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First of all, why is 4K so important, and why now?
What’s the urgency?
With last year’s explosion of mobile viewing, the introduction of 1920 x 1080
resolution tablets and hand-held devices, and this year’s shipments of hundreds
of thousands of UHDTVs, we’re going to see a transformation in what people
demand from video archives.
In order to contribute to the 4K experience, content distributors will need to pull
a lot of content from their archives, and that content will need to be processed
to look good in 4K according to a slough of new standards and methods, many
of which are still evolving. So radical is the difference with 4K that the NHK,
EBU, and other standards bodies around the world asked SMPTE to review all
the standards that we have been using in television and revise them for 4K. For
example, there’s a new color-space standard called ITU-R BT.2020, which is
much more appropriate for 4K than existing standards, and standards bodies are
working hard to achieve it in time for the Winter games in Sochi, Russia, and the
FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Even some companies that rely on more traditional means of delivery, such as
Digital Cinema and HDTV, have been asking for 4K standards. Those companies
don’t deliver in 4K right now, but they still benefit from 4K production because
it simply makes their content look better. The director’s artistic intent (or in the
case of sports, the detail in the live action) comes across better if the content is
produced in 4K, even if someone is only watching in HDTV or Digital Cinema.
the 4K world:
need to know
What’s the urgency? By virtue of creating the aforementioned 780,000 UHDTVs,
we have already committed to broadcasting in 4K. Those TVs won’t be fed by
over-the-air broadcast for a few years, but they will be fed in 2014 by satellite,
over-the-top services, and Blu-ray H.265. People are buying the TVs and will
expect to be able to watch those rapidly approaching world sports events in 4K,
so we have to deliver.
Is all 4K the same? In a word, no.
There are already two common screen resolutions that are very close to each
other. To the naked eye, they look the same, but to an engineer, they are very
different. One has slightly fewer than 4,000 pixels across, and one has slightly
more. Both are the same height, and both are called 4K. For an engineer, UHD-1
refers to the 4K technology that is already available, and UHD-2 refers to 8K
technology, which is still under development.
Another wild card is the frame rate, which can range from 24 fps up to 300 fps.
by Josef Marc, Chief Marketing Officer,
T here are 780,000 UHDTVs
already manufactured and
poised to hit the marketplace,
and the effects of those devices (and
the factories that continue to make
them) are unstoppable. UHDTV and
4K will be everywhere, sponsored by
UHDTV manufacturers and content
owners. 4K tablets are shipping as
well. As the drumbeat for 4K grows
ever louder and consumers embrace
the trend, 4K content distribution will
become the norm, and broadcast
engineers will be called upon to convert
all manner of existing content to the
new format. There are some critical
things broadcast engineers should
know as they prepare that legacy
content for the next generation of
52 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 84 DECEMBER 2013
There are also two color spaces in the current 4K ecosystem — BT Rec. 709 and
BT Rec. 2020.
To make matters even more complicated, content shot with the popular RED 5K
camera adds another variable to the mix. Producers often shoot in 5K for content
that will be played on large outdoor screens, such as on the side of a building at
an outdoor venue like the World Cup. It’s not uncommon, though, for that same
outdoor video to be played on smaller indoor screens as well, so people often
mix output from the RED camera into their 4K workflow, making the work even
more challenging for the engineer.
Given all those variables, it’s easy to see why all 4K is not the same. A director
might say he or she wants something in 4K, but there are endless combinations
of variables that could go into it. It’s up to the engineer to figure out what the
artistic intent is, and what’s going to look best for the given production.
So what’s an engineer to do? What should an engineer look for?
The cat’s out of the bag forever. Motion pictures and TV will never again be as
simple as film and HDTV. While all of the standards, methods, and jargon shake
out over the next few years, there are some things engineers should keep in mind
when starting any new 4K project:
Determine the frame rate first because that detail will affect the rest of the
infrastructure. There is a five-fold difference between 24 fps and 120 fps, so