4K – What the Heck is it?

4K – I remember the first time I heard the phrase I had to go running to  google to do a bit of homework.  Well, 4K is the term for the latest broadcast standard that will be entering your home, if it hasn’t already.

 

As someone who works in the video and television production business I’m always concerned about evolving technology.  First and foremost from a business investment standpoint; if you’re like me, I find nothing more frustrating than making an equipment purchase only to find the second I get back to the office that I hear it’s been replaced by a newer release or worse – a completely new standard.

 

Well I’m sorry to be the one to tell you – that’s what 4K is going to do to some of your recent techno purchases.  Hi Def and 3D move over – there’s a new GORILLA in the room.

 

4K is the latest resolution standard that has made its way to market.

 

Allow me to give you some details about exactly what 4K is.  The K stands for 1,000 so in other words we’re talking 4000 as in 4000 pixels.

 

Let me back up a bit here to put this into perspective.  When we talk about your television screen resolution we talk about pixels or little dots of information.  It wasn’t that long ago that all we had was standard definition television which was presented on screens that were 720 pixels wide by 480 pixels high. (in North America anyway).  In Europe, Standard Def is slightly higher at 576 which is known as PAL.

 

Then along came high definition.  And when it did there was a fierce competition as some manufactures came out with 720p sets and others went to 1080i.  The P is for progressive scan and it refers to one signal running down your screen one line after another, The I stands for interlaced meaning the image was scanned twice – with one pass on the even lines and the second pass on the odd lines.  It is generally accepted that the progressive scan will give you a sharper image, especially with quick moving objects.

 

With HD signals we always talk about the vertical pixels.  720 is actually 1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels high.

1080 is accurately 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels high.

And just to boggle your mind with a bit more numbers – consider this:

With a 1080 high definition TV set you have just over 2 million pixels of information.  That is why you have such amazing clarity in the picture quality.  

 

Now we move on to 4K which has a picture resolution approximately 4 times the quality of 1080 HD.

 

There is currently no single accepted 4K standard but at the highest resolution of 4096 pixels wide by 2160 high, we’re talking more than 8 million pixels.  Absolutely phenomenal clarity.

 

With every new technology there is always a downside.4K thumbnail

The biggest cons of this latest 4K resolution are price and content availability.

In Canada, prices for the Sony 84″ XBR 4K Ultra HD TV are still well over $20K but smaller models have come down drastically over the past 12 months and I’m sure they will continue to fall.

 

Although the amount of content is limited at the moment, it has increased greatly over the past year as well.  Many Hollywood films are now being shot with 4K cameras.  Directors love it because the quality is comparable to 35mm film and being in digital you can check it immediately after shooting to ensure your take is good.  So rest assured there will be plenty of native 4k video choices coming soon.

 

The one thing they say is always certain – death and taxes.  I’d like to add one more thing to that list and that’s evolving technology.  And thank God for that because I’m always looking for something to write about. Oh, and the fact that technology keeps making our lives easier.

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