Ultra High Definition – 4K is Coming to a Screen Near You!

If you’ve just bought a new telly you may want to look away now because you’re state of the art full HD plasma or LED TV is soon to be superceeded by the next generation of 4K, Ultra HD screens are just around the corner and you’re about to see lots more ladies smiling next to big screens!

Pretty Flowers in Ultra HD!

This will of course come of surprise to many, particularly those who swear they can’t see the difference between standard definition (SD) and glourious HD.
So what exactly is 4K?

For those who don’t speak in video acronyms it’s best to start by explaining what you’re probably looking at in the corner of your living room today. A “Full HD” TV is often referred to as 1080p. 1080 is the number of vertical lines on the screen and your TV will have 1920 horizontal lines. This means the resolution is 1920×1080. Before all of this there was SD which in the UK is 720×576.

Ultra HD is simply the next jump in resolution up to a whipping 3840×2160, 4 times the number of pixels of 1080p!

With the demand for bigger and better, it may not be long until 8K resoultion screens are the standard. At CES recently Sharp had a glourious 85″ 8K screen on show!

As tempting as it might be to list your current TV on ebay and go out and buy a new Ultra HD screen, you’re going to have to invest a lot of cash if you want to jump on the 4K wagon today. Although manufactures are starting to produce models, the prices are prohibitively expensive for most of us.

In July 2010, Panasonic were one of the first to release a 4K plasma however most people couldn’t fit it in their houses or even offices! The whopping 152″ TH-152UX1 retails for half a million Pounds. If you’re looking to hire this for an event however, let us know after double checking it’ll fit through the door and we’ll be only too happy to send you a quote!

There have also been several 4K projectors on the market for a couple of years. The majority of these from Barco, NEC and Sony are large digital cinema machines however if you’re after the best for home cinema a budget of £10K – £20K will bag you a Sony or JVC model.

At the CES (Consumer Electronics Association) expo in Las Vegas in 2012, a number of manufactures including Sony, Toshiba, LG and Samsung unveiled their Ultra HD panels. The majority being offered are on the big size, Song and LG’s sets for example are 84″ and you’ll need around £20000 if you want to buy one today.

Other than the high price tag, another very good reason to wait is the lack of 4K content. At present, unless you have a broadcast camera such as a RED which shoots in native 4K all you’ll have to watch is upscaled 1080p content. The lack of a defined broadcast standard is also cause for concern and something LG chose to put in the small print of a recent press release;

No “ultra high definition” or “4K’ content is currently available. No broadcast or other standard currently exists for “4K’ or “ultra high definition” television and the 84LM9600 may or may not be compatible with such standards if and when developed.

Technology has a habit of catching up though and on 8 January 2013 satellite TV operator Eutelsat launched a demo of Europe’s first 4K channel.

Media storage is also a big issue with 4K. When 1080p became the de-fact standard a new media format, the Blu-Ray took the place of the DVD and it looks like a new format will take over with Ultra HD too because a movie in 4K will just not fit onto a Blu-Ray disc!

Perhaps this will be the final nail in the coffin for disc based storage however. With the rise of internet TV services such as Netflix and the rise of super fast fibre broadband it maybe that TV broadcast and movies on discs will become a thing of the past?

One very important thing to remember after all is that resolution is not everything. Just because a screen is higher resolution does not necessarily mean that the image will look better. Brightness, contrast and colour accuracy are extremely important. Next time you’re passing a TV retailer (if they haven’t all gone into administration when this is published) take a look at the difference in image quality between the cheap and cheerful sets and the premium models.

Another factor that may govern super-high resolution technology is viewing distance. Simply stated, if you’re sitting too far from the set you’re never going to see the difference anyway!

We’re likely to see a lot of news about Ultra HD in the coming months but you can be sure that the AV industry is going to be some of the first to put it to use.