July 24, 2015

HD vs 4K Video – Is it cost effective and worth upgrading now?

Written by:
Jonathan Fowke

Since the introduction of High Definition, many years ago now, the quest for capturing film and video in even higher resolution has been picking up pace and we are now at the stage where Ultra HD or ‘4K’ is starting to push itself into the market and increase in popularity and availability.

It wasn’t long ago that manufacturers such as Samsung, Panasonic and Sony were introducing 4K Televisions to the world – and at a pretty high cost! The development has been ongoing and thankfully the prices have started to come down with TV sets starting at around £2,000. 4K Ultra High Definition is now also becoming widely available in the latest Camcorder models, and not just in the top of the range Cameras, but in more economical models with several top manufacturers offering Cameras around £800+.

For many sports teams and clubs who are looking at purchasing a new Camera for video analysis etc, 4K will be an option depending on their budget, but there are more factors to also consider if you are heading down the Ultra HD route.

Long term 4K is the future and will become mainstream as the years go on but if you are at a club that has a tight budget then you can go with a Standard HD Camcorder, some of which you can pick up for as little as £200 nowadays that will still do a great job and get the footage you need for analysis and provide a good clear image to review training sessions and matches and edit/distribute easily across multiple platforms, including Coach Logic.

To compare, 4K Ultra High Definition has over four times as many pixels as 1080p HD Footage. The image below shows a good example of the difference each output provides in terms of pixels. 4K contains over 8 million pixels - a massive difference compared with DVD and 720p as you can see. Due to the larger amount of pixels, it is possible to crop an area of your footage and still export at a high quality – a useful aspect when editing to improve your shot or zoom in on a particular area on screen.

With the increase in pixels and data however, a big area to consider when looking at purchasing a 4K camera and recording in that format is storage space. For those who shoot games in HD quality you will no doubt go through many external hard drives to store your video files. I myself have six drives that I have filled up over the past few years, and they seem to fill up more quickly each year!

To compare, Standard Definition footage can use roughly 200-300 MB per minute. On the flip side, raw 4K footage can take up around 2GB per minute! That stat shows that the sheer amount of storage required for 4K shooting is massive and for those who are working to a budget it just isn’t cost effective especially when recording sports.

Another factor to consider is whether your computer system can actually handle 4K footage to edit your videos together. Programs such as Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premier can import and edit 4K/6K footage but you still need a quick enough computer processor and memory to handle the large file sizes otherwise you will experience a lot of lag when trying to edit and long wait times when exporting footage.

Despite the increase in 4K Displays and Television sets becoming more widely available in stores there is still no mainstream format to view 4K on a regular basis. Ultra HD 4k Blu-Ray Disks are expected to start coming out by the end of 2015, although details are still sketchy on the units required to play them and connections required to get the most out of the display.

With streaming videos online being such a popular platform, 4K adds another element to broadband requirements. With the added data, you will need a top of the range broadband connection to take advantage of the extra quality. Video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo do support uploads in 4K and the development will likely continue with playback becoming smoother as internet speeds/bandwidth and websites increase their support of Ultra HD playback.

With most mainstream camcorders recording to SD Cards, it is also important to check that you have the latest High Speed Cards that will support recording in 4K. When purchasing SD Cards you will notice they have speed class markers on them, basically for handling HD and 4K footage you need to look for the highest Class of Card – Speed Class 10/UHS Speed Class 3. The table below shows the different capabilities and variations of Cards.

Conclusion – Should you upgrade to 4K?

As I mentioned earlier, 4K is the future and is becoming more accessible for mainstream videographers with manufacturers offering basic camcorder models that shoot 4K for around £800. It is also worth noting that the latest Action Cams offer 4K shooting, such as GoPro and Sony.

If you are looking to purchase a new camcorder and have the budget then it would be worth considering a 4K Camcorder. Even if you don’t shoot in 4K straight away, you can gradually make the transition as you increase your storage capabilities, computer processor power, etc. Bottom line is there is no rush to go out and buy a 4K camcorder straight away. HD Camcorders still do a fantastic job, especially when it comes to recording sports events and distributing/playing back for analysis which can be done whilst handling a manageable amount of data and storing it on external hard drives.

There are higher end models available, such as the two offerings below by Panasonic and Sony, respectively. They start at around £2,500 upwards and offer fantastic capabilities for more serious videographers and are a step up from your more basic camcorder models.

You should also consider whether 4K will actually be worthwhile for you and your club when it comes to recording games and training. For most, normal HD will suffice and will allow you to work quicker in the edit room without long render and export times. There is no doubt that 4K provides amazing quality and long term it will become more widely available to most of us. However short term there is no need to rush out and purchase a 4K Camcorder and for those of us working to a budget our trusty HD Camcorder can do a great job capturing the footage we need to analyse and improve players and teams, especially when making the most of the features Coach Logic has to offer, providing great 1080p HD playback and sharing/analysing capabilities.

Jonathan Fowke

Jonathan Fowke is owner of JPF Sports Media and a Sports Videographer with vast amount of experience in filming rugby. He currently works as the ‘Media Man’ for the Royal Engineers rugby team but has also worked for Samurai International and London Wasps RFC. A career highlight was filming on the sidelines at Twickenham for the Army 7s side, and then again for the Army Senior Team vs Navy in front of over 60,000 people in 2011. You can visit Jonathan’s website here.

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