Is Shooting 4K Video for Youtube Worth It?

How much of a difference is there between shooting 1080p and shooting 4K if your end goal is uploading your content to Youtube? Linus Sebastian (from LinusTechTips) did some serious testing and got to a pretty interesting conclusions.

First of all – do yourselves a favour and watch this in 4K (2160p on your Youtube small cog wheel). Now lets get to the business of 4K – Team Linus have been shooting 4K with the Pnasonic FS700 and the GH4 for some time (their Youtube is very popular and they are producing lots of hardware videos). When they started shooting in 4K about a year or so ago they had a lot of issues with the general 4K workflow. So they used an external recorder to down-sample some of the video from 4K to 1080p which apparently helped while not reducing their image quality in any significant way (which is interesting…).

What they have been doing for a while is pretty strange but it seem to work for them – their A-roll is an FS700 4K down-sampled using the external recorder to 1080p + 4K from the GH4 (b-roll) which is upsampled in post processing to 4K and uploaded to Youtube.

After moving to a new system/studio/server system they decided to re-evaluate this methodology. The results astonished them. Shooting with the GH4 in 1080p upsampled to 4K and 4K downsampled to 1080p – they discovered that it all looked exactly the same (they didn’t mention which lenses were used in this test mind you).

Next they tried to do the same test with the more professional FS700 – and here they did see some differences (we couldn’t – but maybe you will…), where the text on the native 4K looked better than the upsampled 1080p video.

So – should content creators use 4K and should you choose to watch in 4K even if your display isn’t a 4K display? Well, here are the conclusions Linus arrived at: having a good quality 1080p footage (or camera/lens) is more important that going 4K (although their FS700 did produce somewhat better IQ in their view). Youtube does a lot of internal work to improve footage anyway. On the other hand upscaling to 4K (if you don’t shoot in 4K) might be a good idea as Youtube automatically gives a higher bitrate for playing 4K videos (even if they were originally shoot in 1080p).

Finally – for consumers – unlike conventional wisdom – if you have the bandwidth – watch in 4K even if the video was shot in 1080p and upsampled (which is something that in most cases you will have no knowledge of anyway) – it should look better.

We do have some criticism about this video – maybe the biggest one of all is the fact that Linus doesn’t talk about cropping. 4K gives you a very substantial ability to zoom in or pan in post which you simply don’t have (not to the same degree at least) when shooting in 1080p. Basically you should be able to get the same resolution/detail level (sometimes even more) when cropping a 4K for a tighter shot compared to shooting with a 1080p with a longer focal range lens (provided that you are using a high quality glass etc.).

At the end of the day we think that shooting 4K is worth it (even for Youtube) but you should be very mindful about the drawbacks – especially large files, longer encoding, longer upload times, slower performance when editing (in other words you will need a more powerful video editing platform) and a few other quirks.

You can find more photography related technology videos on our photo-tech section here on LensVid.


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