4K gets real at NAB 2014

Compared to the torturous path of HD from idea to adoption, 4K has gone from odd idea to acceptance with the speed of light. Whether that’s a good thingor not is beside the point at this stage.Has 4K been driven by 

tout-truultrahdengineTV receiver manufacturers eager to sell bigger, better, more expensive sets?  Absolutely. Is it also driven by the advent of 4K acquisition and 4K projection in the movie theaters?  You bet. Although some directors and cinematographers have been hoping for 6K from the beginning days of digital capture, 4K’s rise has nothing to do with their wishes or, most certainly, the desires of the vast majority of consumers.

The speed at which 4K has become a done-deal has been remarked on by others in the industry. Research firm Parks Associates just published a report,  4K Today: Bringing Ultra HD to Market, that took a close look at 4K adoption as compared to HD. The study notes that HDTV took about 15 years to achieve wide-spread acceptance and affordable sets; 4K, on the other hand, says Parks, will reach affordable prices in two to three years and penetrate 80 percent of households in 10 to 12 years. 

Interestingly enough, the research also indicated that 4K content will be delivered via OTT (over-the-top) by such players as Amazon, Netflix and Comcast, all of which have entered the content-creation field and have also been working on improving streaming methodology to handle massive 4K files. Broadcasters are going to find it more difficult to distribute 4K content due to bandwidth constraints (among other reasons). And the difficulties of bandwidth are heightened by FCC pressure on local broadcasters to give up bandwidth for telcos.

Speaking of OTT, Amazon just announced Amazon Fire TV, its new $99 video streaming device called Amazon Fire TV that is aimed at Roku and Apple TV. Amazon Fire TV offers a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM; Amazon says that Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and NBA are among the apps that will be available on the device.

Amazon won’t be at NAB 2014, but nearly everyone who will be there will be showing a 4K solution of some kind. I know that because dozens of emails have been vying for my attention at the upcoming show. Among them, FOR-A has gone so far to call their NAB theme “FOR-A for a 4K future,” with demonstrations of products from capturing to recording; the company will also show the newest version of its 4K super slo-mo camera and extraction system. Codex, a mobile workflow device, will be showing support for Vision Research’s Phantom Flex4K camera. Gefen will be demonstrating 4K UHD workflows. Adder Technology is unveiling 4K-capable KVM products including a firmware upgrade to the AdderLink XD522, a high resolution DisplayPort and Thunderbolt display extender.

You get the idea. These are just a small number of the requests I’ve gotten for meetings at NAB 2014. I expect much of my coverage will focus on 4K and send the message that manufacturers are eager to send: we’re ready to help you make 4K content.

I’m bullish — very bullish — on 4K in the movie theaters. The projects are great and the results are gorgeous. 4K TVs in the home? Not so much. I’m not going to use this space to make the argument of why I don’t think this is a starter, but you can expect more conversation in the future about 4K TVs (please note that I said TVs, not other devices in the home).

 logo_futurespark_350In the meantime, I urge anyone attending NAB 2014 to take some time to visit my favorite part of the show: Futures Park, located in the rear of the North Hall, which shows experiments, prototypes and advanced research. I’m looking forward to checking out goHDR and the University of Warwick, which will show a  live broadcast of high dynamic range (HDR) video, including capturing up to 20 f-stops of light, live mixing of HDR video, and HDR display including full HDR video to tablet and smart phones. Now that’s something I can get behind! Also in Futures Park is 3D, new archiving technology and…oh yes, 6K and 8K. If you’re hungry for ever-more resolution, NHK will demonstrate Super Hi-Vision over-the-air broadcasting in a single 6 MHz channel for the first time in the U.S. and show newly shot 8K video.

I’ll be tweeting and covering the show here.

Follow me @MobilizedDebra

Debra Kaufman has covered entertainment and technology for 25 years, for publications including International Cinematographer, CineMontage, HD Video Pro, Film & Video, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and American Cinematographer among others. She was most recently Associate Editor at Creative COW. She has organized and moderated panels at the HPA Tech Retreat, NAB, CES, NATPE, SIGGRAPH, Produced By, Editor’s Lounge and many other industry trade shows and events. She taught a course on digital visual effects at UCLA Extension for five years, and edited a series on CGI/animation for Focal Press. Her work has also appeared in Wired, The Los Angeles Times, Reuters and The New York Times.
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