Coincidences, coincidences, coincidences.
Writing about technology is like life in general: Stories get written because of coincidences.
By coincidence, my wife had a “supporting role” in a documentary “short” that screened at this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival in Marin County, just north across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
By coincidence, while listening to NPR, she heard about another “doc” that would be shown at the MVFF this week.
Although we couldn’t get tickets to that see that film, by coincidence, I noticed that on Thursday of this week the Festival would putting on the 2nd annual “Art of Amazing 4K Film Competition,” a 90-minute screening of 15 “shorts” that “captures the full potential of eight million pixels’ worth of high definition: a state-of-the-art, ultra-high-resolution visual experience with the hidden details, vibrant colors, and captivating compositions unlocked only by 4K.”
So these coincidences prompted me to attend the 4K screening and write today’s story about how 4K may ultimately be incorporated into the cameras and smartphones that you use to shoot your vacation videos.
(And by coincidence, Marty Knapp — Portrait of a Photographer, which was the subject of our April 9, 2013 story, “Found in My Own Backyard: Great Photos of a Great Place,” was one of the prize winners in this year’s MVFF competition. Marty Knapp’s outstanding black and white photos hang in the home of Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan, who personally offered his congratulations on the prize to Knapp and filmmaker Logan Kelsey after the film screened at the MVFF last night.)
4K Capable Cameras
The fact that 4K videos might have four times the resolution as ordinary HD (high definition) will be irrelevant if you can’t afford to buy a camera that will record video in 4K.
This article posted last month on the Photo District News Website lists five 4K camera that it deems “affordable.” But “affordable” is in the eye of the beholder (or more aptly, in the wallet of the buyer), and the prices on the cameras listed range from a low of $899 to a high of $5,995, with the other three selling for $1,700, $1,999, and $2,498. (You may be able to find these cameras, as well as others that record 4K video, at varying prices from Amazon.com.)
You probably don’t have to be into “extreme” sports or travel to buy a just-released GoPro Hero4 Black4 that will let you film in 4K at 30 frames per second (which is the frame rate for most consumer level cameras that shoot video). And it retails for a “paltry” $499.99.
Tech news reporting from the annual Photokina trade show recently held in Cologne, Germany, suggests that several camera manufacturers will be releasing new 4K cameras in the near future.
Smartphones that can shoot 4K video are starting to appear and that could in turn spur purchases of 4K TVs according to this story from Re/Code.
Want to record 4K video on an iPhone? There’s good and bad news.
The good news is that if you’ve got last year’s iPhone 5S model you can shoot 4K. The bad news is that the app that lets you do so costs $999. And more bad news. It’s only available on the Slovak iTunes App Store, not in the U.S.
The $6.99 Ultrakam Pro app lets you shoot video at a higher resolution that standard HD, although not in 4K. But this Mac Life story points out that it has some drawbacks that make it less than ideal for shooting video.
There’s also the Ultrakam4K app which has somewhat similar features, but sells for $4.99 on the iTunes App Store.
Both require iOS7 and are optimized for the iPhone 5. And this review notes that the large size of the video files will begin to fill up your iPhone very fast, and that you may actually need an iPhone 5S model to get the most out of the app. As 9to5Mac points out, 20 minutes of 2K video shot with the Ultrakam app will completely fill (actually, overfill) a 64 GB iPhone 5S, and on the early “5″ model like I have, you can only record at 20 frames per second.
Editing 4K Video
After you’ve shot 4K video, how are you going to edit it?
A few articles that I’ve scanned suggests that this could be a bit problematic, in part because video camera manufacturers don’t all use the same standard format for video output, making it difficult at times to important video into an editing software program.
iMovie, in particular, may not work well with 4K files. And the computer that you are using may or may not have enough “horsepower” to edit 4K.
If you bought a GoPro Hero4 Black, you should be able to use GoPro Studio to edit the video it captured. But the computer you are using has to meet (and probably should exceed) certain minimum system requirements.
Sharing and Watching 4K Video
If you have a camera that will record in 4K, you should be able to upload the video to YouTube. But whether your 4K video can be viewed at the highest resolution (2160p) currently available on YouTube is uncertain.
For example, I had difficulty at times viewing a YouTube 4K video on my iMac desktop even though I’ve got a very fast cable Internet connection. Sometimes it was displayed at 2160p, sometimes only at 1080p.
And I couldn’t view the video in higher than 1080p resolution my iPhone or iPad running iOS7. Even the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus don’t support viewing the highest resolution videos.
And I’ve found nothing yet that would indicate that 4K video can be uploaded to Facebook.
Even if you could watch 4K video on a mobile device, how much bandwidth might it take to play the video without buffering or a “choppy” replay?
And even if that weren’t a problem, would the file size of the video mean that you were devouring the monthly data allowance under your cellular carrier contract so quickly that you’d be hit up for additional fees for exceeding that allowance?
Should you only watch 4K videos if you have a robust Wi-Fi connection?
Will you be able to watch 4K video aboard planes?
4K: Not Quite Ready For Prime Time
Although many new technologies that have been created over the last three decades, few can afford them when they are first released, and it takes a few years before they are rolled out to large numbers of consumers.
This will most likely be the case with 4K television and video recording. The only question is how long the roll-out may take.
And as Molly Wood of The New York Times points out in this video, there isn’t much 4K content available yet to watch on your shiny, new 4K TV set.
In the meantime, both you and those who view your videos, especially on small screens, should be satisfied enough with the 1080p video that you shoot and share.
But we can whet our appetite for producing Ultrahigh definition video by watching these entrants in the 2nd annual “Art of Amazing 4K Film Competition” at the Mill Valley Film Festival.