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4KTV The next bigger thing? by Bob Pank T he history of 4K digital moving images goes way back to the mid 1990s. That was when film effects started to be processed digitally and produced amazing results – maybe a bit too amazing for some. Of course the effects had to be seamless and so the digitised effects images had to carry all the required detail of the 35mm film. Without going into detail Kodak maintained that this required at least a 4K image, while Quantel, busy in the effects equipment market, felt that 3K did the job. Ever since then the idea of 4K has been somewhat on the back burner for the TV industry. Its attention was on HD. Meanwhile Digital Cinema took off in 2005 when the DCI published its recommendations that included two digital image sizes, 2K (2048x1080 at 24 and 48Hz) and 4K (4096x2160 at 24Hz only). The TV and movie industries both provide audiovisual entertainment but, in many ways, they are worlds apart – especially when it comes to change. For example it took only seven years from publishing the DCI standard for half of the world’s cinemas to be digital. There’s a very simple reason for this; there are over 1.4 trillion TV sets, mostly in people’s homes and privately owned, while there are only something in the reign of 100,000 to 150,000 cinemas – roughly a ratio of 1:10,000 to TVs. The mass consumer TV market changes far more slowly than cinema. TV has only just got HD well and truly up and running, with stereo 3D being the only significant format change since – and one reason given for its sluggish uptake was HD drag; consumers were not willing to ditch their still-new HD TVs just to get 3D. Meanwhile a large number of digital cinemas have been able to present 3D movies, and some 4K movies, for a number of years now. Of course this is good for cinemas as they are keeping a considerable edge over the TV experience. The cinema production and distribution workflow for 4K operates well. TV is a very different market to cinema and it is far from clear exactly how 4KTV(1) can become as big a player, or even displace, HD. In the TV industry there is no suitable mass consumer delivery system and no affordable screens to display it and make it work for the potential 1.4 trillion viewers. In short, the fact is that 4KTV­camera output lacks a consumer market, no screens, no transmission... So why is there suddenly all the fuss about 4KTV? Well, in the last few months, 4KTV has been moving forward – especially on the camera front. What really caught the industry’s attention was the launch this year at CES, and then NAB, of the JVC GY-HMQ10 4K (3840x2160) camcorder, that 32 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE TV-BAY067JUL12.indd 32 05/07/2012 22:23