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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
4K Ultra Hi-Definition (UHD) has roared to the forefront of the display world with a ferocity that has knocked 1080p to the ground. At this point, it’s entirely impossible not to take notice. CES 2014 proved that industry’s biggest manufacturers of displays (LG, Panasonic, Sony, and Samsung) are all angling to be at the forefront of the UHD race. Each one, however, is following a slightly different roadmap. Panasonic and Sony (which recently cancelled an OLED partnership) both appear content on improving existing LCD technologies, LG is hedging its bet with both LCD and WRGB OLED technologies, while Samsung is using LCD and RGB OLED. Plasma, as we’ve discussed in the past, is largely being left behind primarily because of energy consumption issues associated with larger displays and the cost of implementing the technology in 4K sets.


Many consumers are watching this mad dash with skepticism, and rightly so. The vast majority of us have invested in 1080p equipment that is relatively new and entirely capable of producing stunning, detail-filled, hi-def images. Then there’s the issue of content. Library collections are stuffed with 1080p Blu-rays while true full-1080p content on the airwaves is impossible to find. This begs the question: What about 4K content?

Introducing H.265
If you’ve ever studied the fine details of most Blu-ray reviews, you’ve probably noticed the designation “MPEG-4 AVC” (otherwise known as H.264). This is the industry’s current standard for encoding content on Blu-ray discs, not to mention compression and broadcast distribution. It replaced MPEG-2, offering nearly a 50 percent bit rate reduction, which opened the floodgates to growing Hi-Def content delivery to our homes. While it’s technically able to support 4K material (4,096X2304) at 60 frames per second, its bit rate is simply too high to reasonably support UHD delivery. Here’s where a new standard, known as HEVC (or H.265), enters the picture. This encoding technology is far superior to H.264, offering a further 40-50 percent reduction in bit rates, and support for resolutions up to 8K (8192X4320) and 300 frames per second. Most new UHD displays maintain the ability to decode HEVC material, and the industry is hoping this will allow content providers to begin pumping UHD entertainment into our homes sooner than later.

Manufacturers Aggressively Maneuver to Provide 4K Content
Let the games begin. The industry wants you buy a UHD television, but they know that content is King; consumers will only want a new UHD model if there’s material to feed it. Last year two companies, RED and Sony, both introduced standalone media players that can download and play 4K Content. RED’s REDRAY provides consumers with access to indie material, while Sony’s Ultra HD Media Player gives owners access to a Video Unlimited 4K download service loaded with more than 140 feature films, indie productions, and TV episodes.

Last week Samsung unveiled its own hard drive based standalone player (called the UHD Video Pack) which comes pre-loaded with popular movies and video documentaries. Samsung’s partnerships associated with the device include 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Paramount Pictures. Much like RED and Sony’s products, Video Pack owners will be able to download new content to the player. But, the range of content will be limited as measured by today’s standards, as Samsung says they will provide a total of 50 UHD shows and movies by year’s end.

Partnering with Stream Services and Cable
Of course, the Sony’s and Samsung’s of the world know that consumers won’t be satisfied with standalone media players and limited content libraries for the long haul; consumers want to be shown that more access is (or will be) available in the immediate future. Of the four major manufacturers discussed in this article, Samsung has been the most vocal in this realm, dropping names and making the party feel awfully large. At CES 2014, Samsung made it clear it’s working hard to get UHD into the homes of their customers. They announced UHD partnerships with Amazon, M-Go and Netflix and made sure consumers are aware that their products are capable of native HEVC decoding. They also announced they are working with cable and satellite giants Comcast and DirectTV. Under a partnership with Comcast, Samsung UHD TVs will receive UHD content through an application that bypasses Comcast’s cable boxes.

Samsung’s relationship with Netflix isn’t exclusive. Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings has openly stated that he believes “streaming will be the primary way consumers receive Ultra HD 4K.” Hastings maintains that consumers will (someday) only need to have a 15 Mbps connection to stream 4K entertainment (possibly on the back of HEVC encoding). Not surprisingly, this belief has led Netflix to agree to 4K relationships with LG and Sony. Both manufacturers highlighted their partnerships with Netflix during last week’s CES.



Image Credit: Sony
Source Credit: Sony, LG Electronics, Samsung, and mediaentertainmentinfo.com
 

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I sure hope this does not turn into another Bluray vs HD DVD format battle.
I still am very skeptical of the compression causing big time quality loss for streaming purposes. It will be the same as streaming 1080p right now. the quality is lousy when viewed on larger displays.
 

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I will wait till OTA reception is 4K or UltraHD.. :) Till then I am on the sidelines so to speak. :)
 

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Not sure how this is going to play out but until 4K content is readily & easily accessible at a fair price I will continue to focus on making improvements on the audio side of things.
 

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All I know is there will be many a sales on the current crop of plasmas if UHD sets become more affordable in the next few months. I for one would be seriously looking into a 65" ZT60. 4k content will still be expensive for a while and I'm still of the opinion that it's gonna be hard to notice a difference in screen sizes 70" and under, maybe even bigger, from 1080p to 4k.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
All I know is there will be many a sales on the current crop of plasmas if UHD sets become more affordable in the next few months. I for one would be seriously looking into a 65" ZT60. 4k content will still be expensive for a while and I'm still of the opinion that it's gonna be hard to notice a difference in screen sizes 70" and under, maybe even bigger, from 1080p to 4k.
All very true. One can only sit so close to a display... at normal seating distances it will be hard to tell a difference. We can't change the very nature of our own eye capabilities!
 

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MPEG-4 AVC (otherwise known as H.264). This is the industry’s current standard for encoding content on Blu-ray discs, not to mention compression and broadcast distribution. It replaced MPEG-2
No, MPEG 2 has not been replaced. MPEG2 is still the OTA (broadcast TV) ATSC standard. While most satellite and cable companies now use MPEG 4 for distribution the USA broadcast infrastructure (Canada and Mexico as well) is still MPEG 2. What has been replaced is NTSC. And FWEIW, standard DVD is still MPEG2.

To change the ATSC standard would require an act of congress - literally. yeah, yeah, ATSC2, ATSC3, but these are merely proposals. They are a long way from becoming a standard if ever.

IMPO, and I work in the broadcast industry, OTA broadcasting will disappear* before 4K is ever a consideration. 4K distribution will be mostly internet delivered. Even with satellite and cable there is still limitations on the number of 4K channels that could be carried even with MPEG5. Remember they still have to support at least 1080i for a long time to come.

*And if you think that's ridiculous, consider that both CBS and FOX have already threatened to go strictly cable/satellite based to get around the age old "free" commercial supported broadcast model the government requires of OTA television.
 

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my cable company cannot even deliver full 1080i quality, it does say on my receiver that it is 1080, but the signal is compress, some channel are way better than other, but before I even cconsider 4K, they will have to prove to me that it is really 4K no some pseudo highly compress signal
 

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Years ago I had problems with my cable just like you do with some channels looking great and others not so great... I called them up and a tech came over to figure out the problem First problem was he had to install new cable that was feeding the apartment, and second he called the office and they adjusted the problem stations for better reception!+
I was shocked that they could do this but it did solve my problem. With the number of channels now available I doubt if they would do this for more than a couple of problem channels though.
 

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As far as I’m concerned, 4K has all the makings of a niche-market product. As informel noted, content providers aren’t even delivering the full capabilities of 1080p as it is. Ever watch NCIS? Wow, that thing looks like VHS.

Am I the only one who’s ever noticed this phenomenon with TV shows, both cable/sat and broadcast: The detail for the establishing shots is jaw-dropping, simply awesome – aerial shots of the location, and so forth. Then when they cut away to the actors, everything goes soft. The reason, I suspect, is that the actors don’t want everyone to see every little flaw in their complexion.

I have a program saved on my DirecTV DVR with “talking head” interviews that has simply jaw-dropping detail in the faces, that I’ve seldom (if ever) seen with anything I’ve watched on satellite. I’ve saved the program simply as a reference for what high-def TV programming could look like. The kicker: It’s only 720p!!

So if the content providers are “dumbing down” the programming and aren’t even giving us 1080p – what in blue blazes is the point of 4K?

Another issue is the screen size, as Mike mentioned: It’s going to take a larger screen to visibly realize the improvement 4K can bring. Sure, we like big screens, but how many people want an 85-100” TV in their living rooms? There’s a reason the market for TVs larger than 65” is fairly limited. The general public has shown time and again that they will always choose convenience over quality (Beta vs. VHS, streaming vs. blu-ray). I expect that “convenient” will also include monstrous televisions.

Lastly, I expect that lots of people are experiencing “upgrade fatigue.” It was easy enough to convince people to trade their bulky old CRTs for svelte flat screens, but I don’t see vast numbers of the public doing that for 4K - unless it delivers a huge improvement (see “content providers,” “convenience over quality,” above). They’ll probably just wait and buy one after their current TV bites the dust (assuming that 4K’s will be as cheap as regular TVs when that time comes).

Regards,
Wayne
 
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