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4K is no longer that rare video resolution available to select power editors and filmmaking enthusiasts. Let’s see what 4K footage is, how to download 4K videos for free, and how to use 4K clips in creative ways.
Defining 4K Footage
What is 4K in the online video and TV world? Is it the same as Ultra High Definition (UHD)? How different is it from High Definition (HD) footage? Here are 4 basic steps to define 4K footage:
The resolution of 4K footage refers to the number of pixels used to display an image on a digital monitor or a TV screen.
We are used to HD (1080p), which is 1920 x 1080. With 4K the story is more complex. Digital videos (digital TV and digital cinematography) use several 4K resolutions. Consumer media, including online videos, considers 3840 × 2160 or 4K UHD as its dominant 4K standard. The movie projection industry uses DCI 4K or 4096 × 2160 as its standard. You may also stumble upon a higher resolution 4096 x 3072 as DCI 4K.
In this article we’re using “4K” and “4K UHD” interchangeably when referring to 4K. Most video sites and packages with free 4K videos offer mainly 3840 × 2160 footage for download.
In addition to resolution, frame rate should also be compared when defining 4K footage. The more frames per second (FPS), the smoother motion and faster movements will look on screen. This will result in a better viewing experience for your viewers.
For professional video production, 24 fps is still standard for broadcast-grade content. 30fps or 60fps are used for online video distribution.
Take color depth into account when trying to define 4K footage. Greater color depth increases the richness of color displayed onscreen making each scene more vibrant and realistic. This has a positive impact on the viewer’s emotional response and engagement levels while watching the video on larger screens. For example, 8-bit vs 10-bit could make all the difference here – 10 bit allows for millions more shades which results in much smoother grading between colors. This does create more detailed images overall.
Unfortunately, 4K video files are large. Sites that share free 4K videos may only provide compressed footage due to bandwidth limits. Less compression results in higher video quality output with better visual effects. More compression could make the 4K video look pixilated or grainy as more data is lost in export.
Benefits of 4K Footage
In today’s visual world, it can be difficult to stand out and make an impact with your content. The 4K resolution can help your videos stand out. Here are the key benefits of using 4K footage that will help give your content a professional edge:
Crystal Clear Image Quality
The best thing about 4K footage is the incredibly clear image quality. With four times the detail of HD video resolution, 4K has quickly become the standard for professional video production. With its high levels of image accuracy and sharpness, you can capture and show small details that are often lost in footage of lower resolutions.
Footage in 4K allows you to produce videos that have been previously impossible due to lower resolution technology limitations. From capturing slow-motion shots or incredible timelapses, to having flexibility for detailed zooming in post-production – 4K footage opens new creative opportunities for filmmakers and video editors.
Same High Quality Across Devices
Scaling to larger screens is one of the major challenges when watching content created in HD. Details are often compromised because they were not captured in higher resolution formats. With 4K footage, all those small details are retained, which allows your projects to look sharp and vivid regardless of what device they’re viewed on.
With more pixels available in 4K footage vs 1080p or 720p, you have more data to enhance your video project during the editing process.
Free 4K Video Resources
We have 10 sources of high-quality 4K videos that you can download for free. They range from free video sites to packs of videos clips from the popular paid video stock libraries. No matter where you get your free 4K footage, the rule of thumb is to check the licensing and permissions for using the footage. Some free sites may have restrictions to how far you can go with the free footage.
In the collection of sites and packs below you will have access to thousands of free 4K videos. The main caveat with these videos is their compression (which is too high at times). Nonetheless, these videos are all great for online video projects created for social media or YouTube.
We already talked about Dareful as a good source of 4K footage. You can download over 300 high-quality 4K video clips for free on this site. Their licensing is highly permissive, which is great. Some 4K clips may be compressed, though.
Pixels claims to have over 6,000 free videos in 4K. The videos are all free, but it will take some time to go over the best stuff and find the gems. Pexels does not have a 4K filter in its search, but you can see the video resolution on the video’s thumbnail. Take a look here.
Pixabay has over 1,000 video clips that are marked as 4K. They are all free (except for the ones at the top of each page, which are sponsored videos). Like Pexels, you can see the video resolution on the video thumbnail. Discover the free footage here.
Videezy has a couple of thousand of free video clips in 4K. You can search on Videezy and apply the “4K” filter to narrow your video search down to 4K footage only.
Videvo also boasts of hosting thousands of free 4K videos. The site has a 4K filter for video search, which is great! The only caveat is that your 4K video searches will be a mix of free videos and PRO videos (paid video subscription on Videvo).
If you need an aerial scene or b-roll to your video project, Dronestock offers a couple of hundreds of free drone videos. Most of their videos are in 4K. The videos are covered by the Creative Commons license.
Rocketstock, a site offering After Effects templates, has a couple of packs with 4K videos. You can download free space backgrounds and light leaks in 4K.
Shutterstock Free Footage
Shutterstock, a massive library of creative assets, has two free video packs with 4K footage. You can get 40 free video clips by signing up for a free account. You can also download another free video pack without signing up. Both packs include 4K videos.
PremiumBeat Free Overlays
PremiumBeat, a royalty-free music library, has a valuable pack of free fog overlays. The overlays are all in 4K.
Mitch Martinez’ Videos
This old collection from Mitch Martinez was shot on RED back 8-9 years ago. The 4K footage is free. Take a look and download the videos if they are a good match for your project.
Best Practices for Using Free 4K Footage
Now that you have access to thousands of free 4K videos from the above sites, let’s talk about some best practices in using your newly downloaded 4K clips. Transitioning 4K clips into great visual stories may present some unique challenges that we want to talk about.
Unique Properties of 4K Footage
If you are used to editing videos in HD, 4K is a different beast. 4K footage consists of a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels – that’s four times more pixels than HD (1080p) and sixteen times more than Standard Definition (SD). So, you get much higher levels of detail, color depth, and clarity in each frame.
Use Appropriate Editing Software
In terms of editing software, make sure to use one that natively supports 4K resolutions such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X. Don’t try to scale up HD footage or downscale your 4K footage as this will degrade the quality of the image.
Use Appropriate Hardware
In terms of hardware, make sure your computer has enough power (both memory and GPU) to work with 4K footage. Rendering and exporting 4K edits may be a time-consuming task if your machine is not up to the task.
It’s also important to have a monitor supporting true high-definition formats (4K/UHD). Such a monitor is a must-have during both playback and final video export processes.
Making the Most of Your Free 4K Footage
If you want to make the most out of your free 4K footage, the good news is that it doesn’t need to be intimidating. With the right tools and approaches, you can easily maximize the potential of this high-resolution video format and create more stunning and eye-catching videos. Here are some tips to get the most of 4K.
Study Color Theory
When making use of 4K footage, it’s important to make use of color theory correctly to get the best results possible for your video project. Make sure you understand concepts like color saturation, contrast, color temperature and hue so that you can apply them effectively in post product for optimal results.
Search for 4K Footage with Good Lighting
Good lighting is essential when shooting 4K footage to take advantage of its potential in edit. Pay attention to how the video was shot before downloading it. If shot outdoors during the golden hour or with artificial lighting such as LED lights or ring lights, the 4K footage should retain its crispness even under low light conditions and make your life easier in edit.
Video Editing Tips
Video post-processing techniques such as color grading, denoising and sharpening should be applied carefully when working with 4K footage. In the end you want to retain its resolution without any negative effects on quality or performance. Certain plugins may be required depending on what editing software you choose to use.
Use Professional Video Output Settings
Make sure that you output your video using professional settings such as H.265 / HEVC for compression. Such settings will ensure optimal results when uploading online or preparing for other types of video delivery methods (like DVD). You will still need to make sure that the settings are in line with the video requirements if you plan to only use the video online, like on Instagram for example.
Professional settings ensure that your viewers will still enjoy that perfect viewing experience no matter what device they’re on to watch the video.
Need more videos in 4K? Check out our collections that include free 4K videos: