Why high resolution shouldn’t be a standard in modern cinema

4K should be a practical and artistic choice… not a requirement.

By Meg Shields Published 28 January 2022

Welcome to The Queue – your daily distraction of curated video content from across the web. Today we’re watching a video essay explaining why higher resolution isn’t always a good thing.

As consumers, we have been taught to accept this technology which is bigger, more expensive and more recent is generally better. Heck, one of the reasons physical media keeps kicking and screaming is the oh-so-marketable two-letter phrase: “4K remaster.” Does anybody ask for a high resolution treatment by Dennis Donnelly The toolbox Murders? Who’s to say?

In digital cinema, resolution describes the amount of information contained in a given frame. And you’d be forgiven for assuming that more pixels = better. After all, who would not Want a sharper, more detailed image? But the fact is, when it comes to art, it’s only because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Resolution, like other tricky behind-the-scenes specs like focal length and lighting, is both a practical and artistic choice. Realistically, not all filmmakers can afford the equipment, processing power, or storage hardware required by high-definition photography. From a more artistic point of view, there are many reasons why a director or cinematographer might not to want a high resolution look.

Some movies mimic the visual look of bygone eras of cinema, mandythe painterly use of film grain to Guy MaddinIt’s, uh, the whole career. That’s to say nothing of the annoying fact that higher resolution means dealing with the annoyance of stretched pores, forgotten waterfall threads, and visible wig lines.

As the video test below demonstrates, high resolution should be seen as a choice rather than an expectation. It’s just another mode of expression. And like visible film grain and simulated 8mm enlargements, it serves some stories better than others.

Watch “Why isn’t high resolution always a good thing?” :

Who did this?

This video essay on why high resolution in movies isn’t always a good thing is from Cine in depth, a YouTube account dedicated to providing its audience with hands-on insights and explanations into some of the more technical aspects of filmmaking. Kotze Gray, a South African-based documentary DP, is the man behind the channel. You can view Kotzé’s portfolio on their website here. And you can check out In Depth Cine on YouTube here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor to Film School Rejects. She currently directs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How’d They Do That? and Horroscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman’s “Excalibur” on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She she).