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TECHNOLOGY Is 4k bigger than 3D? by Bob Pank T he television industry has had many new technological eras in recent years. Only two years ago we were still a 3D era; the latest of the many that have surfaced and sunk over the years of cinema, making it recurring fad. Now 4k / UHD is firmly grabbing the attention of equipment manufacturers as well as production and broadcaster / media folk, and increasingly, the public. The revival of 3D was partly driven by the new ‘can do’ technology. The accuracy and repeatability of digital recording and image processing made it possible to produce good on-screen stereo 3D. However, it was generally accepted that the lack of suitable glasses-free 3D screens killed it for the TV consumer market, and most people have now turned their back on it. However 3D movies continue to be made, albeit in small numbers. Cinema audiences can accept wearing glasses and do sit down and concentrate on the screen – unlike most home TV viewers. Recently, my investment in an IMAX seat to experience ‘Gravity’ in 3D proved to be worth every penny. Now I know exactly what it’s like to be in space! 56 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 86 FEBRUARY 2014 4k is not a revival but something brand new to television, although cinema has been using something very similar for a while. Recently NAB Executive Vice President of Conventions and Business Operations Chris Brown said, “At the 2013 NAB Show, 4k was the most widely-covered and talked- about technology trend of the show. I expect 2014 to be no different.” So it is no surprise that Insight Media and NAB Show have partnered to produce a 4k Zone in the North Hall. That’s a good idea but I notice the booth areas available are 10x10 and 6x6 feet. Punters had better rush for the larger plots as the 6x6 foot ones won’t have enough wall length to hang a 84-inch screen! Part of the reason for the 4k excitement is that TV screens are now beginning to sell in significant numbers, as prices tumble. For example, just one supplier, China Star Optoelectronics Technology (CSOT), shipped 100,000 in October alone. In the USA Variety reports that the Consumer Electronic Association’s economist and director of research, Shawn G. DuBravac has said that 60,000 4k TVs were sold last year, and that 500,000 are expected to sell this year. Although the number looks big, it is not so much when measured against the country’s total annual set sales of around 40 million. CEA reckons global 4k TV sales will be around 2.5 million this year. It appears that we, the broadcast TV industry, are not alone. Interest in 4k is widening as visitors to the recent ISE (Integrated Systems Europe) exhibition at the Amsterdam RAI found out. Reports say that 4k was ‘everywhere’ – a major feature at the show. But this exhibition is not about broadcast television! It seems that other media systems, in particular digital signage, are taking a big interest in the new eye-catching format. The broadcast trade news is full of 4k stories, some about new productions but largely driven by industry manufacturers introducing new equipment to support the format. Matrox Video has announced the immediate availability of 10-bit H.264 intra-frame rendering with the Matrox Mojito 4k quad 3G-SDI 4k video monitoring card. This is for use with Adobe Premiere Pro CC on Windows platforms. The card is reported to enable realtime monitoring and output of video footage at resolutions up to 4096 x 2160, and frame rates to 60 fps.