CES 2013: Should 4K Be in Your Future?

By Michael Silbergleid, SVG Contributing Editor

From a broadcast- and cable-network perspective, CES certainly gave 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) the initial push it needed. Bloggers, journalists, and analysts crying that consumers don’t need or want higher resolution tend to forget that how good a picture looks is the first consideration in shopping for a new TV. That’s because the picture is the first thing TV buyers see (mainly because the screen is large, and the largest item is seen first). This is typically followed by (in font-size order, largest to smallest) price and then features.

Consumers may not say they want more resolution or a better picture, but that’s before they’ve seen 4K/UHD. Price is an issue, but consumers know that, although they won’t be able to afford a 4K/UHD TV today, prices will come down. So, though buying a regular 2K HDTV today, they know what they want their next TV to be — if they can afford it.

Given that knowledge and the limited plans for 4K distribution to the home (for now), should 4K be in your future? Absolutely.

With a larger selection of professional 4K (definition varies by manufacturer) full-frame-rate cameras coming to the market (the Canon C500 and EOS-1D C HDSLR, RED EPIC and ONE, and Sony F55 are already available) and more likely slated for April’s NAB Show, the ability to acquire in 4K (and edit with NLEs, such as Adobe Premiere, Apple Final Cut Pro, and Grass Valley EDIUS) is here. But the question of whether you should do 4K has much less to do with distribution than with your product’s lifecycle.

4K acquisition and mastering will give you a superb oversampled 2K HD downconversion for today (and for a number of tomorrows), as well as a long tail for your product as 4K penetration and demand increases.

Although 4K/UHD isn’t even a niche yet as far as consumers go, that is changing: more than 10 companies showed 4K/UHD at CES, and one of them, Sony, will be starting distribution of 4K Blu-ray Disc and streaming 4K shortly, with more deals and services from others to come.

Think back to why and when you moved from SD to HD. What was the reason and what was the HD market like then? Also, consider the monetary value of your content a few years from now if the world is moving 4K and your assets are in HD. What happened to the value of your SD assets as the world moved to HD?

And there’s one other reason: bragging rights. Call 4K in today’s HD distribution world whatever you want (Super HD, Premiere HD, Platinum HD, etc.), we’ve seen this same branding in HD and even SD widescreen. What will oversampled HD look like to your viewers, and will they notice? That’s a question that only you can answer with some very simple 4K tests.

Two things are likely: the world will move to 4K, and odds are that, eventually, you will (unless you’re still in SD), although 3G 1080p might be in your immediate future.

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