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A new 4k year by Bob Pank T hroughout 2013 manufacturers were popping up with solutions for 4k which together could take the format all the way from scene to screen. It has been an amazing experience to watch all the technical ‘bricks’ being developed to complete, well almost, the 4k ‘wall’. This rate of progress shows just how fast digital technology can move; analogue was far slower. Surely a large part of this speed is due to the widespread use of components from the IT industry, allowing TV production and post industries to record, edit and distribute the new format with relative ease. The most enthusiastic actors have been the TV set manufacturers who are keen to open up a new high-level market for their products, especially the larger screens. As I write they are packing their bags for CES in Las Vegas. No doubt there will be the usual race for the biggest screen... 4k, of course. I note that Samsung has just shown its new 110-inch model in South Korea. The S9110 is intended for business and government customers, perhaps because few people have houses with big enough doors to get the screen through (you cannot fold it!), and no walls big enough to hang it on... and at $150,000 a pop, the money to pay for it! However 2013 has seen the arrival of a wide selection of 4k TVs with several at affordable prices, notably from California- based Seiki Digital, wholly owned by the Chinese based Tsinghua Tongfang Company, and TCL Corporation, a Chinese multinational. The use of the format is growing. A number of 4k TV productions have been made over the last year (the movie business has been producing and exhibiting its 4k features in cinemas for several years). Unsurprisingly, sports coverage has received early attention with trials of soccer and rugby football in the UK. Having seen some of the footage I wondered if this was the best genre to promote the new format. True, there is a large and potentially lucrative audience for sports but with everyone agreeing that fast action needs higher frame rates for UHD TV, this smacks of airing dirty washing in public. Surely it would be better to show a drama, perhaps with not too much fast action or panning? By taking care the, movie business has managed very well with just 24 f/s. At the other end of the spectrum some 4k promotional footage features only slow motion. Yes it looks very smooth and lets you clearly see sharp detail, but it does not do anything to show performance with real action. Looking at the specifications of the 4k screens now on the market they usually allow for frame rates of up to 120Hz – considered by some as the fastest needed, and the top rate included in the standard ITU-R BT2020 (also 24, 50 and 60Hz – no interlace!). A few say it should go yet faster, pointing out that the lowest common multiple of 50 and 60 is 300. They cannot be serious! 46 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 85 JANUARY 2014 Live delivery of 4k to viewers is currently only available via satellite. To compress the 4k signal to fit within the space of a TV channel requires using HEVC – compression that is expected to be at least twice as efficient as MPEG-4. An important milestone was reached in late October when Elemental Technologies announced that K-Opticom Corporation, a telecommunications operator in Japan, used Elemental’s HEVC coder to compress 4k video to stream live coverage of the Osaka Marathon in a K-Opticom-designed trial workflow. This was billed as the world’s first real-time 4k transmission using HEVC coding. So there’s another brick in the 4k-workflow wall. Perhaps the most significant announcement of the year came just before Christmas when Amazon Studios, the original film and TV production arm of amazon.com, stated that it would shoot its entire upcoming original content in 4k. Roy Price, Director of Amazon Studios said, “All of the pilots and series we produce next year will be shot in 4k. That includes our first ever drama series that we will greenlight next year—we think customers are going to love watching these series in the highest resolution ever available to consumers and we can’t wait to deliver it.” Amazon Studios has already announced plans to make five new comedy and drama pilots in 2014. Then customers will help to decide which should become a series offered on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video in the USA and Lovefilm in the UK. Amazon has also produced a 4k Ultra HDTV Guide to help customers understand the benefits of 4k. Amazon itself also stands to benefit by encouraging the market for 4k TVs players and accessories – well why not! In addition, it will be right up there with Sony as one of the first to offer an extensive range of 4k content. This year two major sporting events are planned to have 4k coverage.