4K Video: A Guide to Understanding 4K Video

At one time, a TV was a TV. Then came 720i and 720p, followed by 1080i and 1080p. Now, 4K video has been around for a while. But what exactly does the 4K mean? If you learned what the 720 and 1080 meant, you may have the wrong idea about what 4K video is, or be confused entirely. In this post, we'll explain the new nomenclature, so you can understand what is meant by 4K video.

What is 4K video?

TVs originally had very little bandwidth available to draw a picture with. They drew a picture that was about 485 vertical lines tall. Because they couldn't draw very fast, they'd draw every odd row one frame and every even row the next. This drawing scheme is called interlaced. When high definition sets first became available, they increased the vertical resolution to 720 lines. 720i refers to interlaced video with 720 vertical lines. 720p refers to progressive scanned video. With progressive scan, the entire 720 lines are drawn all at once. 1080i and 1080p increased those vertical lines to 1080.

So, you may be forgiven if you think 4K video has 4000 vertical lines. But that's not the case. The nomenclature has changed. While a 720 TV has 1280 horizontal pixels, and a 1080 TV has 1920, a 4K display has 3840 horizontal lines and 2160 vertical lines. As you can see, the size is now measured in horizontal pixels, rounded up. All native 4K video is progressive scan.

How to edit 4K video

Thankfully, 4K video has been around for a while now. Even most higher-end smartphones support recording video in the format. This means that most of the video editing software you'll find supports the resolution. Still, some older and cheaper software may only support 1080p and below. This is especially true of some of the online video editors you'll find.

Choosing a 4K video editor

With so many choices to choose from, you'll need some idea on how to get started picking the best video editor to use for your 4K video editing needs. Below are a list of criteria you should consider when making that decision.

  • Budget — Although it would be great if we could all afford the high-end equipment that major studios use, that often isn't the case. Finding software that fits within your budget is a great way to trim the list down.
  • Current Needs — What you plan on doing with your video plays a big role in the software you'll need. For basic editing, just about any software will do. As you add in the need for text or graphic overlays, fancy transitions, and visual effects, the list of software that will do the job shrinks.
  • Future proofing — One thing to remember when making a purchase is that your current needs may not be your future needs. As you grow into video editing, you may find yourself needing more advanced features. It's good to buy software you can grow into, so you aren't spending more money down the road and spending time learning new software.
  • Ease-of-use — Even if you could afford the highest end software available, you may find yourself in over your head. Picking software that you can grow into is a great idea, but you should also ensure that the learning curve isn't so steep you never get started properly.


If you need an editor for your 4K video, we invite you to try Roxio Creator. With its ease of use and power, we're so confident that it'll fit your needs that we offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. In addition to editing your 4K video, Roxio Creator will allow you to burn that video to disk, convert to and from popular formats, and share it with your friends over a variety of media platforms. 

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