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When Will 4K Become Available At Home?

As you no doubt know, the biggest buzz in consumer electronics these days is 3D. But every time I talk about it, the most common question is, "Yeah, but when will we see 4K?" While the debate continues about whether or not 3D is worthwhile, everyone seems to agree that 4K—a picture with 4096x2160 resolution, four times the number of pixels in current HD images—would be awesome.

Unfortunately, there are some impediments to the immediate widespread availability of 4K. For example, it costs much more to make a 4K display, which must be very large to take full advantage of the extra resolution, so such products would be a lot more expensive in an era of rapidly falling prices and a weak economy. And even if 4K displays were available and affordable, what about content? Studios routinely scan and archive their movies at 4K or higher, and some now shoot with 4K digital cameras, but there's no delivery system for that much data to the home. A physical medium would need much more capacity and much higher bitrate than Blu-ray currently offers, and online streaming is impossible without a major upgrade to consumer broadband services.

The big question is how long will it take to resolve these issues so consumers can watch 4K content on 4K displays in their homes? When do you think this will happen?

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

When Will 4K Become Available At Home?
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Scott Wilkinson's picture
Thanks so much for your kind words! I had a real blast doing the show, and I got lots of positive feedback. I've been wondering if a radio show about audio and video would have a big enough audience to be viable in the long term. I intend to find out what Premier Radio thinks about that, so stay tuned...
laydiry's picture

Представленная инфо на этом сайте довольно познавательно, буду далее знакомиться с ресурсом.

javanp's picture

Like Seth said, 4K displays are already here, they are just damned expensive. The physical medium required to store 4k is also here: Holographic discs. Discs that can store 500MB-1TB. However, it's not a matter of whether or not the tech is here, but whether or not what it'd cost for studios to put it out and whether or not enough consumers would buy it. Actually, regardless of that point, studios will undoubtedly wait until Blu-ray is in almost household before they'd dare putting out another technology, which is why I went with five years. But, if I had the option, I'd say 5-10 years, with something like 7 being the best guess. It seems as though our physical mediums have had a 10 year shelf life and blu-ray has been out for a few years. 2017 is when I expect to see the next format.

uavtheo's picture

Great question Scott and I vote for 10 years for the following reasons:

1) Right now, I think the trend towards on-demand media is more of a disruptive technology more than anything else. So, I think that the next step will go for HD streaming for most content (not just some) and then to take streaming into 3D.

2) There is no way that there will be an infrastructure upgrade within the next 10 years that will seriously allow for 4k across public internet. There will need to be some serious compression and then some to deliver it... remember those modem days and waiting for a download? That just won't sit anymore (see point 1!!!!)

3) BlueRay just won the format war. Studios will need to see some ROI before jumping to another physical format and having to relearn and recreate workflows, etc. No way that's happening in 5 years.

4) Once HD becomes the 'norm' having demos of 4k with 4k material will start the trickle process... or so one would hope. Also, I haven't seen any stats about the adoption of HD TVs and the elimination of analog signals. MY SENSE is that the jump to HD is due for a few reasons but besides quality, I think that the mere fact that the TVs are now so thin (THINK WAF) had something to do with it. So, what will be the real aesthetic reason for a 4k set?? So, if I can get a 72" or 96" set but have no space for it will the format then advance? My simple point is that at some point there will be a defacto "target" screen size that fits most homes. Is that 37", 42", or 46", I don't know. But if 4k doesn't deliver spectacular results on the future normative screen size, then it will have a hard time getting traction. For example, what's the point of 1080p on a 20" set (scaling argument aside)??

5) Will the FCC be willing to enforce (assuming bandwidth is there) a 4k content cutover date like digital? Remember how many non-HD signals there were even AFTER the cutover date? Wait, there are STILL some non-HD signals. WAIT, HD TV is still only 720p....

6) People "get" the concept of 3D, they "get" the concept of HD once they see the picture in the stores. Most people will hear 4k and think "distance race"... Time for some long-term PR

7) Ok, after all this talk and thoughts, I would love a 103" 4K display right now after all this. :-)

Seth G.'s picture

If you have the funds!
and the connections to get access to the belair circuit which is moving to 4k. You can have both display and content though most of it is still upconverted 2k, but thats in large part is coming to an end thanks to Red digital camera delivering native 4k cameras when others so far haven't been able to until very recently.

As far as how long this will all take to get down to the regular people like you and me no telling! Though what I do want to know is who is making the prototype 8k camera
that NHK of Japan is using and developing - JVC is already on their second gen 8k prototype projector.

Like HPC computing its all exciting and at some point whats done in this arena will trickle down to the rest of the world at large just no telling how long it will take and what the market will support versus what the studios are comfortable with releasing to the wild.

I have a feeling the studio's will be the biggest hinderance in getting 4k content.

HdFan77's picture

The Future belongs to Ultra HDTV

Ultra HDTV (also known as "33K",

HdFan77's picture

Don't forget about 33K. It would be the next format - target date for development is 2015. Add few more years for acceptance - and we get 10 years. Of coarse 4K is great, but media companies need some time to sell current stuff, so we'll have to wait.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I've never heard of 33K; do you mean 32,768 pixels wide? I guess that would be 33K if you were to round up, but my first instinct would be to call it 32K to keep it in powers of 2. On the other hand, the next power of 2 is 65,536; would that be 65K or 64K? Probably 65K, so maybe you're right to call 32,768 33K. Also, I imagine we'd go through 8K and 16K before getting to 32/33K, which will be a lot longer than 10 years in my view. I do agree that media companies need time to sell stuff at a given resolution before moving on.
uavKenny Kraly Jr.'s picture

What not make more 4K sets insted of 3D? 4K to me offers a better image in terms of quality and it looks better than 3D. I know it's year's away but to me I whould prefer 4K over 3D.

David Vaughn's picture

Most people sit too far away from their displays to distinguish the difference between Blu-ray's 1920x1080 and 4K. Heck, I'm 9 feet away from a 76.5" wide screen and I doubt I would be able to distinguish the upgrade to 4K. I'm sure we'll get it eventually, but there's no rush as far as I'm concerned. 4K will be great when I can unroll my 120" wide OLED screen and Velcro it to my there's something worth dreaming about!

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Great comments; thanks to all three of you! Yes, of course, 4K displays are here now (e.g., Sony and JVC projectors), but as mentioned, they are out of reach to all but a very few. And the Bel-Air Circuit costs $100,000 to join and $4000/month to have hard disks with 4K content delivered to your home!

Javanp, you're right that holographic discs do exist; the main contender for this technology seems to be the Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD). However, I've read that companies like Sony, Philips, TDK, and Panasonic plan to release 1TB-capacity discs in 2019, while GE plans a 500GB version in "a few years." Also, Sony insists that Blu-ray has a minimum lifespan of 10 years, which conforms with your observation, though this is not always the case; after all, CD has been around for nearly 30 years.

The bottom line here is that, while 4K technology is available now, it's certainly not mainstream by any means. The poll question is about the timeline for more widespread availability of 4K in the home.

WazNeeni's picture

Is CD really 30 years old? I guess it is! Wow!

I chose 5 years, but I'm guessing more than 5, but less than 10. That is unless manufactures think consumers are game for yet another format war so soon. Or, if film and TV production companies can finally get it through their heads how ineffective DRM is at stopping piracy, and that all it really does is inconvenience honest, paying customers, perhaps they will finally start to offer downloadable (as opposed to streaming) HD content that can be stored on and watched from a local hard drive within or connected to a set-top box or HTPC.

Scott, I just got caught up on the TechGuy podcast. You totally ROCKED that show, my friend! Don't tell Leo, but I'd rather listen to you for 6 hours every weekend. ;D

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I've never heard Ultra HD called 33K. It has just over 33 megapixels, so I would think it should be called 33M rather than 33K, but I've never heard it called either one. I suppose it could leap-frog over 4K, but it will require even more storage capacity and bandwidth.

And just to be precise, the audio is 22.2...24 channels in all, but two of them are subwoofer channels.

loop7's picture

Although I want 4K personally, it's a pipe dream. When most of the HD content currently consumed is extremely compressed 720p, this would just be another solution looking for a problem.

I find it funny and sad when consumers buy 1080p panels but will only feed it cable or sat TV.

Consumers, for the most part, are okay with lossy content.

Seth G.'s picture

Point long ago, people seem to be willing to give up quality on both the audio and video front as long as its portable and available on demand for instant gratification and consumption.
Who watches a movie on their iPod or phone for that matter
Who cares if a 3 inch screen is "3D" like so many being rolled out at the Mobile World Converence in Barcelona this week - it's all marketing

We are at a flex point though in many ways - higher quality is available and can be had in both audio and video, but that's not where the money is to be made
People are more concerned wether a TV has all the latest bloatware apps on it or not
This is THE selling point now - not quality

I really think when we do see 4k rolled out for the home initially it will be in glasses free 3D sets if that approach survives in the market and can overcome some of its other technical issues

Till then people will enjoy their ever larger TVs blissfully simply because its big its thin and its keeping up with the jones' on all the latest "features" regardless of wether they bring anything to the viewing experience or are of any real value or not.

pitbovides's picture

Хорошо бы в дальнейшем почитать продолжение данного поста.

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