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How to Understand Digital Video Terms

What should you keep in mind when taking or editing digital videos?

By
Eric Escobar,
June 16, 2016
Episode #225

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Taking and editing video is a great way to share and preserve memories. Like anything digital, though, there are some terms that often can lead to confusion, or just make it seem more complicated than it actually is.

Confusing Terms

If you’re cruising the internet and you’re trying to compare your smartphone camera to a Sioeye, or GoPro, there are going to be a lot of terms to compare—most of which are highly abbreviated and therefore meaningless to anyone who isn’t familiar with what the abbreviations mean.

What Are 1080p, 720p, 4k, 2.7k?

If you see a number abbreviated with a ‘p’ or a ‘k,’ there’s a good chance that term is referring to resolution. You can think of resolution as how many dots appear on the screen. If you were to start at the top of your screen and count all of the dots from top to bottom, that is the number you would see advertised. 1080p is full high definition. The 1080 means that there are one thousand and eighty pixels vertically. In actuality, the resolution is 1080 pixels high and 1920 wide. So when you see 720p or 1080p, just know that those numbers mean vertical pixels.

What’s the difference between ‘k’ and ‘p’ though? In the metric system, k refers to thousand. When you look at 4k video, it means that there are four thousand pixels vertically. It would be exactly the same thing as saying 4000p. So when you’re comparing TV and computer monitor resolutions, you can multiply the ‘k’ by a thousand to convert to pixels.

So why does all of this talk of pixels’ matter? Well, if you’re buying a TV or computer monitor, the more pixels the crisper the image and better quality overall. However, all the extra pixels mean a lot more data. As a general rule of thumb, most digital TV subscriptions will have 1080p channels, and some 4k channels.  

When it comes to cameras, I always opt for the highest resolution possible. This is because you’ll get the highest resolution picture. Just keep in mind that when you buy a camera with the ability to record 1080p and 4k video that the higher resolution means that you’ll have much larger video files. If you’re concerned about file size, you can always make the files smaller by converting to a smaller resolution. However, you can never increase resolution. Think of it like a song, you can cut 30 seconds off of the end to make it shorter, but you can’t magically add 30 seconds to a song.

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