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Television Displays Graphics Entertainment Technology

The Trouble With 4K TV 442

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-least-it's-not-3D dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from an article about the difficulties in bringing so-called '4K resolution' video — 3840x2160 — to consumers. "Though 4K resolutions represent the next step in high-definition video, standards for the format have yet to emerge and no one’s really figured out how to distribute video, with its massive file footprint, efficiently and cost effectively. How exactly does one distribute files that can run to hundreds of gigabytes? ... Given that uncompressed 4K footage has a bit-rate of about 600MB/s, and even the fastest solid-state drives operate at only about 500MB/s, compression isn’t merely likely, it’s necessary. ... Kotsaftis says manufacturers will probably begin shipping and promoting larger TVs. 'In coming years, 50-inch or 55-inch screens will have become the sort of standard that 40-inch TVs are now. To exploit 4K, you need a larger form factor. You’re just not going to notice enough of a difference on smaller screens.' The same quality/convenience argument leads him to believe that physical media for 4K content will struggle to gain traction among consumers. '4K implies going back to physical media. Even over the Internet, it’s going to require massive files and, given the choice, most people would happily settle for a 720p or 1080p file anyway.'"
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The Trouble With 4K TV

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  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @06:20PM (#42538713)

    cable and sat don't have the bandwidth for it and that's on the broadcast side.

    Maybe 1-2 channels but most cable systems are loaded with sd channels and old mpeg2 HD boxes.

    Sat has moved to all mepg 4 HD but stills has lots of SD boxes out there as well.

  • by XPeter (1429763) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @06:24PM (#42538765) Homepage

    The same thing happened when the first 1080P screens came out. The market will adapt, there's no problem here.

  • by thesupraman (179040) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @06:31PM (#42538917)

    Much of the bandwidth/media etc claims are rubbish. 4k has (approximately) 4 time the pixels of standard full HD, so at most a given
    format will increase by 4 times, HOWEVER, most lossy compression methods (for example AVC/MPEG4) on real footage scale better
    than linear with pixel count, as detail becomes more repeated at higher resolutions, so a more likely estimate for such formats is
    2 times, which is not crazy (blueray for example can already delivery that for many movies if needed). newer compression methods are
    coming on line that can deliver close to double the compression for equivalent quality, meaning we end up back to normal HD data sizes.

    Is it needed? thats a whole different story, with the size of living rooms/available and comfortable wall space for screen, etc it is pretty
    marginal, but trying to use raw uncompressed bitrates as a scare tactic is rubbish.

    Their raw figures are of course not even right as they seem to be assuming 444/12bit storage, which would be rather rare in real life, 422 10 bit
    would be MUCH more common, and most workflows would actually use comrpessed storage (as they do now for HD.).

  • by jd659 (2730387) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @06:33PM (#42538955)
    “Even over the Internet, it’s going to require massive files” While this is true, the speed of the Internet connection makes a huge difference. Unfortunately for the US population, the market is divided among a couple of companies and the slow speeds are offered at bank-robbery prices (e.g. 25/3Mbps for $50). Many countries in Europe get a faster and cheaper connection (e.g. 75/50Mbps for $10) and that changes how people watch TV. With TVs that can play MPEGs directly off some network connected HDD and a laptop that can download any torrents to that HDD, the experience of watching a show is often:
    1. Find a torrent on a laptop and click on it to start downloading.
    2. Wait a couple of minutes.
    3. Navigate TV to the specific file on HDD and start watching.

    It is amazing how much the experience changes for the better with faster connection speeds and more reasonable laws on downloading/uploading the content.
  • by White Flame (1074973) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @06:41PM (#42539083)

    If they do crank these out, 4K computer monitors should come down in price. I don't care what happens to the TV market as long as that happens.

  • by SomeKDEUser (1243392) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @06:44PM (#42539127)

    The important point is that at last, there'll be computer screens with non-stupid resolutions again! They took my 1920x1200 away, and though I would prefer 3840x2400, I can live with 3840x2160.

    At least resolutions are going up again.

  • by guidryp (702488) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @06:44PM (#42539137)

    Remember when Blu Ray came out and a number of people were claiming they couldn't see much difference.

    Well this time it will actually be true for almost everyone.

    Most people don't even have their TV's close enough to visually discern 1080p.

    This kind of TV resolution is irrelevant in a normal home setup.

  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @06:52PM (#42539277)
    Watching TV just ain't right since they did away with interesting programs. I really don't give a rat's ass about resolution since movie channels repeat everything I've seen and channels like History and Discovery no longer show history or real science/engineering programs. That's my Gripe Of The Month.
  • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @06:54PM (#42539317)

    consider the optimum viewing distance of 2.5 screen heights

    I keep seeing that pop up, and I don't know who came up with it, but they're wrong. If you have to turn your head to see the the action going on the corners, you're too close. If you don't have to turn your head, you're not too close. That point is closer than 2.5 screen heights.

    if Jobs were still here, he'd stop at 2k and call it "retina television".

    Doubtful, considering the iPad 2048x1536 is only 10" screen.

    even the jump from SD to HD was marginal

    Holy shit, and this is how you know that you have no idea what you're talking about. The difference of SD to HD was more significant by far than the change from black and white to color. It's huge! Do you have a 10" tv that you're watching from 7 ft away when making this comparison or something?

    so no... the market didn't adapt in 2005, it didn't adapt in 2010, it hasn't adapted now and it will be a long time before anything other than big budget movies or events like the olympics will get the 4k treatment.

    It probably will be a long time before anything gets the 4k treatment, but the market did adapt to HD, to the point that I haven't watched anything that is not HD in years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @07:05PM (#42539467)

    Physical media is a dodo, and I can't in good conscience endorse any return to them. Yes, DRM is an ongoing battle (which is one that we certainly WILL win), but the staggering benefits of freeing ourselves from the tyranny of destruction-prone media, and the parallel horrors of drm, are just so immensely valuable to us as a species that it's probably worth going out of our way to provoke an all-out shooting war to prove to the patentophiles & rights holders that in fact an abstract discovery (some music, theory of relativity, etc.) is fundamentally property of the whole species, and profiting on the back of these discoveries without clear and obvious, reasonable claim. outside of a reasonable exclusive-use timeframe WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

    Profiteers, this is your only warning. The human race comes first. Climb down, or be deposed. There will be no prior warning.

    We are legion.

  • by neokushan (932374) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @07:26PM (#42539769)

    Exactly, it's just early days and all this doom and gloom about the format is ridiculous. I remember when 1080p video started appearing and I tried playing a sample on my AMD 3400+ processor - of course, it skipped and jumped all over the place. The file was also huge, my paltry 2Mbit internet connection took ages downloading it and my monitor was too small to display it properly. It was excessive, took up a lot of space and required fast, new hardware. How could such a thing ever catch on?!

    Oh easy, this is technology and technology constantly moves forward. If you're the kind of person that has ever complained about having a quad-core processor in your phone as "unnecessary", then please hand in your geek card and get off slashdot. Technology always moves forward, things always get better and nothing will stop that. There is never a "Good enough", things can always be done faster or with less power.

  • by Malc (1751) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @07:30PM (#42539837)

    This is the year of HEVC/H.265, which is expected to give birate improvements for the same quality of up to 50% compared with AVC/H.264. Expect to see content in this format later in the year.

    Ultimately though you're right: without 4K content there'll be little demand. Upscaling 1080p will only go so far.

  • Re:Who Wants This? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by W2IRT (679526) <pjd@panix.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @07:36PM (#42539929) Homepage

    In who's mind is 2K good enough for theatres? Speaking as a former motion picture projectionist who ran 35mm and 70mm film for almost 20 years, I can tell you the "quality" you get in a 2K auditorium is significantly inferior to what was delivered by a 35mm print, albeit with no jitter or weave. 4K cinematic presentations are actually quite good, even on a 40 or 50 foot screen but I steadfastly refuse to see anything in a theatre that's shown in the 2K format. What's worse, most exhibitors run their 2k machines with the 3D lenses in place when they're not showing 3D, cutting the available light in half. So what the vast majority of patrons experience in a movie theatre today is a dark, washed-out image with lower overall quality than they were seeing just 5 years ago. The only winners here are the companies who don't have to ship 12,000 feet of film (for a 2 hour movie), which weighs about 40-50 pounds per print, to 2000 screens -- and pay to ship it back again at the end of the run. The exhibitors also win because they got the 2k machines for free from the companies and they don't have to employ skilled projectionists to run them either.

    So yeah, I'll take 4K home presentation once the price comes down to the level that mere mortals can afford. I have a 53" Aquos screen now that's OK at 9' viewing distance but a 65" class screen at 4K and using HFR would rock my world once content becomes available.

    My bet is that flat panel manufacturers are quickly realizing that 3D in the home is a dud and they'll concentrate their efforts into amping up 4K in the coming years, even though content will be quite minimal for a very long time. Since you'll never see anything more than 1080i or 720p from OTA broadcast (6 MHz channel size ain't changing any time soon), it'll only be a selling point for movies or DVDs of TV series. I don't know about everyone else, but 95% of what I watch is broadcast TV dramas, comedies and sports. I don't see the studios converting to shoot and edit to 4k in the foreseeable future, either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @07:50PM (#42540073)

    Yeah, because there is no readily accessible source of 1080p content..

  • by aXis100 (690904) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @08:21PM (#42540389)

    also consider the optimum viewing distance of 2.5 screen heights. if Jobs were still here, he'd stop at 2k and call it "retina television". unless you're doing it well wrong, you're not going to get much benefit. even the jump from SD to HD was marginal - most of the gains were in compression quality (a macroblock is harder to see when it's 1/4 the size, and in h.264 it's impossible to see as it's filtered out by design).

    I thought the jump from SD to HD was great....for a while. Lately most of the free to air TV channels in Australia have been going terribly downhill with overly compressed or badly up-scaled video sources. It's rare now to get HD content that looks like HD - the best thing I've watched lately was a 3 year old doco I had saved on hard drive.

    Which then begs the question, why go to 4K when we cant even get 1080p right consistently?

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @08:21PM (#42540393)
    The basic problem with Ultra-HD is that nobody can see it. You'd have to be sitting so close to the screen to appreciate the difference (from "normal" HD) that your eyes couldn't see the whole screen. Add on to that. that the data stream would be so highly compressed to fit into the available bandwidth that the only difference would be the resolution of the artifacts. What you have is the video equivalent of an audio bandwidth extending into the 100's of kHz. great for any dogs listening, or eagles watching your TV, but utterly pointless for humans, unless their motivation is so immature that they feel the need to have something impractically better than the guy next door's, no matter what the cost - or usefulness.
  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @08:30PM (#42540479)
    Mea culpa, I was confusing it with megapixels. Still, 3840x2160 is not very much higher than on the 15" retinal display.
  • by wilson_c (322811) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:10PM (#42540857)

    I'm not sure that's true. 1080p had always been the goal of HD, even with the original HD spec developed in Japan in the 80s. No matter what, everyone knew we were going to get there and understood the advantages over NTSC and PAL. Consumers and content creators could see the improvements brought by HD. Most of the people who cared about 1080p just waited until prices dropped and skipped 720p and 1080i. That all occurred as part of the big HD uptake over the past 5 years.

    The problems with 4k are twofold. First, it isn't part of the existing HD spec. It is a new standard that doesn't have the imprimatur of governments and cable companies designating it as a target to be achieved. Second, it is a move driven entirely by the consumer electronics industry. There isn't demand from users and there is certainly no interest on the production side.

    I work in post production and the data hassles of 3D have been enough to keep our company (and many others) away from it. The substantially larger file sizes associated with 4K are even worse. For a production company like ours, we'd have to move to a petabyte SAN just to manage an equivalent amount of 4K footage to what we do now in HD. Transcoding times would go through the roof, bandwidth would be heavily taxed, even the hardware requirements for decoding a single compressed stream (to say nothing of editors handling MANY simultaneous streams) for playback would be much higher. And for what? The only quality improvements would be in resolution (as opposed to the jump to HD, which brought a massive change to color handling over NTSC). Networks don't want to pay higher budgets for something that won't help make them any more competitive. Satellite providers, who already compress the shit out of their HD signals, don't have spare bandwidth for fatter streams. Cable companies, who are basically in the data business now, don't want to waste their bandwidth on it. Even with SDV it would add a lot to their overhead. Game consoles are still struggling to make the most out of HD, so are nowhere near ready to handle that many additional pixels. You might have videophiles willing to spend a ton of money on ultra-premium gear, but even they would be limited to using specialty playback hardware that would have to download massive files because 4k exceeds the storage capacity of any commercially available blu-ray media.

    TV manufacturers are pushing this because the great upgrade is over and 3D has failed to excite consumers. They need something to try and convince consumers to replace a perfectly functional, nearly new 1080p TV. So they're going to run with 4K in 2013.

  • by Dastardly (4204) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:34PM (#42541097)

    The more interesting step to me would be 1920x2160 panels for 1080P passive 3D. Right now passive 3D polarizes alternate lines so at 1080P it is more like 1920x540 per eye. Which probably is perceived by the brain like 1920x700 or something like that. If no one makes a 1920x2160 panel I presume it could be done with a 4K panel.

  • What is the issue? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gription (1006467) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:15PM (#42541435)
    The article proclaims FUD. This is just silliness. The data requirements ARE NOT 600mbps just as 1080p's data requirements are not 150mbps.

    Digital television is ALWAYS compressed.

    It will require 4 times the data throughput as it is only 4 times as many pixels. Period. There isn't a downside. If it is only getting a 1080p signal then it will be at least that good and you know that they will have a lot of processing to anti alias the upscaled image. It will probably really help on 3D movies where they are cheesing out by cutting the vertical resolution in half.
    The only issue will be getting the infrastructure caught up with it. The cable companies may have a problem but if they don't take care of it they will go the way of the buggy whip because the Internet and Netflix will scale to take care of it.

    The only real issue that 4K may have is if it makes enough visual difference that anyone will care enough to pay the premium. I really think the only place it will really noticeably shine is 3D. We will just need to see how fast meaningful 3D content becomes available. And with the limitations on how much 3D content you should reasonably watch in a day that will slow the "need" for it.
  • by cas2000 (148703) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:07PM (#42541849)

    I don't give a damn about 4K TV but i want it to become stupidly popular because a 4K TV LCD panel is also a 4K computer monitor, and mainstream purchases of 1080p TVs are why 1080p monitors are less than half the price of 16:10 1920x1200 monitors.

    "good enough for TV" is a huge limiting factor on the affordability of high-resolution monitors, so if the plebs think they need 4K to watch TV then that's just fabulous.

  • by djbckr (673156) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:48PM (#42542205)
    I think I'd rather see a higher frame rate. When I was watching "The Hobbit" I really enjoyed the HFR but I was thinking to myself that the rate needs to be even higher still. No less than 60, I would say...

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