Alan's Blog

 

Computing

     
 

4K Video

Can you (and your computer) handle it?

 

I was very blessed to receive a wonderful Christmas present from my wonderful wife; a GoPro Hero 7 Black ‘action’ video camera. Just what I wanted.

For those who aren’t familiar with this camera, it is about the size of a matchbox and can shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second (fps).

4K is becoming more and more common and less expensive – in fact Sharp has recently announced an 8K camera for home users, rather than professionals, so you can see where we’re heading.

Shooting your 4K footage is the easy bit. Afterwards comes the hard bit.

Having taken your masterpiece, what are you going to do with it? I hope you will be thinking about editing it before making it into a viewable production fit for the cinema. What are you going to use to edit your footage? Okay, you are going to use your computer, of course. We all know that. But can your computer handle 4K video at 60 fps? I have serious doubts.

Most home computers will just about cope with editing full HD at 25 or 30 fps, but 4K at 60 fps is in a far different league. Even at 30 fps, 4K video contains about four times more data than Full HD. At 60 fps this is double that figure – yes, eight times that of normally shot Full HD footage. Can your computer handle that? In addition, you should really be using a 4K monitor to take advantage of all that additional resolution. Is your graphics card capable of handling that resolution at 60 fps?

Buying the camera is the least of your expenses. For example, the GoPro I received cost less than £400 – add a 128 GB storage card (4K produces massive files) and a few accessories such as spare battery, mounts and a microphone and you’re still spending not much more that, if any. So, for about £400 to £450 you’re set-up for taking 4K video.

Now comes the expensive part.

A computer with a suitable specification to handle 4K will cost you at least £2000! And that’s without the 4K monitor, keyboard, mouse and, the other expense, editing software (although there are some free programs you can download). Much of the above cost will be the graphics card in your computer which can easily cost more than an ‘everyday’ specification laptop computer. You may be able to reduce this cost by a small amount by building your own computer but you’re still going to be shelling out a lot of your hard-earned cash for these top-line components. The specification I’m describing is for an AMD Threadripper 8-core computer chip (£285)*, a decent motherboard (£300), 32 GB RAM (£206), and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 8GB BLACK graphics card (£460 – really the minimum specification you can get away with). Add a case (£150), 1000 W power supply (£150), hard drives, optical drive, wi-fi connection and other bits and pieces and the money soon disappears. Then the 4K monitor, say £300 and you can see what I’m going on about.

Being able to shoot in 4K may be great – but be prepared for the extra cost when compared with Full HD. Is it worth it? Can you see the difference? Are you ready for it? I'll leave you to be the judge of that.

* All prices are very approximate and based on a custom built computer from Scan Computers which totalled about £2150 without the monitor etc.).