What Is Video Resolution? A Guide for Film & Video Creators

what is video resolution

Key Takeaways: What is video resolution?

Video resolution refers to the total number of pixels in a video frame.

More resolution means more pixels and clearer video quality.

Click to go directly to explanations of resolution qualites from 480p to 8k and why you might want to use each!

Don’t you think it’s odd that 1920×1080 (Full HD) is still the most popular video resolution in 2024, even though there are higher video resolutions available?

If 1440p, 4K, and 8K videos are sharper and more detailed than their Full HD counterparts, why aren’t they dominating video-sharing platforms?

Well, it all boils down to pros and cons.

Yes, 8K videos provide a clearer picture than Full HD videos, but they’re way more demanding in terms of file size and bandwidth requirements.

So, if you’re a filmmaker or a video content creator, you may be wondering about which resolution you should choose for your video content.

I hear you, and I’d love to give you a one-size-fits-all type of answer, but there really isn’t one! To accurately answer your question, we must first tackle a broader question: what is video resolution?

What Is Video Resolution?

person holding black smartphone taking photo of city buildings during daytime

Simply put, video resolution is the number of pixels that make up a video frame. The higher the resolution, the more pixels displayed and the sharper the video quality.

Video resolution is typically expressed in terms of horizontal and vertical pixels. For example, 4K (3,840×2,160) resolution consists of 3,840 horizontal pixels and 2,160 vertical pixels.

Types of Video Resolution

an image showing different types of video resolution

Here’s a detailed overview of the most common video resolutions today, from 480p to 8K:

Poor Visual Quality

Resolution: 480p (SD)

480p video resolution

Standard definition (SD) comes in two forms: 640×360 (360p) and 640×480 (480p). The former isn’t that common nowadays, so I’m focusing on the latter.

Note: The “p” stands for progressive scan, the typical method of loading pixels in a video frame.

480p standard resolution doesn’t have many pixels, so it’s best suited for small mobile devices. It has a standard aspect ratio of 4:3.

480p Pros

  • Small file size

  • Compatible with most devices

  • Little to no buffering

480p Cons

  • Poor visual quality

  • Not suitable for large screens

  • Uses older 4:3 aspect ratio

Mediocre Visual Quality

Resolution: 720p (HD)

720p resolution

High definition (HD) is a resolution of 1280×720 pixels. It’s commonly referred to as 720p. It has a standard 16:9 aspect ratio.

HD video resolution looks sharper and more detailed on small screens than SD resolution. However, it suffers from blur and lack of detail on large TV screens and projectors.

720p Pros

  • Sharp on small devices

  • Compatible with most devices

  • Below-average file size

720p Cons

  • Not detailed on large screens

  • Needs more storage than SD

Good Visual Quality

Resolution: 1080p (Full HD)

1080p video resolution

Full HD resolution is currently the industry norm for clear HD videos. It strikes a great balance between detail, file size, and bandwidth requirements.

FHD resolution, commonly known as 1080p, is made up of 1920×1080 pixels. It has a standard 16:9 aspect ratio.

1080p Pros

  • Great video quality

  • Good for moderately large screens

  • Compatible with most devices

1080p Cons

  • Fairly large file size

  • Not the best for large TVs and projectors

Great Visual Quality

Resolution: 1440p (Quad HD) and 2K

2k high-def video resolution

Quad HD resolution stands at 2560×1440 pixels. It’s commonly referred to as 1440p. It has a standard video aspect ratio of 16:9.

This resolution is common among high-end gaming computer monitors and smartphones. It delivers excellent image quality, making it ideal for very large screens.

Another resolution that’s often referred to as Quad HD is 2K. This is a resolution of 2048×1080 pixels, with an aspect ratio of 16:9.

2K is mostly used for digital cinema projection. You can also find it in most high-end TVs and computer monitors.

1440p & 2K Pros

  • Excellent image quality

  • Suitable for huge screens

1440p & 2K Cons

  • Not supported by all devices

  • Large file size
  • Potentially long buffering

Outstanding Quality

Resolution: 4K (Ultra HD)

4k ultra high definition resolution

Ultra-high definition, commonly known as 4K or 2160p, stands at 3840×2160 in terms of dimensions. Its most common aspect ratio is 16:9.

4K resolution is mostly used for theatrical releases, as it looks great on large screens and projectors. It looks a lot similar to 2K but at a larger scale, allowing for more space to zoom in.

4K Pros

  • Outstanding image quality

  • Perfect for large screens and projectors

4K Cons

  • Not supported by all devices

  • Very large file size
  • Large bandwidth requirements

Best Available Quality

Resolution: 8K (Ultra High Definition UHD)

8k ultra high definition

Full UHD ultra high definition, also known as 8K, is the largest and most detailed resolution to date. Its dimensions are 7680×4320 pixels with an aspect ratio of 16:9.

8K’s quality is as detailed as can be. It’s perfect for reframing and advanced visual effects. That being said, it’s the rarest type of resolution out there.

8K Pros

  • Best video resolution to date

  • Perfect for extensive video editing

8K Cons

  • Remarkably large file sizes

  • Demanding bandwidth requirements
  • Not supported by most devices

For more information, take a look at this great video that describes each resolution in detail – it’s very useful for video creators and filmmakers!

How Video Resolution Works

man using camera during nighttime

A typical video is a series of still images (frames) displayed in rapid succession, where each frame consists of a grid of pixels.

The resolution of a video is determined by the number of pixels within each frame. More pixels equates to a more detailed picture, which, in turn, equates to higher resolution.

What Is a Pixel?

A pixel, also called a picture element, is the tiniest part of a digital display, usually appearing as a small dot or square.

Every image we see on screens is composed of millions of these pixels. Each one has its own color and brightness, and together, they form the full picture we see.

When measuring digital images or screens, we use pixels as a unit. Their size is measured in micrometers (µm). For example, a typical pixel on a computer monitor is about 100µm.

Differentiating Resolution Terms

Video resolution is often confused with other related technical terms, including aspect ratio, frame rate, and bitrate. However, all of these terms are independent of each other.

  • Aspect ratio refers to the ratio between a video frame’s width and height. It represents the shape of the frame.

  • Frame rate refers to the number of frames per second (FPS). The higher the frame rate of a video, the smoother it will appear to the viewer.

  • Bitrate relates to both video and audio. It’s a term that represents the amount of data being processed per second. The higher the bitrate, the higher the video or audio quality.

Why Is Resolution Important?

Video resolution matters because it directly impacts your experience as a viewer. It influences factors such as detail, immersion, and engagement.

Low-resolution videos tend to be pixelated and blurry. They’re difficult to watch due to the lack of detail, especially on a large screen.

High-resolution videos, on the other hand, are detailed and clear. This makes them much more enjoyable to watch.

Role in Video Production

high res video

Video resolution affects video production in more ways than just visual quality. It influences factors such as storage and bandwidth requirements.

When you’re shooting a video and are trying to choose a suitable resolution, you need to consider the intended use of the video.

For example, if the video is to be displayed on large screens and projectors, it’s important that you shoot it in a high resolution, like 1440p or 4K.

On the other hand, if the video is to be displayed on a smartphone or a tablet, you can get away with a lower resolution like SD or HD.

You should also consider storage space. The higher the resolution of the video, the larger the file size will be and the more storage space you’ll need.

Further, if you plan to upload or stream your video, you must consider bandwidth. Higher-resolution productions require more video bandwidth.

Role in Video Editing

video editing, videographer, vlogger

Video resolution also plays a major role in video editing. It influences factors such as editing flexibility, future-proofing, and processing power.

Positively, high-resolution productions give video editors more freedom when editing, as they can handle things like cropping, panning, and zooming without losing much quality.

Additionally, high-res videos are more likely to be compatible with future devices and technologies. That’s not to mention that 4K and 8K devices are becoming more and more affordable.

Negatively, editing high-resolution videos requires a lot of processing power. You need a computer with a powerful CPU and plenty of RAM to edit a 4K or 8K video smoothly.

Besides, the average video editing software may not be able to handle ultra-high resolutions. This may entail the use of specialized software or settings, including the use of AI video upscaling software.

Impact on File Size

As the resolution gets higher, the file size gets bigger.

The reason is that each pixel within a video frame represents a certain amount of data. The more pixels there are, the more data is required to store the video.

For example, since 1080p videos have twice the number of pixels as 720p videos, expect them to be twice as large in terms of file size.

Managing File Size

a tv showing video resolution types

Consider the following tips when trying to minimize file size without compromising video resolutions:

  • Don’t just shoot for the highest resolution. If the video is meant to be watched on a small screen like a smartphone, high resolutions like 4K will be overkill. A good middle ground that offers high-quality video and a reasonable file size would be 1080p.

  • Choose a good video codec. Video codecs are software algorithms that aid in video compression. Different codecs offer different compression levels, affecting both visual quality and file size. A good codec can help you reduce file size without changing video resolution.

  • Edit your video so that it’s more compact. If your video is too lengthy due to unnecessary footage, such as repetitive sequences and long pauses, cutting out the fat will help reduce the file size.

  • Lower the bitrate slightly. Bitrate affects both file size and video quality. The more you lower the bitrate, the more the file size will be reduced, but the more artifacts you’ll start to see in the video. So, be careful not to lower it too much.

Optimizing for Different Platforms

black and silver laptop computer on brown wooden table

Here are some general guidelines for choosing the resolution based on your target platform:

  • YouTube Video and Vimeo: Though platforms support a wide range of resolutions, from 240p to 8K, the recommended resolution is (1080p). If you’re mainly targeting a mobile audience, consider lower resolutions like 720p and 480p.

  • Facebook and Instagram: The recommended resolution for the two social media giants is 1080p. Note, however, that Instagram supports square and vertical videos. So, if you’re going to post on both platforms, you’ll need to create different versions in terms of aspect ratio.

  • Twitter: Unlike Facebook and Instagram, the ideal resolution for Twitter is 720p. Like Instagram, Twitter supports square and vertical videos, so you may need multiple versions of the same video.

  • TikTok: Vertical 1080p, which has the dimensions of 1080×1920 pixels, is the best resolution for TikTok. Keep in mind that TikTok supports square videos.

If you’re shooting gaming or videography videos, you must step up your resolution game. For gaming videos, I recommend 1440p or 4K. For videography, opt for 4K or, if possible, 8K.

Understanding Video Resolution in Relation to Other Video Elements

screens showing different aspect ratios

The way resolution interacts with other video elements like frame rate, aspect ratio, and number of pixels affects the overall quality of the video.

High-resolution videos require a high frame rate to be displayed smoothly and fluidly. If the frame rate is low, the video will look somewhat choppy and jerky.

The aspect ratio will affect how the video appears on different devices. Displaying a 16:9 video on a 4:3 screen will result in letterboxing, while flipping the aspect ratios will lead to stretching.

As far as the relationship between resolution and the number of pixels, it’s a proportionate one, where the higher the resolution, the more pixels there will be, and the sharper the video will look.

All of the above-discussed video elements, along with others such as bitrate and codec, must be balanced to create the perfect video experience.

Future Trends

Here are some potential video resolution trends to look forward to in the near future:

  • 8K and 16K Resolution: 8K is currently the rarest and least supported resolution, but it’s expected to be more widespread in the next few years. 16K resolution is still in its early development stages, but it’s expected to make an appearance sooner than later.

  • Virtual and Augmented Reality: VR and AR headsets are gaining a lot of momentum. Since these advanced headsets are all about delivering a realistic and immersive experience, they can only be paired with high resolutions. That means the demand for high-resolution content will continue to rise.

  • Artificial Intelligence: The use of AI in film and other video content to improve aspects such as video quality and compression is currently widespread. What I’m personally looking forward to is the use of AI in creating new and innovative video formats with even higher resolutions.

Common Questions (FAQs)

What is the meaning of video resolution?

Video resolution is the number of pixels within a video frame. It’s a representation of clarity and detail, where the higher the resolution, the clearer and sharper the video will be.

Is 720p Full HD or 1080p?

Full HD (high definition) resolution is 1080p, while 720p is simply HD. The former provides a sharper and more detailed video quality than the latter, especially on large screens.

Is 720p a video resolution?

Yes, 720p is a video resolution. It’s also known as HD resolution, and it’s made up of 1280×720 pixels. This resolution is best suited for mobile screens, like tablets and smartphones.

Final Thoughts

Video resolution is a representation of clarity and detail. It refers to the number of pixels within a single video frame.

The higher the resolution, the more pixels there will be, the sharper and more detailed the video, and the larger the file size will be.

Video resolution has come a long way in recent years, transitioning from standard definition (SD), 720p (HD), and 1080p (Full HD) to 1440p (Quad HD), 2K, 4K, and 8K.

We can expect the use of 8K resolution to be more prevalent in the years to come. We can also expect higher resolutions to make an appearance.

Will video resolution ever reach the level of clarity and detail that the human eye can perceive? I doubt it, but I’m sure that it will continue to reach new heights as time goes by.

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