Sochi opening

Should we start forking out for 4K?

Now that 3D television is all but dead, it seems that 4K or Ultra High Definition is now the big push from TV manufacturers. This is evident from last September’s IBC and the recent Consumer Electronics Show in the US.

We are now being persuaded to pay lots of money to buy 4K televisions, but to what purpose? There is no 4K content for home viewing. The film industry has been using 4K for some years both for scanning film and digital projection and now that 4K television-style cameras are available, some broadcasters are considering shooting in 4K to ensure their archive is futureproof.

Why move to 4K? Clearly as screens get larger and viewing distance shorter, then the benefits of increased resolution are clear. However the downside is that with increased resolution motion portrayal gets worse. Work is now in progress looking at using increased frame rates, but of course this increases the bandwidth requirement of distribution systems even more. Nonetheless, new high-efficiency compression techniques are emerging that will help, but what do compression algorithms do? They throw away unnecessary detail and resolution.

Having said that, the opening ceremony (pictured) for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics was covered in 4K. The games run until 23 February, and Panasonic said that the 4K footage would then be used by them and other organisations for promotional purposes.

It took 20 years to introduce High Definition, and most people are still viewing in Standard Definition. So don’t expect universal adoption of 4K just yet…

Neil Dormand, Technical Consultant, CBA

Originally published in Transmission, CBA’s newsletter on technical matters, sign up on the front page

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