When Will We Get 4K? The Bigger Picture

We have both 4K cameras and 4K televisions, so what’s wrong with this picture? The problem lies within our broadcasting/streaming infrastructure. This problem is bandwidth. With 4K video we have a file size that is around 4 times the size of a standard high definition image and that creates a problem when trying to stream video over our inefficient infrastructure.

HD v 4K videoIn order to gain a better understanding of 4K it is important to look at some of the benefits and challenges of this new technology from the perspective of content creators and consumers. By analyzing 4K from these two perspectives we can begin to understand the benefits and challenges of this upgraded resolution as well as the explanation to why we’re not ready for it yet.

Ok, so if we can’t view content 4K due to our lack of a strong bandwidth, then what’s the point of 4K? This brings me to some of the benefits from the perspective of content creators. Shooting video in 4K leads to so many more opportunities in the post-production process of a video.

First, shooting in 4K produces an image with higher dynamic range ( HDR) which gives the video better contrast, better color, and overall, a sharper and more detailed image. This in itself allows for maximum flexibility during the post-production process in terms of color correction/grading which is very common in broadcast and cinematic content.

Second, since we broadcast and stream video content in 1920 x 1080 (High Definition) this means that content creators have the option of zooming in and reframing shots in post-production since they have an image that is 4096 x 2160 which is able to be downscaled to fit into the 1920 x 1080 frame. This results in a sharper image and allows for consumers to be closer to their TVs with limited loss in quality.

4K in sportsOne of the most common uses of 4K and zooming is in sports broadcasts. A lot of sports broadcasts use 4K as a way to show replays in a higher quality than the standard HD that we are used to. We are able to see a zoomed in version of a specific detail in a replay and still view it in 1080p because of the extra pixels offered to us through the use of 4K.

In terms of the benefits to the consumers regarding 4K it’s pretty simple: better image quality. Once 4K becomes a standardized resolution, we will have a better, more cinematic viewing experience from the increase in pixels. The great news is that these 4K TVs are priced similarly to standard HDTVs, so they are definitely an option for the consumer wanting to purchase a new TV. Unfortunately, there isn’t much content to view in 4K unless you record it yourself, so it is essentially a waiting game until the issue with bandwidth usage is addressed.

Although 4K faces some challenges, the media industry is working to develop more efficient codecs like H.265 to decrease the amount of bandwidth required by 4K video to allow for the streaming of high quality content. Still, although it won’t happen anytime soon, broadcasting in 4K is inevitable.

After learning about the benefits and challenges of this new technology from the perspective of content creators and consumers, what impact do you think 4K will have on the television and film industry?

Kyle Stoutenberg

5 thoughts on “When Will We Get 4K? The Bigger Picture

  1. It will be interesting to see how the industry changes with the eventual addition of 4K to media. There will obviously be more demand for 4K displays as the broadcast technology becomes more available. I would assume that customers would (at least initially) have to pay a premium subscription fee to access 4K content. I would also be interested to know if the physical cables need to be replaced for this to happen. Can a normal fiber-optic cable support 4K?

  2. 4K can be amazing to look at, but as far as 4K on your home TV, I don’t see it being anything more than a gimmick for the next five years or so. There’s no reason to spend an extra couple thousand dollars for a 4K TV when all you can watch on it is YouTube. Eventually it will be completely worth it, when we develop a more effective way to store 4K footage, but right now we just don’t have the capability.

  3. Interesting article here. I have been very interested with the visual upgrades that come out seemingly each year. HD was awesome and 4k is just mind blowing. Rumors of 8K around the door is just insane. It makes me wonder when will we get to the point where we can no longer perceive what is going on!

  4. I think that 4k is a beautiful thing, the fact that I can use my Sony camera and shoot in 4k so that I can crop the image in post and then scale it down to have a better image is amazing. However, it all comes at a cost. The biggest being file size and then the next is bandwidth. Since America, overall, has such a terrible internet service 4k can’t be standardized in the near future due to corporations limiting our speeds for profit. But once that limit is removed I think that 4k will easily be a standard with how much it is growing. And I think with it’s growth it will force those corporations to improve their services since everyone has their hands in the others pockets.

  5. 4K looks brilliant in person but we just don’t have the internet infrastructure in too many parts of this country for it to be viable right now. Hell, I still have problems streaming HD Youtube sometimes…let alone 4K.

    This technology will catch on, it’s going to take longer than we think though. I’m still holding out on watching Breaking Bad until I can watch it in 4K though. I’m standing by that.

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