Beware of 4K fever
4k and UHD really are the talk of the town just now and are bound to dominate IBC. The September issue of Euromedia, released at the show, contains a comprehensive survey of industry views on the technical validity and real time line of this ‘next generation’ high def era.
More than one observer warns it could be déjà ‘view’, all over again. We’ve been here before more than once. HD was majorly over promised by set manufacturers (always lighting fast to grab any display market refresher), but under delivered by content producers and, therefore, broadcasters. And some broadcasters are still consistently under delivering on bandwidth, so much so that it is often hard to tell the difference between HD and SD – not a good auger for 4K and beyond.
But HD is everywhere now, right, so what’s the problem? One, it isn’t everywhere; most developing markets are still SD. Two, in as much as it is ‘everywhere’ now, it took a lot longer than the predictions on its introduction in 2008-9 would have had you believe. Those predictions sounded a lot like the 4K forecasts we have today. Just saying.
And then there’s 3D TV. Or, rather, there isn’t. Hamstrung by competing formats, expensive production and a sense, that it never really shook off, that it was a solution in search of a problem, 3D was doomed. Only the desperate whistling in the dark of the CE makers and a handful of over enthusiastic broadcasters kept it in the limelight for as long it was.
It was a technology made for cinema and even there its credibility was worn thin by the high ticket prices charged for cynical 3D bolt-on or retrofit botch jobs. By the time many of us realised 3D also gave us a literal, as well as metaphorical, headache, its number was up.
4K UHD – which looks blinding on a full fat bandwidth and bit rate diet at demos – must try and avoid the oversell and under deliver conundrum, though it may already be too late. There isn’t much content yet but that hasn’t stalled the hype from the set makers (many of which are only now installing the necessary HDMI2 connectors), or the broadcasters.
As with HD, the truth is the consumer will be left with little choice but to choose 4K in the replacement cycle, and they’ll be happy enough to do it as sticker prices fall. Eventually content and broadcasters will catch up with the install base. Then they’ll announce 8K.