Video Resolution and Image Megapixels Requirements

Understanding image output requirements ensures you select the right equipment for capturing video and photographic content, and helps properly estimate storage and post production resources needed to deliver a quality product.

I had a project recently(early 2018) where I needed to deliver numerous videos and photographic images for marketing purposes. The images needed to be suitable for both the Internet, and for printing.

I was asked to evaluate the current state of the market for 4K Video Production, and current trends for digital marketing.

I needed to estimate storage needs(cloud based & local), and determine what equipment to purchase to capture the video and still images, and for post production editing.

I am turning my research on the subject into a blog post for future reference.

Starting with video, I researched resolution of current video standards. The first graphic shows the relative size difference of various video formats.

Video Resolution Megapixels

If you’re planning your next shoot or looking into a video marketing investment, you’ve probably considered 4K or higher. Over the past few years, 4K video has gained quite a bit of popularity.

Youtube started supporting 4K at 60fps video uploads in 2013, and 8K video uploads in 2015. Although understandably small as a proportion of the whole YouTube ingest profile, these formats are still significant and we noticed that the take-up is accelerating.

We were hoping to standardize on 4K video until we discovered that 1 minute of 4K video uncompressed is 32GB in size. 20 minutes of video filmed at 1080, using the Apple ProRes 422 HQ codec, will take about 20 GB of storage space. Using the same codec, 20 minutes of 4K video will take about 200 GB of space.

I would be filming several interviews plus lots of B-roll which would result in several terabytes of raw video files.

Since none of our existing video cameras and drones could capture 4K video, this meant purchasing all new video equipment. After estimating the cost to capture and edit 4K video we elected to go with Full HD(1920 x 1080) for now(early 2018).

I know I will be moving to 4K video in the near future.

I also had a requirement that our photographs were to be used in print campaigns. Some material would be printed at 300dpi, while other material required 600dpi.

I had to ensure that our images were being captured and stored at high enough resolutions to support printing at 600dpi without upscaling or pixel interpolation.

The following table illustrates the pixel resolution we need to support different size prints at different dot per inch targets.

Megapixels Pixel Resolution* Print Size @ 600ppi Print size @ 300ppi Print size @ 150ppi**
3 2048 x 1536 3.41″ x 2.56″ 6.82″ x 5.12″ 13.65″ x 10.24″
4 2464 x 1632 4.12″ x 2.72″ 8.21″ x 5.44″ 16.42″ x 10.88″
6 3008 x 2000 5.01″ x 3.34″ 10.02″ x 6.67″ 20.05″ x 13.34″
8 3264 x 2448 5.44″ x 4.08″ 10.88″ x 8.16″ 21.76″ x 16.32″
10 3872 x 2592 6.46″ x 4.32″ 12.91″ x 8.64″ 25.81″ x 17.28″
12 4290 x 2800 7.15″ x 4.67″ 14.30″ x 9.34″ 28.60″ x 18.67″
16 4920 x 3264 8.20″ x 5.44″ 16.40″ x 10.88″ 32.80″ x 21.76″
20(35mm film, scanned) 5380 x 3620 8.97″ x 6.03″ 17.93″ x 12.06″ 35.87″ x 24.13″
24  6016 x 4016  10.03″ x 6.69″  20.05″ x 13.39″   40.01″ x 26.78″
36 7360 x 4912 12.27″ x 8.19″ 24.53″ x 16.37″ 49.06″ x 32.74″

*Typical Resolution. Actual pixel dimensions vary from camera to camera.

**At 150ppi, printed images will have visible pixels and details will look “fuzzy”.

Each colored box represents a certain number of megapixels. The numbers along the top and left side are print dimensions in inches at 300ppi (pixels per inch). Most books and magazines require 300ppi for photo quality. For example, the chart shows that you can make a 5″ x 7″ photo quality print from a 3 megapixel camera.

inches @ 300ppi (numbers inside colored boxes are megapixels)

Print Megapixels Required

Notice that as the print size doubles, the megapixels required increases geometrically. You can make nice 8″ x 10″ prints with a 6 or 8 megapixel camera, but to make a true photo quality 16″ x 20″ print, you need between 24 and 30 megapixels. Don’t be fooled by manufacturers’ claims that say you can make 16″ x 20″ prints from an 8 megapixel camera. While you certainly can make a print that size, it will not be true photo quality.

Having gone through this exercise I was able to estimate what new equipment we would need, set some standards for capturing videos and images, and procure the required resources to edit and store the digital assets.

About the author: Craig Delger

Craig Delger has over 30 years experience with software development. He has founded numerous technology companies, and has worked for several publicly traded software companies including Red Hat and Microsoft. Craig has consulted with over 100 companies on Internet Technology and Internet Marketing. Craig is a long-time user and advocate of open source software. Learn more about Craig's background.