I’ve Converted to 4K (But Should Your TV Convert, Too?)

I didn’t believe the 4K hype.

4K, or Ultra High Definition, will supposedly create a new way of shooting and viewing video images through its use of 8,294,400 pixels, as compared to high definition’s 2,073,600. This means a clearer picture with more vivid colors.

4K format size
A comparison of various video size formats.

Now I believe.

My conversion came as I stood between a 4K television and a 90-inch HDTV. The biggest television I’d ever seen looked like standard definition in comparison.

Before rushing out and buying a 4K screen, we must consider the different arguments for and against 4K and the implications 4K has on technologies such as gaming and smartphones. But first, let’s look at the basics of 4K, and at whether consumers truly want this technology…

What is 4K?

handycamThere are three components that determine the resolution we see—the content, the player, and the screen. The image will only be as clear as the lowest-definition signal. In order to get 4K, you must have content filmed (or remastered) at 4K resolution. Some films have been rescaled into 4K, and others are now being shot in 4K. Sony has created a 4K consumer camera for users to create their own UltraHD videos. In order to view 4K, you also need a 4K player in order to output UHD video to 4K screens. This can be via a device such as Sony’s 4K media player, which plays content downloaded from the Internet, or via a future device that would play 4K broadcast signals, if and when those are developed. Finally, in order to get 4K, you need a UHD screen in order to see 4K clarity.

Obviously, 4K still is far from making their products completely consumer friendly and easy to adapt.

Do People Actually Care?

Some say 4K will revolutionize media. Others think it’s a ploy to sell more products and make people believe their HDTVs are obsolete.

What my eyes saw in that television showroom didn’t lie—4K is beautiful and more realistic than any previous resolution I’ve seen.

Yet, others say the human eye cannot perceive the high 4K resolution when viewing from six to ten feet away.

Additionally, the average consumer may not even understand 4K. The Leichtman Research Group conducted a March 2014 study, finding only 30% of its subjects had ever even heard of 4K, and only one-third of that 30% had actually seen a 4K set.

However, it still appears that consumers may want 4K TVs.

“We’ve been selling quite a few. (The customers) come in and see the great picture and it’s a little hard for them to not buy it with how great it is,” said Terry Root, owner of Maximum Sight and Sound in Waterloo, Iowa. “The only thing that’ll probably keep them from buying it is the cost.”

The price of a 55-inch 4K screen at Maximum Sight and Sound is $3,000. Smaller, 40-inch models are $1,500, though Root has seen prices on all the 4K TVs dropping.

Professionals are learning to incorporate 4K into their workflows.

Prairie Lakes Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa uses a Canon 1DC 4K DSLR for their video production. They don’t distribute content in 4K, but make use of the high resolution, letting them digitally crop and zoom shots while still maintaining 100% quality. This creates the perception of multiple camera angles when it is solely the 4K camera filming.

“4K has been great for us, but it’s just a matter of upgrading the rest of our gear to work with it… I had to upgrade a lot of my computing hardware just because it’s such a huge data rate,” said Matt Miller, PLC Creative Video and Media Coordinator. “I use 128GB cards that were the fastest you could buy, and it gives me a half hour recording time.”

TVMiller feels that many people do not know what 4K means, and that consumers are generally slower to adopt what is used in the film industry.

I believe 4K technology will inevitably become the standard, such as High Definition has—but not for at least several years. Right now, 4K may be great for the user who can understand its limitations and handle its possibilities. Lower prices are more attractive, but there needs to be content, and a way to deliver that content easily before people will ride this bandwagon. But first, consumers need to have ways to view and learn more about 4K before they buy, whether this is done through advertising or increased awareness through other channels.

So what about you? Do you want 4K technologies? And will you be buying them soon?

Olivia Hottle

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