4K Home Video – Are You Interested?

I got to visit the exhibit floor of this year’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Atlanta on October 24th when I was in town for some meetings.  While I didn’t attend any of the conference seminars, the floor seemed to be heavy with discussion of HEVC and 4K.

All of the big solutions/hardware vendors had something to say about 4K even if it all didn't seem quite “baked.”  Many of the demos on display at the show were not well set-up.  Most demo screens had over saturated the color so the images looked low-res due to the color blooming even thought they were supposed to be 4K (maybe they were up-converted HD images – no one was saying).  One vendor had a side by side comparison of an MPEG encoded HD image and an HEVC encoded image.  Unfortunately, the HEVC encoded picture would break up every now and then into a blocky mess (not a good demo of their encoders, I fear).

Right now there is too little programming available in 4K, no low-cost customer receivers or content players and now good way to get content to the consumers without busting their data caps imposed by several major cable companies.  But planning for the future is important, so let’s talk about it

4K will drive up storage requirements by a factor of between 4 and 8 times that of HD resolution, depending on the codecs used, so you know that NetApp is interested and getting ready.  The real question will be the uptake from the consumers. Will people see enough of a difference in the 4K images to entice them to buy another new flat screen TV when their old ones still work? 

I remember reading a survey that said that about half of the people who initially bought HD TV’s thought that they had HD-TV images even when they were watching SD transmissions.  A lot of that has changed now with the end of analog TV, but unless you have a wall-sized screen, I wonder if most people will be able to tell the difference in a 4K video versus HD.

4K offers a new opportunity for everyone in the media value chain, from producers of content to producers of home equipment.  It’s just too early to tell if it has any legs economically.  All that being said, there sure is a LOT of interest in 4K today and seemingly a lot of investment.  Many major broadcasters have announced that they are studying the technology and that they plan to do some tests with 4K production and distribution.  All broadband service providers are preparing for it, too. I spoke in depth with one service provider and they said that everyone wanted to know how they were handling linear and non-linear delivery of 4K video to consumers.

As a film buff and video veteran, I look forward to 4K and am personally putting off buying a new bigger screen until the 4K unit pricing comes down.  Those who know me will agree when I say that I’m not a normal person (that didn’t come out right).  How do the rest of you feel about this?  Is 4K in your future?

PS:  If you'd like to know more about what is trending in 4K, read this article from Connect 2 Media & Entertainment.