Do Your Eyes See in 4K?

War of the resolutions again. This time it's a bit different. It's not about the benefits of 4K or 8K for the filmmaker or a photographer, but for the consumer. The question is: can the "resolution" of your eyes match 4K?

This video is from 2017. A year before it was published, I had written an article about the need for 4K video. The article was actually about the very little need for 4K for a filmmaker. Fast-forward three years, I found this clip that discusses the resolution of the eye and how eyes and brains perceive the reality around us. Although we have very limited knowledge of our brain, it's still pretty impressive how our vision works. Do you know that you can't see clearly more than a small area? Everything outside that is blurred. Now for the million-dollar (because it's a million-dollar industry) question: do you need 4K or 8K TV screens? We all know that the bigger the real estate of the display is, the more work we can do, but we're talking consumer devices here, where final visual products are watched. We're living in the day and age where marketing is trying to create a hype for high-resolution consumer devices while there's neither demand nor need for that. Call me old school, but I still think everything above 2K for the consumer is overrated.

What is your opinion on that? Do you think the arguments for and against 4K are still valid in 2019? What did you think when you watched the video and found out what the eyes' resolution is?

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11 Comments

What this video fails to mention are the numerous and significant features besides the increased resolution that 4K offers.

4K offers much better color depth and a broader more accurate color space. Chroma subsampling is offers less image quality reduction at 4K (is for all intents and purposes, no different from RGB to human eye).

Compression is less noticable with smoother motion and better image quality at higher resolution.

HDR, clipping, pixelation, etc.

Just one of my issues with this video. This guy may understand human vision, but doesn't understand the technology.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I'm sure those properties of a 4K display (I'm not talking about 4K video here) are only visible if you compare to displays one beside another. Most people, even a trained eye won't see the difference if they are not told it's a 4K screen. In theatres you usually watch 2K and it has great image quality (and the screen is pretty big), because you watch it from a proper distance the same way you watch 2K on a TV screen from a proper distance and a 4K from a proper distance.

HDR and clipping are not dependent on resolution of the display. My 10" field monitor has HDR too and is not 4K. Color depth is also not a property of the resolution of the display, but a property of the individual pixel on the screen. This can be a phone screen too with great color depth.

And all of that means nothing to the people who it's being sold to because all they see is a slightly better picture. That's the point of the video basically and don't forget we all age so...

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Is that why Disney don’t want to produce 4K animations?
By the way, help me with your math - 2017, fast forward 3 years. I checked few times on my calculator and I get 2020 every time.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Video - 2017. I wrote the article one year before that, 2016. You see where your +1 error comes from.

I have 20/10 vision so I'm pretty sure I could easily see the difference between 4k,6k, and 8k! Now not everyone was as blessed as I am with vision and this makes complete sense, but even my 63 year old dad can easily tell the difference when something is in 4k vs 1080p so I'm not sure this holds water.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Is that true:
- when he sees the 4k and 1080p next to each other
- when they are displayed on a 4K display

If these above are true, that's not the case. It's the same as if you look at your screen on a daily basis. It will look calibrated to you even if it's warm or cold in hue. If you calibrate it, immediately you will see a huge difference.

For example, I can tell the difference between a 360p and a 1080p when I view them on a 2K display, but that's not the case. The case is if you can tell the difference between a 4K and an 8K on a 2K display or a 2K and 4K on a 4K display if you view it from a normal distance. And normal is not 3 feet. In theatres they usually project 2K. Do you find that irritating every time you watch a movie on the big screen?

Laca Port's picture

why not 3 feet? What distance are you sitting from your monitors?

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Because the monitors for work are designed to provide you space to place your tools (windows). You don't usually look at a full-sized 4K screen area (like three 27" displays) or at all the monitors at the same time, but only at a given portion of the monitor. When you watch something on full-screen, then it acts like a TV screen which immediately becomes too wide for a three-foot distance. Otherwise your eyes won't be able to focus on everything at the same time, but they will have to wander around and soon they will become very tired. This is why a bigger sized screen is viewed at a distance so the eye can focus on most part of it.

When you read this sentence you won't be able to focus on the sentences in the previous paragraph. This is how small the focusing are of the eye is.

Laca Port's picture

Obviously you are talking about your own experience, not mine... :>)
I certainly try to make use of the most real estate possible on my two 27" (4K) screens when editing and very often would zoom in to 200% and even more, especially when editing for large prints. BTW- those screens are positioned much less than 3 ft from my eyes.
It is interesting how different people experience this and I am rather skeptical about the relevance of your generalizations to others.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Read my comment again. When working on something it's very different than when watching something that requires constant registering of the whole picture. When you work on editing a photograph, you usually focus on certain small areas of it and your eyes constantly go through the layers panel, the tools panel, and the part of the image you are working on. I am sure that you're not positioning the area you work on at the bottom-right corner while all of your tools are at top-left. When you want to see the result of what you're doing you're usually "taking a step back" and you view the whole image, because working too much on detail can make certain parts look artificial.

When working on video, it's the same. You don't see the whole video at once and this is why you either put it in a smaller viewer window so that it's comfortable for you to see it, or you put it on a side monitor where you can see the whole picture comfortably at a distance.

What's the difference from working on something and watching a film? When you are working on something your head and eyes constantly move around the screen, because you are emailing, chatting, editing a small portion of the image, scrolling through controls, clicking buttons. Those are all on small areas of the screen. I told you that you can't read the sentences in the previous paragraph when you read the current sentence and this is the reason why you can't see the whole picture at once from a close distance. When watching a film, you want to see everything at once with the least effort of moving your eyes. If you're too close to the screen you will constantly move your head and your eyes and you will soon get tired (probably without knowing why).