in some indirect ways, such as giving you some extra latitude in post to crop in and adjust your composition after the fact. Of course, that comes at the expense of pricier equipment, additional storage, and more processing power. It's worth taking the time to evaluate your work and ask yourself how much you really need. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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8 Comments

Michael Jin's picture

Depends. How big is your screen and how close are you to it?

Nick Viton's picture

My screen is different from your screen. And in a few years, we both may be viewing from even different screens. Shouldn't we future-proofs our videos as best we can?

Simon Patterson's picture

Screens are increasing their resolution but human vision is, on average, not. 480p, 1080p, 4k and 8k will look the same to the average human eye in the year 2050 as they each do now.

So if you're wondering what your videos will look like in the future from a particular field of view, then look at them right now from that field of view at a natural viewing distance. That's pretty much what they'll look like in the future.

Michael Jin's picture

This is true to an extent, but the human eye is only capable of resolving so much detail at a given viewing distance. Everyone will have a different level of sensitivity to this, but I'd say that the question you need to ask yourself is whether you can realistically perceive the difference between something like 4K and 8K at your current viewing distance and screen size. If you can, then sure. If you cannot, then are you going to change your viewing distance (or screen size) just to make use of increased resolution? Presumably, you are already setting your screen to be a comfortable size relative to your field of view...

It may also depend on what you're editing on. If all you have is a old slow computer, 4K doesn't look that appealing anymore. And all of a sudden 1080p looks great again.

I make videos for an American audience. 240p is enough.

Rod Kestel's picture

It's easy to become obsessed with a technical specification, fuelled by companies who need to differentiate their products. At a certain point it becomes meaningless because what really matters is what we experience.

How many pixels can you actually see? And if you can see more, does it really add something?

Remember when shavers had only 1 blade? Then it was 2, 3 and seriously, now 5 blades. So really get a smoother chin? Obviously cameras are far more complicated and the answer depends on what you're doing, but the principle applies.

Simon Patterson's picture

The thing about the old NTSC 480 line standard is that it always looked crap. Watching sport in particular was difficult, and many of us realised that at the time. It doesn't look any different now to what it did then.

HD and Full HD have been vast improvements, and they will continue to look exactly the same into the future as they do now, just as 480 line video looks the same now as it always did.

Above full HD we're starting to see the law of diminishing returns kick in, so I agree with the video - don't worry about it too much, use the best technology that is currently reasonably available to you, and it will be fine.