Wander down to your local electronics boutique and you’re sure to find a selection of commanding 4K TVs, just begging to take over your living room. If TV doesn’t cut it, a new breed of computer monitor, newer iMacs and even virtual reality headsets are all going 4K – but there’s just one problem.
Content is sparse. The latest games consoles only output a 1080p image, and you’ll need to spend serious money on a couple of high-end graphics cards if you’re hoping to enjoy the upcoming GTA V in 4K.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing in 4K to watch. We’ve trawled high and low and found some eye-popping 4K videos that take full advantage of the ridiculous number of pixels at your disposal, for free.
Note: You can enable 4K by clicking on YouTube’s quality toggle in the lower-right corner of the embedded video.
93 Minutes of Open Ocean
Remember those 1080p looping fireplace videos that were all the rage when high definition first landed? It appears that this is the natural progression – over an hour and a half of the South China Sea, with no breaks, no repetition and unfortunately nothing in the way of sound. Zen? Pointless? Who cares, just look at all that blue…
In the same vein as documentaries like Samsara and Baraka (each of which peak at 1080p), Biosphere is a narrative-free documentary that takes an observant view of life on planet earth. Beautifully shot in glorious 4K, see Canada, Bhutan, Papa New Guinea and Chile in stupendous definition, with a fitting ambient soundtrack to boot.
The Streets of Japan by GoPro
You’ve probably heard by now that GoPro’s latest HERO4 Black “strap it to your face and jump off a mountain” action-camera is capable of shooting in 4K at 30 frames per second. I can’t think of a better way to experience Japan’s bonkers custom motorcycle and four-wheeled Bosozoku scenes than through an arsenal of imaginatively-mounted GoPro cameras.
Peru & Machu Picchu
Devin Super Tramp‘s YouTube channel is a bounty of ultra HD video, and it’s well worth a trawl (and a follow) if you’re looking for short, sharp bursts of 4K content. Of the videos on his channel, one that really stood out is the result of a recent trip to Peru and its most famous landmark, Machu Picchu.
New York in 4K
Around The World 4K is a new international YouTube project focused on capturing every corner of the world in ultra high definition, “for the pleasure and entertainment of our dear viewers” over the coming two years. They’ve stopped off in Chicago, the Grand Canyon, the Sedona and Monument valleys and their most popular video to date, New York.
The Sun & The Earth
Advances in space photography have enabled us to capture some incredibly impressive sights of distant galaxies, star clusters and cosmic phenomena on the fringes of the known universe. Point the lens closer to home however, and the results are just as impressive. Take this 4K timelapse video of the sun from October 14th to October the 30th 2014, complete with the largest observed sunspot in 22 years and backed by the sun’s “heartbeat”.
Similarly impressive is this timelapse of the Earth, captured by the Elektro-L weather satellite between May 15th and May 19th 2011. Though this is 4K quality (3840×2160 pixels), the satellite itself is capable of creating a 121 megapixel image at a size of 11136×11136 pixels, with a version half that size available on request.
Gigapixels of Andromeda
Your HDTV doesn’t just do wonders for video, but also images. What better image to explore than the largest one ever taken by NASA? This 4.3 GB, 1.5 billion pixel-rich shot of the Andromeda galaxy features over 100 million stars, thousands of star clusters and a total visible area of 40,000 light-years. And if you want to feel really small this is just one galaxy – hundreds of billions of other galaxies also exist.
Check out the full image to further blow your mind.
For more on this, check out how 4K compares to other resolutions and find out which is best between Chromecast Ultra, Apple TV 4K, Roku Ultra, and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton (University of Washington, USA), B. F. Williams (University of Washington, USA), L. C. Johnson (University of Washington, USA), the PHAT team, and R. Gendler. (Adapted)