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What is 4K Resolution?: A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding UHD

What is 4K resolution? Read our guide for a full understanding of 4K video resolution and when you should use it.
Kendall Breitman
Social Media & Community Expert
Last Updated:
April 2, 2023
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

New data from a survey of content creation experts shows that audiences expect high-quality videos in 2024.

In other words, if you want to engage and retain your listeners, it’s more important than ever to record crystal-clear 4K content. 

In this article, we’ll tell you why 4K resolution is so important, what the future holds for video tech, and how to achieve the best results in your own content.

What is 4K Resolution?

Resolution describes the number of pixels in an image, or the image’s pixel density. A pixel is a tiny square within a larger image. The more pixels in an image, the better the image quality.

4K resolution refers to an image with approximately 4,000 pixels horizontally. You’ll also hear 4K called 2160p. This number refers to the number of vertical pixels in a 4K image. 

But counterintuitively, the “p” in 2160p doesn’t stand for pixels. It stands for progressive scan, which is a way to load pixels into a video frame, so all pixels appear simultaneously. 

The alternative (and less common) method is an interlaced scan, which loads pixels one line at a time, saving bandwidth—but sacrificing image quality.

interlaced vs progressive resolution

To determine the total number of pixels in an image, just multiply its vertical and horizontal pixels. That’s right—a 4K image has over 8 million pixels!

For comparison, some of the earliest computer monitors had a resolution of 280 x 192—only about 53,000 pixels.

4K vs. UHD Resolution

While most people use the terms interchangeably, 4K is not technically the same as Ultra High-Definition (otherwise known as UHD or ultra HD).

4K resolution vs UHD

In 2005, the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) established a standard resolution for the professional cinematic production and display of digital content. They stated that to call their videos 4K, film creators had to record and display them in a resolution of 4096 x 2160—a resolution we now refer to as cinema 4K. 

When you see a movie at the theater, you see it in cinema 4K

UHD, on the other hand, is a consumer display standard. It’s the resolution you’ll find on many TVs and computers, and it’s a little lower than cinema 4K at 3840 x 2160 pixels. In other words, UHD is the same height as cinema 4K, but slightly less wide. 

You’ll also hear UHD called “at-home 4K,” though most devices simply advertise it as 4K. Unless you’re filming on a Hollywood set, this is the resolution you’ll use. 

Even though they’re not technically the same, most advertisers and content creators mean UHD when they say 4K (or 4K ultra HD). So in this article, we’ll follow popular usage and use the two terms interchangeably to refer to 3840 x 2160 pixels. 

Why Should You Use 4K Resolution?

Many creators today still film content in a resolution of 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically (1920 x 1080). You’ll see most people refer to this resolution as full HD or simply 1080.

Videos in 1080p are smaller files than those in 4K, so they take less storage space on your device. But they’re much lower quality than 4K videos. That means they look much less detailed, and if you zoom in or stand inches from your monitor, you can actually see the individual pixels in the image. Not a good look!

That’s why content creators are moving away from 1080 and toward 4K.

One advantage of recording videos in 4K resolution is the greater flexibility it gives you in post-production. You can further enlarge a 4K video compared to a 1080 video without losing image quality, and you can also edit elements like graphics and colors more cleanly. 

Think about it this way: the more data (i.e., pixels) you have to work with, the more granular you can get with your edits.

Many computers and TVs today can display up to 4K screen resolution. But that doesn’t mean every video they display will look crisp.

A video’s resolution depends on two things: the raw footage’s resolution, and the recording and editing software’s capabilities.

In other words, if you record a video in 1080, it will have a lower resolution even on a screen capable of displaying 4K. Similarly, if you record a video in 4K but edit it in software that can only export in 1080, the video will have a 1080 resolution. 

Many content creators suggest recording in the highest quality possible—such as 4K—and exporting in 1080p. That way, you’re producing maximum quality, but at a resolution your viewers’ devices (and social media feeds) can process.

If you want your viewers to see your videos in 4K on their 4K screens, you need to record and edit them in 4K.

Record Your Own 4K Videos with Riverside

The easiest way to keep your videos high-quality through the entire production process is to use software capable of recording, editing, and exporting in 4K.

Riverside’s all-in-one recording and editing software can do all of that and more. Not only does Riverside record in up to 4K video and lossless, uncompressed 48kHz audio, but it also offers the following key features:

  • Remote recording with up to 8 participants around the world
  • Mobile app for iOS and Android that films in up to 4K
  • Separate tracks for each participant for easier editing
  • Local recording to each participant’s device, ensuring your videos remain high-quality even with a shaky internet connection
  • Screen sharing in full HD for high-quality presentations, webinars, and how-to videos
  • Integrated media board for inserting pre-recorded clips in real-time, saving you time in post-production
  • Text- based video Editor tool that lets you easily trim, select layouts, and add custom graphics and logos
  • Magic Clips tool to repurpose your recordings into short shareable videos ideal for social media

As long as your and your participants’ cameras are capable of 4K recording, Riverside’s software can produce an ultra-high-definition video

But don’t take our word for it! Go to to start recording high-quality videos today.

Remember that recording video in 4K requires a good amount of both internet bandwidth (the amount of data your internet can transmit in a given amount of time) and computer storage. Here are a few pro tips for maximizing both:

  • Choose an internet plan with an upload speed of at least 25 Mbps
  • Use a video capture card to increase the amount of data your camera can transmit to your computer
  • Ask others in your household not to do bandwidth-intensive activities (like video streaming) while you’re recording
  • Close unnecessary applications and browser tabs while recording
  • Use as few connectors and adapters as possible

For highest quality, we also recommend using a DSLR or mirrorless camera

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Is 4K the highest resolution?

In most devices today, 4K is the highest resolution you can find—which is why it’s the most popular choice among videographers.

However, it is possible to film in an even higher resolution: 8K, or 7680 x 4320. That’s about 33 million pixels.

But filming in 8K requires a massive amount of bandwidth and device storage, and most viewers don’t have devices with 8K monitors, so we don’t recommend it for most content creators.

The Future of 4K Video

In 2024, we are still solidly in the midst of transitioning from 1080 to 4K.

Some streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney Plus now offer 4K shows and movies, while others do not. Broadcast television is lagging a little behind, but the number of 4K channels is steadily increasing. Instagram and TikTok cap video resolution at 1080, while Facebook and YouTube allow 4K videos

Even gaming consoles are beginning to offer 4K.

One of the major bottlenecks is internet bandwidth. And we don’t just mean your personal at-home internet—we mean the World Wide Web. There’s only so much bandwidth to go around, and 4K video takes up a lot of it.

That’s why upgrading everything to 4K is not feasible. Instead, the changes we expect to see in the near future are in related technologies like OLED and HDR. Both OLED (organic light-emitting diode) and HDR (high dynamic range) tech enhance your screen’s color quality and contrast; they make whites look brighter, and blacks look darker. What they don’t do is demand more of your bandwidth! 

That said, technology advances at a phenomenal rate. Who knows what will be possible in a year, five years, or the next decade?

FAQs on 4K Resolution

Is 4K 3840x2160 or 4096x2160?

Technically, 4K resolution is 4096 x 2160 pixels. Ultra High Definition (UHD) resolution is 3840 x 2160 pixels.

However, most companies advertise consumer devices (like your phone, computer, and TV) as 4K when they’re actually UHD.

What is better, 4K or UHD?

4K is a slightly higher resolution than UHD—it has 256 more horizontal pixels, or tiny squares that make up an image. That means 4K videos and screens are slightly more detailed than UHD.

But unless you’re standing inches from your screen or doing intensive color editing on your videos, you’ll probably never notice a difference.

What does 4K resolution mean?

4K resolution means that an image or video has about 4,000 horizontal pixels—the individual units that compose the picture. Images with more pixels are clearer and more detailed and remain so even when enlarged. 

For comparison, the resolution just below 4K, 1080, has only 1920 horizontal pixels.

What is better, 4K or 1080p?

4K resolution is 4 times more detailed than 1080p. You can sit closer to a 4K TV screen and enlarge a 4K video further without sacrificing image quality.

And for content creators, a 4K video looks crisper and cleaner—and much more professional. That’s why recording in 4K is one of the best ways to ensure your video content stands out from the crowd!

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