As a general rule, the better the quality of your video, the better it is for your channel. While channels can—and indeed have—succeed with lower quality video, there is hardly any reason at all not to opt for the highest possible quality you can manage when considering things from a viewers perspective.
As with most things in life, the practical reality of uploading videos in 4K isn’t quite as straightforward. 4K is nowhere near ubiquitous, yet the cost of a good 4K camera over a regular HD camera is not insignificant. The result of this being that you could end up putting considerably more time and effort into making your videos 4K, only to find none of your audience is watching in that resolution. But we want to go a little deeper than that, of course.
So let’s get to it. Should I upload 4k to YouTube? Kind of. If it is something you can already do—if you have a 4K camera, your set is nice and dressed up, you’ve mastered your makeup game, and you have a beefy Internet connection and a beefier computer, there’s no reason to not upload in 4K. If some or all of these things are not true, however, you need to weigh up the pros and cons before deciding 4K is for you.
What is 4K?
Let’s start with the basics. Before you decide whether 4K is right for your channel, you should know what it is you’re deciding about. 4K is a somewhat gimmicky name given to the latest standard screen resolution to hit the market. The name could come either from the fact that the horizontal resolution of 4K is almost 4,000 pixels or from the fact that there is exactly 4x the number of pixels in a 1080p display.
4K represents several challenges from a creator’s standpoint, from recording to editing and, ultimately, streaming. Not only do you need a camera capable of 4K, but it also needs to be a good camera, as poor quality video will be considerably more apparent at that resolution. You also need a computer capable of editing such high-resolution footage. As anyone who has rendered a video before can tell you; video editing is not light work.
You also need to pay more attention to yourself, your set, and anything that might be in the shot when filming. The increased resolution of 4K will bring a lot more detail into the light.
Finally, there is the issue of streaming. Internet speeds may be increasing all the time, but many homes don’t have a fast enough connection to stream 4K content, and certainly not at higher frame rates.
For reference, here are the different standard resolutions broken down.
|Resolution||Up to 30FPS||Up to 60FPS|
|2160p (4k) 3840×2160||35-45 Mbps||53-68 Mbps|
|1440p (2k) 2560×1440||16 Mbps||24 Mbps|
|1080p (Full HD) 1920×1080||8 Mbps||12 Mbps|
|720p (Std HD) 1280×720||5 Mbps||7.5 Mbps|
|480p (DVD) 720×480||4 Mbps||4 Mbps|
Of course, the average Internet connection speed in most developed countries has risen in the 100s, but it is important to remember that averages can be easily skewed by a relatively small number of abnormally high connections. And there is also the possibility that all of a households internet connection will not be available, such as would be the case if someone were watching Netflix at the same time your viewer is attempting to stream your 4K content.
One final thing to factor in is your connection. As fast as Internet speeds are getting, upload speeds have always been notoriously slow in comparison. Having to wait 4x as long for your video to upload (plus additional processing time at YouTube’s end) might not be an issue for you, but it’s worth mentioning.
4K Represents a Tiny Slice of the Market
Finding concrete statistics on 4K as it pertains to YouTube is not easy. What we can safely say is that only a tiny share of computer users online have their resolutions set to 4K. As shown by screenresolutions.org (at the time of writing), only 0.12% of users online are using 4K resolution, with 2K just creeping inside the top ten, and regular 1080p (1K, if you like) topping the list by a wide margin.
“But what about TVs?” I hear you yell. Well, more and more people are indeed watching YouTube through their TV, thanks to the prevalence of things like Amazon’s Fire Stick, Smart TVs and gaming consoles with an app ecosystem. However, 4K TVs are still vastly outnumbered by 1080p, so even if every TV owner on the planet was watching YouTube on their television rather than their computer, 4K would still be in the minority.
To briefly touch on phones since, of course, mobile devices are the most popular kind of device for watching YouTube on. While it is true that many—probably most—modern phones can display 4K videos, it’s something of a moot point since our feeble human eyes can’t tell the difference on screens that small. It is estimated that a healthy human eye can discern detail up to 326ppi (pixels per inch). 1080p on an average mobile phone screen is already higher than that, so increasing the pixel density further won’t make a noticeable difference.
4K is Growing
Now that we’ve talked about how small a market 4K is for YouTube let’s look to the future. 4K TV sales are increasing exponentially, and the ever-hungry PC gaming market is driving the sales of 4K monitors. Furthermore, the cost of making a 4K device is dropping to the point that the Smart TV Effect is beginning to take hold.
If you’ve never heard of the Smart TV Effect before… that’s because we just made it up, but the premise is simple enough. The “smart” part of smart TVs is notoriously terrible. There are exceptions, of course, but most smart TV interfaces are clunky, slow, and generally unpleasant to use. So why, then are they in almost every television?
The answer is because it got so cheap to add to their product that it was worth it just to get that “Smart TV” sticker on the box, it doesn’t matter if nobody wants a smart TV, it became almost impossible to buy one without it.
4K is heading in the same direction. The cost of making 4K TVs is dropping, which means the cost of the TVs themselves is dropping, too. 4K is proving to be a powerful marketing tool, if not a particularly useful feature given the lack of 4K content.
So what does all this mean for YouTubers? Well, 4K is a significant minority now, but it almost certainly won’t be staying that way. So when you consider whether or not you want to record your videos in 4K, you need to think about how important having the best possible quality is to your channel. Right now, 1080p is good enough, but 4K is coming." data-medium-file="https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1" data-large-file="https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?fit=580%2C387&ssl=1" loading="lazy" class="size-large wp-image-5924 sp-no-webp" alt="Should I Upload 4K to YouTube? 1" height="387" width="580" srcset="https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?resize=1536%2C1024&ssl=1 1536w, https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?resize=2048%2C1365&ssl=1 2048w, https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?resize=1200%2C800&ssl=1 1200w, https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?resize=1980%2C1320&ssl=1 1980w, https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?resize=600%2C400&ssl=1 600w, https://i1.wp.com/alanspicer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/should-i-upload-4k-to-youtube-3-scaled.jpg?w=1740&ssl=1 1740w" sizes="(max-width: 580px) 100vw, 580px">
Should I Upload 4K to YouTube?
So, now we have laid out all the basic information, how do you decide? We can get one straight forward answer out of the way easily enough. If you already have the means to record in 4K, and the thing you are recording is ready (remember, every imperfection, be it on you or your set, will be 4x larger), your computer is up to the task of editing, and the additional upload times do not bother you, then there is no reason not to upload in 4K.
YouTube will automatically process lower-resolution versions of your video, which will then be delivered to those who are not viewing on a 4K screen, so nothing will change for them. But you will be future-proofing your videos. Not to mention; with the lack of 4K content available right now, you may even gain viewers just through virtue of having 4K video on your channel.
But what about everyone else? What if you don’t have a means of recording 4K, or your computer wouldn’t be able to handle the editing even if you did? Is it worth taking steps to get 4K video?
This will depend on your channel. If you are making software tutorial videos, you shouldn’t be in too much of a rush to switch. The important thing there is clarity. If your viewers can see what it is you’re doing on screen, that’s good enough. If you can relatively easily switch to 4K, by all means, do it. If it’s going to be too difficult or expensive, don’t worry about it.
The same can be said for most types of channel, actually. For the most part, the benefits of moving to 4K right now are not big enough to warrant the cost and effort involved. But are there any types of channel where switching to 4K should be considered a priority? As a matter of fact, yes. Any channel where the viewing experience is paramount should consider getting onto 4K as soon as possible. This is as much for future-proofing your videos as it is for capturing current viewers. Videos like this tend to be evergreen—that is, they remain relevant long after they are uploaded. An example of such a video might be nature videos or aerial drone footage.
In two years, if somebody wants to watch “3 hours of serene woodland ambience”, they are not going to care if your video is two years old, but they might care if it is only available in 1080p when everything else is in 4K.
Tips When Switching to 4K
So you’ve decided that 4K is a good move for your channel? Great! Here are some things to think about.
We’ve touched on it a little in this post. For better or worse, 4K video offers considerably more detail, which means your viewers will be able to make things out that they wouldn’t before.
If you like to look good on your stream, you might need to up your prep game. You should also take special care to make sure there is nothing in the shot that you don’t want public. This can include address labels, serial numbers, and any other potentially sensitive information.
You should do this anyway, of course, but the chances of a viewer being able to read the address on a label a few metres behind you in 1080p are pretty slim. Not so much with 4K.
Scale Up Your Text
This applies mostly to videos where text is a significant part of the content, such as with software tutorials. It’s important to remember that, while the resolution may be 4x larger than 1080p, the screens that your video is being viewed on are not.
Or, to put it another way, the same text that is legible on a 24″ 1080p screen will be 4x smaller on a 24″ 4K screen.
When you make the switch to 4K, you will need to rethink your various designs, such as end screens and lower thirds. Any text that would have been considered small in 1080p will need increasing in size when you switch to 4K.
Let People Know
If you are going to make the switch to 4K, be sure to let people know. This can be as simple as adding an “in 4K” to the end of your video title, and certainly tagging it and mentioning it in the description.
You will now be offering a type of content that is rare, so you want to capture that niche audience while you can.
The price of 4K equipment—both recording and watching—will continue to drop as it becomes more prevalent. There will come a time when the switch to 4K will not be as difficult as it is now.
That being said, there is an element of “getting in on the ground floor” about being a 4K YouTuber in 2020, and it could be a great way to gain extra subscribers that might not otherwise have checked out your channel.
Still, it is not a cheap transition to make. If that leap is too big for you at this moment in time, don’t sweat it. Most of us are watching in 1080p anyway.
Top 5 Tools To Get You Started on YouTube
Very quickly before you go here are 5 amazing tools I have used every day to grow my YouTube channel from 0 to 30K subscribers in the last 12 months that I could not live without.
1. VidIQ helps boost my views and get found in search
I almost exclusively switched to VidIQ from a rival in 2020.
2. Adobe Creative Suite helps me craft amazing looking thumbnails and eye-catching videos
I have been making youtube videos on and off since 2013.
When I first started I threw things together in Window Movie Maker, cringed at how it looked but thought “that’s the best I can do so it’ll have to do”.
I soon realized the move time you put into your editing and the more engaging your thumbnails are the more views you will get and the more people will trust you enough to subscribe.
That is why I took the plunge and invested in my editing and design process with Adobe Creative Suite. They offer a WIDE range of tools to help make amazing videos, simple to use tools for overlays, graphics, one click tools to fix your audio and the very powerful Photoshop graphics program to make eye-catching thumbnails.
Best of all you can get a free trial for 30 days on their website, a discount if you are a student and if you are a regular human being it starts from as little as £9 per month if you want to commit to a plan.
3. Rev.com helps people read my videos
You can’t always listen to a video.
Maybe you’re on a bus, a train or sat in a living room with a 5 year old singing baby shark on loop… for HOURS. Or, you are trying to make as little noise as possible while your new born is FINALLY sleeping.
This is where Rev can help you or your audience consume your content on the go, in silence or in a language not native to the video.
Rev.com can help you translate your videos, transcribe your videos, add subtitles and even convert those subtitles into other languages – all from just $1.50 per minute.
A GREAT way to find an audience and keep them hooked no matter where they are watching your content.
4. PlaceIT can help you STAND OUT on YouTube
I SUCK at making anything flashy or arty.
I have every intention in the world to make something that looks cool but im about as artistic as a dropped ice-cream cone on the web windy day.
That is why I could not live on YouTube without someone like PlaceIT. They offer custom YouTube Banners, Avatars, YouTube Video Intros and YouTube End Screen Templates that are easy to edit with simple click, upload wizard to help you make amazing professional graphics in minutes.
Best of all, some of their templates are FREE! or you can pay a small fee if you want to go for their slightly more premium designs (pst – I always used the free ones).
5. StoryBlocks helps me add amazing video b-roll cutaways
I mainly make tutorials and talking head videos.
And in this modern world this can be a little boring if you don’t see something funky every once in a while.
I try with overlays, jump cuts and being funny but my secret weapon is b-roll overlay content.
I can talk about skydiving, food, money, kids, cats – ANYTHING I WANT – with a quick search on the StoryBlocks website I can find a great looking clip to overlay on my videos, keeping them entertained and watching for longer.
They have a wide library of videos, graphics, images and even a video maker tool and it wont break the bank with plans starting from as little as £8.25 ($9) per month.