The 4K Future

It’s hard to ignore all the hype surrounding 4K technology. What is 4K? Is it a TV? Camera?  Projector?

4K isn’t the latest and greatest TV – though it is included in those – it’s a resolution and it’s trying to be the next big thing.  It measures pixels differently than previous HD technology, counting horizontal rather than vertical pixels – and it has 4 times the pixel resolution of previous technologies. What this means for the viewer of 4K resolution is a more engaging, incredible viewing experience that makes you feel as if you are there. This technology has actually been around for a while, but only recently did it start taking off at the consumer level.

While HD technology began developing in the early 2000s, 4K projectors came slightly later, gaining momentum with their entrance into theaters, in 2009, with the advent of James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” (and an entire planet of blue people that were apparently the best candidates to showcase 4K resolution).

4K cameras are used to shoot many movies and short videos (wasn’t the video of Myanmar amazing?). The advantage of a 4K camera comes with the incredible detail that is captured. Not only can you see intricate details such as every single drop of water on a leaf – usually lost by lower resolution cameras – but also the colors are richer and more vibrant. The great thing about 4K cameras is that it’s not just for professionals. There are cameras available for the average consumer so everyone can capture the details they want to see.

Currently, there is a debate on whether or not 4K TVs really make a difference. According to some, there is no visible difference between a 1080p (previously the highest resolution HD TV) and a 4K TV. CNET says they really only saw improvement in pixel resolution when a 4K device was used to record the material.

Another problem with 4K: the human eye was only able to discern a difference when sitting closer to the screen, or on larger screens – 55 inches or bigger. This does not mean 4K TVs are bad, in fact they may be the best LCD TVs to date. For consumers they just may not be worth the extra $1k (see what I did there?). Especially if TV producers have not updated their equipment to 4K technology.

This technology presents TV producers with a choice, is it worth it to update their equipment to 4k? Some TV producers at BBC have made the decision to update to 4K broadcasting methods in order to meet the demands of those in love with the 4K technology. Not only does this include physical updates, like new cameras and equipment, but also it requires updates such as increasing the frame rate.

nab-demonstrationTV producers should also be aware that there is a huge, and as yet untapped, opportunity for 4K technology in streaming TV shows. Digitaltrends claims streaming is the next, most successful outlet for 4K technology, an outlet that TV producers have ample opportunity to take advantage of. The main providers for streaming 4K content will be YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, and M-Go. YouTube has already begun to show results by allowing users to upload their own 4K videos, and Netflix’s series “House of Cards” gives a sample of what we should be seeing from them in the 4k future.

With all the buzz around 4K technology within the industry, it is no surprise that NAB 2014 was ripe with 4K resolution promotion and discussion. The argument for shooting in 4K or higher (6K or 8K), and later converting or transcoding to 1080p/HD in post-production is also a compelling argument for the value of the technology. This scenario alone could provide much more flexibility in post-production having access to such high resolution footage… in any event, there are new challenges and opportunities certainly coming this way.

Stay tuned at MediaShowroom for the latest news on great technologies.

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