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CUTTING ROOM How many pixels? notionally “perfect” – vision is the ability to resolve one arc-minute of detail. In other words, we can see something that is at least one-sixtieth of a degree when it reaches our eye. If you apply a bit of high school geometry to this fact, you will come to the conclusion that, in the typical living room, a 42” HD television is just about a perfect match to 20/20 vision. If you want to achieve the same result with 4k television – each pixel on the screen subtending an angle of one arc minute at the typical viewing distance – then you will need an 84” screen. by Dick Hobbs A t the start of each year you hear the sound and fury as the “technology” correspondents of broadcasters and the popular press head off to Las Vegas for CES, the annual exhibition of the Consumer Electronics Association. I have never been: I feel that two trips to Las Vegas a year would count as cruel and unusual punishment. But I understand that CES far exceeds NAB in size, attendance, and sheer noise. Everyone is there, and the hype quotient is set to lethal. To justify their travel budget, all those technology correspondents fi le lots of stories on the things that are going to be big. Or, to be precise, those things that their manufacturers tell us are going to be big. Or, to be even more precise, those things that the booth babes rented from a local model agency by the manufacturers tell us are going to be big. Google “BBC CES 2014”, for example, and the top stories you get are Robothespian robot amuses convention-goers (a performing robot – just what we all need); Wearable technology becomes self-contained (smart socks that monitor your daily jogs); and BMW shows off drifting self- drive cars (is it me or is it very unlikely that someone who wants to drive like Jeremy Clarkson would choose a car that drives itself?). Analysts including Kontera and Hotwire/33Digital carried out research into the buzz of CES this year, number crunching all the mentions from Twitter to the serious press. And the top trend was 4k television. This is fascinating, because there is no such thing as 4k television. No- 114 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 86 FEBRUARY 2014 one is now delivering or planning to deliver 4k resolution to the home. Netfl ix occasionally talks about it, but you need a pretty big broadband connection for that sort of data dump. Even with HEVC/H.265, delivering a picture with four times the pixels of HD is no small ask. Yet the consumer electronics manufacturers were falling over themselves to offer bigger, better and 4k-ier screens. Call me cynical, but I have to suggest that this is simply a way to push prices back up, and to persuade us to buy big televisions more often. The good news is that a lot of these high resolution screens use Oled technology, which has had huge promise for close to a decade, and if it can now be reliably delivered, in consumer quantities, at any size, then that is a real cause for celebration. Because Oled is a single layer, light-emitting device it is very thin, and some vendors even offer curved screens. This is good for getting headlines from “technology” correspondents, but is otherwise useless. If you curve the screen, then only one person can sit in the sweet spot, and any other viewers will have a decidedly strange view. Not, in other words, the shared living room experience. Allow me to offer a small piece of QI knowledge, the sort of fact that will probably not even be of use in a pub quiz. The defi nition of 20/20 – I will leave you to consider whether, even if you have that much spare wall, you want that sort of immersive experience from television. Current research suggests, though, that we are happier doing other stuff – including using our tablets and smartphones – while we are watching television. That is why 3D television never took off: we do not want to focus on one thing at a time when we are at home. But while I am rather dismissive of the idea of broadcasting 4k, I am very interested in the idea of production and post production at higher resolutions, because it gives you more scope down the line. And there is a good reason why you should, which comes back to one of my favourite topics: why we have to move from television production to content factory. Our workfl ows and our thinking are still centred on making television programmes then converting them for other devices. So we work in HD, then we send the fi le off to a transcoder. Today, that other resolution may be higher than HD. An iPad screen is 2048 x 1536 pixels, for instance. Who knows what is coming along. So maybe we should be shooting and fi nishing in a higher resolution than any delivery format and transcoding everything. That is why I will be keenly viewing 4k production tools over the coming months as a catalyst for changing the fundamental way we defi ne our industry: no longer television and other delivery platforms, but multiple ways of getting content to our consumers.