There’s a lot of talk and a whole lot of hype when it comes to 4K. I’m certainly guilty of a lot of that hype. However, most people know very little about 4K and are pretty intimidated by the subject. Here’s some quick hits when it comes to working with it.
First thing you need to know is that there are two flavors of 4K delivery resolutions:
4K UHD – This is the spec for 4K for broadcast and in the home. Resolution is 3840×2160. It’s a 16:9 aspect ratio (1.78:1), and is really just double the resolution of standard HD (1920×1080). Most 4K displays and televisions will be 4K UHD.
4K DCI – This is the cinema spec, and resolution is 4096×2160. Aspect ratio is 1.85:1. Like 4K HD, this is just double the resolution of the standard 2k spec (2048 x 1080). You’ll only really see the 4K DCI spec in play if you’re watching a movie in a theater.
From a traditional viewing distance, 4K only really becomes noticeable once the screen hits 84 inches. However, once you hit that size, and if shot and projected properly, the results are pretty stunning.
As of this writing, most of the 4K TV’s being sold are not worth buying. Either the panels are really cheap and the image quality is not great, or the price is just not worth it. If you need something that can monitor at 4K, and you’re working at a budget, get one of the cheaper panels, and pay very little attention to the color and contrast of the monitor. Just watch for sharpness and resolution factors. In many ways, what’s happening now is like what happened when HD first appeared. Sets were really expensive and only for high end pros or people with money to blow. Wait a while and you’ll start to see more affordable options appear.
Lastly, you don’t need to monitor 4K while you’re doing color correction. I’d recommend using an HD Broadcast monitor while doing color (with your video I/O set to 1080). Buying an affordable 4K grading monitor is pretty much impossible and won’t make any difference to your color decisions. Color correcting your scaled down 4K images at 1080 is still the way to go. Right now, I think the only useful thing a 4K monitor is really capable of is to check the overall sharpness of your image at a 4K resolution when you’re mastering. Everything else is not ready for prime time yet… at least in my opinion.