Ultra HD Coming, Perhaps

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    Any new technology is a risk. Ultra HD television perhaps is more so because making it work requires upgrades and changes to virtually every part of the chain. John Morris at ZDNet reviewed the progress that was evident at the NAB Show and highlighted just how big an effort is required for Ultra HD:

    The bottom line is that four times the resolution means lots more information needs to be captured, transferred and stored, produced and distributed. That requires new cameras and production equipment, better compression, more advanced broadcast standards, and upgraded set-top boxes and TVs.

    Morris pointed out that Ultra HD and 4K, terms that are used synonymously, are somewhat different. More importantly, he said that equipment is beginning to emerge. He discusses products from Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Blackmagic Design and GoPro:

    The 4K rollout will be different from 3D TV, and that’s probably a good thing. When the consumer electronics industry began pushing 3D, broadcasters such as BBC, Discovery Channel and ESPN rushed out new channels–all of which are dead now. With 4K, most of the initial content is likely to be user-generated or delivered through over-the-top services such as Netflix and Amazon. The debate over the merits of 4K—how close you need to sit to a 50-inch TV to tell the difference, who really needs a 4K smartphone—will continue. But judging from this year’s NAB Show, 4K is going to happen.

    The Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey Fowler posted a look at the status of Ultra HD monitors. The review was full of good information, but the most important thing here is that the post ran at all: A category is a good way toward establishing itself when it begins to get this sort of coverage. The only set actually assessed is the Samsung HU9000. However, more are on the way:

    Though there’s still no TV programming broadcast in UHD—and none on the way, for the time being—the equation changes this spring when Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio couple their Ultra HD TVs with streamed content from the Internet: UHD programs like “House of Cards” from Netflix, with more shows and films on the way from, M-Go and Comcast.

    All of the indications aren’t good, however. Hollywood Reporter reported on an NAB panel that raised an interesting point. Vince Roberts, the executive vice president of Global Operations and CTO for the Disney/ABC Television Group, suggested that simply improving something that already is being done doesn’t necessarily equate to more revenue. In other words, services more innovative than improving already good images may be more attractive to the industry. This question is particularly important considering how much investment will be necessary to make Ultra HD a widespread reality.

    The other challenge to ultra HD is that it is aimed at big televisions. For a decade or more, of course, the focus has been mobile devices. Whether members of the video ecosystem will go to the great lengths necessary to truly and deeply support Ultra HD remains a question that will only be answered by time.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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