Sunday, 21 October 2012

To 4K and beyond... to Ultra HD

This week the Consumer Electronics Association (the CEA) made an announcement that the next jump in TV resolution will not be called 4K (as it has be called for the last four years) but Ultra HD or UHDTV (according to the ITU). Now before I get swallowed up by TLA's or even FLA's (five letter acronyms) I tried to work out what format I will be working with for the next eight years before 8K is expected to arrive.

With the help of my rusty calculator I did a few divisions and multiplications and worked out that the minimum resolution of 3840x2160 is indeed 16:9 but is a bit smaller than the 4096x2304 that is "real 4K". However it is both double the 1920x1080 we know and love and the format specified by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE for FLA lovers) in 2007.

But the CEA press release reads as follows:
Minimum performance attributes include display resolution of at least eight million active pixels, with at least 3,840 horizontally and at least 2,160 vertically. Displays will have an aspect ratio with width to height of at least 16 X 9. To use the Ultra HD label, display products will require at least one digital input capable of carrying and presenting native 4K format video from this input at full 3,840 X 2,160 resolution without relying solely on up-converting.

So that's a minimum resolution. Sony have declared that they will retain the 4K description and call their products 4K UHD, which presumably means their TVs will be 4096 pixels wide and 2304 pixels high. So what will broadcasters choose? My money is on 3480x2160 which reduces an image by nearly 2 million pixels a frame, quite a saving. Sony will just have to upscale, which is never a pretty job.

All of this makes producing stock material for the future no easier than it is now with 1080p, 1080i and 720p all being used in the real world. Currently Red camera operators can chose to shoot both Ultra HD formats so they may have to make a decision at the time of shooting. Even the (not so) humble GoPro3 can now shoot 4K either in 3480x2160 or the cinemascope (17:9) 4096x2160.  

Choices, choices, choices. 

But 4K or thereabout videos are BIG and you don't want to upload more versions than is necessary, so I will stick with 4096 x 2304 for now because shrinking will always look better than stretching. Won't it?

Please note: 4K footage is not currently available to download from the London Photography And Video web-site, but can be supplied on request if available.

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