4K is currently the hottest tech in the world of video, no question about it. Many TV manufacturers and online video publishers are already producing 4K TVs or are starting to push video streaming in 4K. But what is all this fuss about 4K anyway, what are the actual benefits and can we live another couple of years without it?
4K (sometimes also called Ultra High Definition or UHD) has roughly 4X better resolution than the current HD format. Interestingly, 4K (i.e. 4000) applies to the horizontal resolution frame (or number of pixels) instead of vertical resolution which is used to describe previous versions of video formats like 480p, HD 720p or full HD 1080p. While 4K or full 4K, still has a 2160 vertical pixel count, it simultaneously has a 4096 (4K)
horizontal pixel count and delivers 4X more pixels across the screen, 8 million pixels altogether.
It may sound a bit confusing, but it simply means that picture is 4X sharper on the same occupied space. For example, if you have a 32” TV set with 1080p Full HD resolution this means that a 64” 4K TV (twice the diagonal size of 32”) will give you the same pixel density but on a screen four times the size.
Overall, you are looking at finer image clarity with more detail, better refinement of textures and video with every frame delivering photographic smoothness. Obviously, if the video was shot with proper equipment. This new technology offers video producers the ability to manipulate with video content with cropping and resizing, on a level which was previously not possible, without the fear of losing quality during the post editing process. With this level of video quality, every frame can be treated as a high-resolution photograph, actually it is an 8 megapixels photo, which is just amazing.
Is it then worth implementing 4K screens on small 24” or 32” TV screens where the required viewing distance is already too big to even see the difference between SD and HD screens? For TV sets the answer is usually no. Because when the size of the screen gets smaller, the advantages of high-resolution decreases. 4K is recommended for TV screen sizes over 50”. It is more tricky though for other types of screens and devices, and it widely depends on what a particular screen is meant to be used for. Today, for example, smartphone manufacturers are aggressively pushing 4K screens even on 5” screen phones. It’s often an unnecessary investment as average human sight cannot distinguish between Full HD or 4K on such a small screen from a normal viewing distance and it’s a big drain on the battery which many manufacturers struggle to keep up with anyway. But computer screens, TV screens or even larger tablet screens are a different story.
A large 4K TV is a reasonable investment to replace a smaller HD one. 4K computer screens are highly justifiable for video producers, publishers, photographers and visual enthusiast alike. The difference between HD and 4K can be really staggering and is sometimes certainly worth the hype, especially for professionals.
But all these advances, don’t come without flaws. 4K requires usually 4X more storage memory, faster bandwidth speed and connection for streaming, faster graphic cards on computers and better CPUs. Good screens, and especially TV screens, come with a higher price tag as well.
As for this last one, prices are much lower, though than they used to be when the technology was quite new. When the first 4K TVs arrived on the market, with price tags of $20,000 or even $55,000 for some premium sets, they were, suffice it to say, out of reach for us mere mortals. Now the prices have dropped to much more comfortable levels and are still dropping as we speak.
As the technology progresses at an astonishing speed, more video publishers will jump on the 4K video bandwagon.
YouTube offers the possibility to upload in 4K (say what about that profitability margin for YouTube? – ed.) while in 2014 Netflix became the first streaming service to provide content in 4K. It’s not hard to imagine that many will follow. But what about the price of bandwidth? The question remains who is paying for all of this, and what does the profit margin look like with regards to advertising prices?
Here at Brid.Tv, we’re excited to embrace new tech as much as we like to invent our own (Veeps) and we’re ready for 4K today.