Netflix is planning to introduce a 4K video streaming service “within a year or two”. Chief product officer Neil Hunt, who runs the company’s all-important video streaming technology, says that much of the service’s House of Cards blockbuster was shot in 4K and that Netflix was looking to have a House of Cards 4K encode later this year.
Hunt, in an interview carried in The Verge, says Netflix’s use of Open Connect common peering points has already successfully handled Super HD and 3D streams without problems. “Clearly we have much work to do with the compression and decode capability,” he said. “but we expect to be delivering 4K within a year or two with at least some movies and then over time become an important source of 4K. 4K will likely be streamed first before it goes anywhere else. To that point, our own original House of Cards was shot in 4K. It’s being mastered in full HD, but the raw footage, or a good chunk of it, was shot in 4K, and we hope to have some House of Cards 4K encodes later this year.”
Asked whether people really want 4K ad higher-quality video, Hunt stated that Netflix’s goal is to supply the best possible image that a users equipment and network is capable of. “That way, we let people connect most closely to what they’re watching. But we intend to stay on the leading edge of what I call the ‘quality of experience’, so that poor quality does not become a discussion or competitive point.”
But Hunt also grumbles about today’s near-obsession with pixels and ignoring frame-rate. “The industry has been slow to adopt higher frame rate, which I think is now a much more significant way to make a better quality picture for consumers to enjoy. I would love to see the industry get to 60p as a routine standard for shooting material in the first place, instead of the exception. The ultra-HD standard allows for 48p, 60p and 120p framerate delivery, but there’s a bunch of pieces missing along the way: the encoders don’t necessarily support the high frame rates. The current HDMI connector standard doesn’t support the full 120p frame delivery rate. We have a lot of work as an industry to make the frame rate catch up to the same kinds of high quality as the pixel resolution.”