At the moment, most clips sold by Microstock agencies are full HD:
- 1920 horizontal pixels x 1080 vertical pixels.
When I started producing stock footage in 2007, clips were sold in:
- Standard definition: sometimes 720×576 (Europe), sometimes 720×480 (USA and Japan).
Today, if you have a compatible TV, the program is shot in full HD, and the TV transmits in that resolution, then you are watching a video 1920×1080, which has a number of pixels five times bigger than the previous standard: 2.073.600 Vs 414.720.
4K or Ultra HD is the next generation of definition:
- About 4000×2000, usually 4096×2160 frame and sometimes 3840×2160
That means eight million pixels (4xFull HD).Wow!
Well, in life things are not always black or white. Grey is the color of the world, and I’m going to tell you why 4k is not as good as it seems. But this a blog about Microstock, so let’s start from the numbers. You can find this stat in the artist resources of pond5:
Full HD number of sales is 62.12% (79.7% of the sum, 1.28x ). 4k is just 4.04% (7.12% of the sum, 1,76x). As Pond5 also sells audio and photos, whose price is lower, it’s normal that both formats percentages are bigger if we are talking about sums, as they are more expensive (4k even more than full HD). Now the big question:
Is it worth creating stock footage in 4k?
According to me, the answer is: it was not in 2016, perhaps in 2017, probably in 2018, unless you have thousands of euros to be invested, not in the camera, which is already quite cheap, but in the editing hardware that you need to have if you want to use a professional workflow. Let me give you an example:
Last week I talked about this with a friend of mine who was trying to find how to make money with Microstock and thought 4k could be an easy way to earn more. He bought a new camera and made a 4k shooting. The problem is that he has a 3 year old computer, and the 4k video could not play smoothly (I’m just talking about the player, not the editing software that could be a problem even bigger).
After a couple of hours of continuous crashes, he gave up. He tried the low cost way and he lost a lot of time, exactly what you can’t do if you want to produce Microstock with a professional workflow.
The second scenario is:
- Spend your money and buy more powerful hardware.
Hard drives 4TB, latest version of your editing software (for Mac users: are you really sure you want to upgrade to FinalCutX?), an ultra HD monitor, the fastest internet speed you can have. The bill can be around 4/5 thousand Euro
Could it be a good idea?
At the moment not for me and not for my friend, who sent back the 4k camera he bought and continued producing full HD stock footage as he had always done before.
Now I make a statement that will surprise you:
If you are watching a video in an ultra HDTV 65 inch monitor and you’re more than two meters away from the screen, it is impossible that you notice if the video is
- 4k or just full HD.
How many people have this big of a screen at home? How many people watch TV less than two meters away?
I’m going to tell you:
In other words: only when you’re inside a movie theatre you will notice the difference, and there is more than an “if” even there:
- If films are shot in 4K
- If films are edited in 4K
- Of films are projected in 4k.
The problem is not stage one and three. The problem is editing, which is often made in full HD timelines, therefore what you see in theatres sometimes is a fake 4k.
Seventeen years ago I sold televisions in a big department store. At that time, brands like Sony, Samsung or Panasonic sold millions of monitors because they spent money to convince their customers they had to change their convex screens with flat screens. The funny thing is that a few years ago marketing has managed to convince consumers that they had to return to the curvature, this time a concave curvature. It’s not important what the real world is, what is important is what buyers want.
In Christmas 2018, stores will probably be selling only ultra HD TVs, but the most important question for a stock footage producer is:
In a couple of years will our buyers want only 4k content?
As I said before today, some 4k film is actually a full HD film, as producers don’t want to spend more money during editing to work with hardware that supports that resolution. Do you remember when Avatar was released? 3D seemed to become the standard for any video. Seven years after, can you say that this has happened?
Now I want to clarify: if we talk about time lapse and you create them with photo sequences, you can already export in 4k, at least if you shoot photos at 10 Megapixels or more. In other words, when in my After Effects tutorial I create the final composition, I said I created it with a resolution of 1920×1080 (full HD). If you want to create 4k stock footage instead, create it at 4096×2160.
It’s easy, but I believe that your computer, if it’s older than a couple of years, would have a great chance of crashing (and your Internet connection will take more time to send the footage to your cloud or to the agencies). In time-lapse, however, you can now export in full HD, and save the project to export in 4k when you will be ready to work with faster hardware and a faster internet connection. I can do that with my time-lapse shot in 2007, as they were already shot with a 12 Megapixels reflex (do you remember? 4k is eight Megapixels!), but at the moment I can’t spend my time on it, because I have better things to do.
There are still few economic benefits to sell 4k stock footage. Shutterstock has this selling price:
- 4k: sold for 199$
- Full HD: sold for 79$
It seems to be a great thing for a producer, but actually there are few buyers who want to pay 4k stock footage two and a half times what they pay for full HD. This is what I think now, but I can change my mind in the future.
Remember the story of the Champs-Elysées clip I shot in 2009? This one:
It’s still my Pond5 best seller ($1327.50 of royalties for me). In 2009, I was one of the first who created full HD stock footage, even if I worked with a Canon HV20 Mini-DV that was not a professional camera. That’s why I made so much money with that.
- Not for my technique
- Not for the subject
- Only because I decided to shoot in full HD before my competitors.
Producers wanted sharpness and color quality, buyers wanted resolution. Still today, I make few hundred dollars a year with that clip, while my standard definition collection doesn’t sell anymore.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ1000 costs about $800 on Amazon and creates videos in 4K. I never used it, but I’m quite sure that despite having so many pixels the image quality is poorer than that of an economic reflex, but buyers can’t notice:
Pond5 player has a low-resolution, is highly compressed and has a watermark in the middle. The same happens with Shutterstock and Videoblocks players. By the way: do you know the price of 4k stock footage on Videoblocks?
$199, about $191 for the producer
If you sell only four of them you’ve already paid for your Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ1000.
Now don’t tell me your ideas aren’t clearer than before…