UHDTV, designed to deliver video with four times the resolution of current HDTV will be hyped, dissected and debated at the CES this week.
Third, UHDTV is the ultimate video toy for the “1 percent” of Americans. Call it Romneyvision, UHDTV will remain a plaything for the rich in the foreseeable future. Kumu Puri, senior executive with Accenture’s electronics and high-tech group, noted, “With an estimated $20,000 price tag, Ultra HDTV sets may be too expensive for mass-market consumption, especially when you consider that this ultra high-definition content is not yet commercially available.” Did she say “may be”?
She added that “market momentum will likely wait until consumers become more familiar with the technology, manufacturers reduce prices, and content providers embrace the format.”
But ultimately, here is one good reason why Ultra HDTV is a non-starter. UHDTV is an all-industry push. CE companies are looking for ways to secure margins for their flat-panel TVs. They desperately need so-called “value add” for their money-losing TV business.
They’ve tried Internet TV, 3-D and Google TV. The latest gimmick is UHDTV. Consumers don’t buy products out of compassion for overextended companies trying to save their businesses.
There is, however, one ray of hope. A great picture is hard to resist. Said Joseph Del Rio, associate product line director at Broadcom, “Ask any sales guy at Best Buy. When consumers come to a store and see the wall of pictures, the best picture always wins.” Resolution beats 3-D, and it beats smart TV.
Asked whether the U.S. cable industry is prepared for 4K x 2K content distribution, Del Rio responded: “Don’t underestimate the U.S. cable guys.” The cable industry is already getting ready for DOCSIS 3.0, IP packet protocol over cable, featuring channel bonding. The channel bonding, enabling multiple downstream and upstream channels to be used together at the same time by a single subscriber, can also dynamically change its rate, anywhere from 20 to 40 Megabits per second (Mbps). “This will allow cable guys to offer the high-bandwidth content on demand.”
But whether or not the cable industry is ready for UHDTV, Chris Day, vice president of marketing and business development, at Ambarella, Inc., predicted that 4K content materials may become first available on the Internet. Ambarella believes its upcoming chips are designed to “drive 4K into mainstream consumer market.”
The same arguments are made with every new technology before it becomes commonplace.
UHDTV will eventually come down in price, and bandwidth will increase to accommodate hundreds of channels.
And at some point we will look back on current technology, as we do now on the first generation of cathode ray TV's and Atari game consoles.
BD85, I agree with you. The main drivers for acceptance are Price and basic support (ie bandwidth). HDTV is really nice to watch if HD is available for your viewing options, I remember the first time I saw a football game in HD. Wow! The blades of grass were clearly visible. The picture was really nice, but having a larger screen also helped drive HDTVs. The addition of LCD based "flat" TVs really helped drive the size and the "need/desire" for HDTV.
I wouldn't be quite so negative, and here's why.
HDTV is great. Pretty much everyone (finally) figured it out. And yet, even on small devices, look at the hype "retinal displays" have created. So forget about the narrative that the "average joe" can't tell the difference. Retinal displays are higher resolution than 1080p, and yet average people like this "retinal" stuff EVEN on tiny screens. What does that suggest about UHDTV on more sensibly sized screens, like 50" or less?
All the naysayers were telling us how expensive HD displays would be. Nonsense, I told them. HDTV is meant for the masses, and prices in fact came down to less than fuzzy analog sets were going for, toward the end of their tenure.
What really made HDTV practical, Junko, was not that the FCC mandated "digital." The point was, it was to be spectrum-compatible. Initially, HDTV was envisioned as some pathetic 6 channels exclusively over satellite. But when the FCC required it to fit in a 6 MHz channel, suddenly cable systems and over-the-air broadcasters could carry HD too.
Well, if we're to believe what we're being told, the new compression algorithm called H.265, which is an evolutionary upgrade to H.264, which in turn was an evolutionary upgrade of H.262 (MPEG-2 compression), is supposed to be four times as efficient as H.262. So, unless there is hyperbole there (I wouldn't be surprised), this UHDTV will also be spectrum compatible, potentially available over cable and terrestrial TV just like HDTV is today.
As to internet TVs, since those who knock them also ballyhoo the wonders of Roku or AppleTV, I can only conclude that logic isn't their strong suit.
In case that last point wasn't clear, I'm saying that in principle, "connected TVs" cold be great, and people would love them. The fact that the CE vendors seem to be in bed with the cable systems, making their "connected TVs" ridiculously crippled, is another matter.
Don't think that just because the ones on the market are dismal, this must always be the case.
I give it ten years. I'm not sure what the median purchased TV size is these days, but I'd venture that it's pretty close to 40". Back in the late '70s/ early '80s, I worked for a place that sold TVs and appliances. The standard big console TV of about 20" cost around $700.00. I delivered and installed those TVs in houses through a wide economic spectrum.
That amount of money today would get you a lot of TV, even if you didn't consider inflation. I don't think cost will be an issue in the long run.
It really depends on the availability of quality content. I've seen some 1080p images so mucked up by over compression that an old CRT could probably have bested it. If 4K comes off like that, then no. It won't take off. But my bet is that it will become the (or a) standard in the not too distant future.
Of course, TVs could take a left turn into a different technological factor and blow my prediction. OLEDs may turn out to have such rich colors and such a wide dynamic range, but be too expensive to produce in larger sizes or higher resolutions. TVs could evolve in that direction for a while.
I'm with Junko on this one. The form factor (and price) was the number one reason HDTV succeeded, not the content (unfortunately). The majority of HDTV viewers still watch mostly non-HD content on their flat panels, even though so much of it is available. Many can't even tell the difference. The only time they might make the effort to get HD is in live sports and movies. I think most people are satisfied with the picture quality already. In order to really tell the difference, screen sizes have to be 60 inches or larger. At 84-inches, you're talking about a redesign of the American living room (higher ceilings for one thing). I doubt that will happen anytime soon.
Are there statistics showing HDTV owners watch mostly SDTV? That certainly isn't the case in my household. In fact, out of the 2 dozen or so shows scheduled on my DVR I can only think of one that is in standard definition, and that's because there is no HD equivilent.
Hah! I remember when the first large flat screens came out for 10s of thousands, and I wondered who would ever buy such an expensive device.
Buyers of these devices won't necessarily want UHDTV over the air or over networks, at least for a while. What we need is an Blu-Ray alliance to come up with a device that can play UHDTV movies. I think there are some things out there but I don't know if anything is standardized yet (something to look for at CES). Certainly, multi-layer Blu-Ray disks can hold enormous amounts of data.
I also love the Romneyvision comment!
I strongly disagree with you on this one Junko. UHDTV isn't a question of if, it's a question of when -- and the "when" is likely to be a purely economic issue -- like when the price drops from $20,000 to $2,000.
I don't suppose there is a law for increasing video resolution over time -- analogous to Moore's Law for silicon -- but perhaps there should be.
The Broadcom guy was spot on -- "When consumers come to a store and see the wall of pictures, the best picture always wins."
And the best picture of tomorrow will easily beat the best picture of today.
Don't get me wrong. I hate being a naysayer myself and I would be the first to admit wanting UHDTV. And yet, I just wonder what else need to happen to get this thing off the ground---aside from giving it "10 years."
The other consideration can be wrapped up in a phrase I like to use: "There are features you can use and features you can sell. They aren't necessarily the same."
Digital cameras, for example, have long past the resolution needed to be an equivalent to the typical snap-shot film camera. In fact, in most cases the lens of the inexpensive digital point and shoot isn't high enough quality to utilize all of that resolution. Smaller pixels also reduce low-light capability.
In essence, if it were really about quality and performance, most digital cameras would have stayed at, maybe 8 Mpixels and focused on other aspects of the technology.
I would say that when 3D first became available in consumer TVs, it fell into the "feature you can sell" category. Now it doesn't really fall into either. Resolution will definitely fall into the "features you can sell" category. Whether is also falls into the "can use" category is a different question.
"The majority of HDTV viewers still watch mostly non-HD content on their flat panels, even though so much of it is available. Many can't even tell the difference. The only time they might make the effort to get HD is in live sports and movies."
This is what we always heard when HDTV was just starting out. No one cares. Analog TV is just fine.
Fact is, though, that if people went back to their old CRTs and analog TV now, they would be surprised at how poor the image is. And another point is, these same people rave about "retinal displays" on their iToys. Even though the screen in tiny.
I think the problem is that the average joe probably doesn't analyze what he likes and dislikes very well. It has to be shown to him, before he gets it.
Good points Bert. We both remember very well those days in the late 90s when people questioned why anyone would need the resolution of HDTV and whether the average consumer would even notice or care. Well it turned out that they do notice and they do care, even if they aren't quite sure what it is they are noticing and what makes them like it better.
I find it difficult to believe that it is still true that the majority of HDTV viewers are still watching mostly non-HD content. If so, are they watching only DVDs? Since the shutdown of analog TV broadcasting, the only significant remaining sources of non-HD content are cable TV, DVDs, and your old VHS tapes...if you still have a working VCR from last century.
I would point out that in many places, including my town, cable is the only decent way to get video content and HD costs lots extra. You can get 100 channels of SDTV, or you can triple the cost by adding a few channels of HD. I believe that most people still watch SDTV. It isn't because they can't tell the difference, it is because the difference isn't worth the cost.
You could bypass the cable system and get over the air broadcasts. Just about every multiplex has their main channel in HD. If you have Verizon FiOS as an option, I believe they offer HD at no extra cost.
I use over the air and Internet TV exclusively. So HD is a staple diet for me, for any over the air broadcasts. No cost, other than buying the TV set, of course.
ATSC did it right in this respect. Receiving the HD stream was a mandate for all receivers, whether or not they were capable of actually displaying HD. This avoids having to waste bandwidth transmitting two copies of the same program.
IMO, to introduce UHDTV, a good approach would be to replace HD with UHD streams, taking up the same b/s as the HD stream (via H.265 compression). And then make that stream also available as SD-only, for some relatively short transitional period.
At the end of the transitional period, those who do not have a UHD-capable set would be able to buy a STB to convert UHD streams to HD or SD. This would then free up spectrum again, for more programs.
The end result would be the same number of channels available then as now.
Human eyes and brain are every interesting. With the 2 resolutions - 720 and 1080 - of current HDTV, most of us can't tell the difference of quality unless there is a side by side comparing. There is no doubt the higher the better. We have to remember what we typically watch in most days - News and possibly TV shows. Do I really care the resolution with these contents? I can actually live with SDTV and even radio with regard to news. Last but not least, the TV broadcasters have to buy new equipments which was one of the key factors for HDTV to wait for 10+ years.
Time will change everything. I have no doubt that there will be better resolution 10 years from now regardless of the screen size. The TV market just doesn't seem to be ready today.
On the other hands, what if digital content is delivered to cinema for any movie title?
You make interesting points, but you know what? Even the news is a lot better when it's transmitted in HD and wide screen. In my home TV market, I remember when the first local station made the switch to wide screen and HD. It looked superb. And soon after that, all the other stations followed.
Same goes with voice programs on the radio. They are far more enjoyable over good FM or digital radio, than over AM radio barely capable of reproducing 3500 Hz (in most AM receivers).
Also, what the eye-brain system can truly perceive is not obvious. A first approximation is something like 1 to 1.5 arc-minutes of resolution, which is what drives HDTV to 720 and 1080 lines. But that's only an approximation. The eyes can also focus in on detail in strange ways. Retinal displays are much smaller that HDTV screens, and yet have higher pixel count (2560 X 1600 compared with 1920 X 1080 for the highest HDTV pixel count, or 1280 X 720).
chanj said "Time will change everything. I have no doubt that there will be better resolution 10 years from now regardless of the screen size. The TV market just doesn't seem to be ready today."
This is exactly the point, and exactly the same was true 12+ years ago when the first HDTV broadcasts in the U.S. began and there were hardly any HDTV receivers or displays out there to receive them.
4K video cameras are being used today. Content will lead the way and then the affordable 4K displays will follow -- exactly as happened during the transition from SDTV to HDTV over the last decade.
This will be interesting to watch. I believe that the cost of UHDTV displays could drop rapidly over the next couple of years. If that happens adoption will be relatively quick. Now we just need to marry UHDTV AND OLED technologies in the same display.
"Ambarella, Inc., predicted that 4K content materials may become first available on the Internet"
Considering a lot of people still struggle to get sufficient bandwidth to stream video content online I think it's going to be a long time before the masses can deal with even 4K file downloads for home viewing. The first 4K movie for download was 160gb, would hate to see how big the first Ultra HDTV releases are going to be, but they'll sure be hogging your broadband for a fair few days, even on the fastest connections.
I loved reading this article. Very well written even though I don't entirely agree with it's premise. Like all technology price will come down. Upconversion will help the lack of content issue. And as you said, manufacturers need high end technology to improve their margins. 4K won't be for everyone but I think it will eventually be cheap enough to go mainstream for home theater enthusiasts.
More and more movies are being shot in 4K and more and more theaters have 4K projection equipment. So the content, at least as far as movies are concerned, is in the can already. 4K captured many events at the London Olympics. So the equipment and technology exists.
Even for amateur videographers, most DSLR image capturing hardware is quite capable of 4K video. It's just a matter of updating the processors in them. As we all know the price of processors keeps falling. You gotta have something to do with all that computing power besides write terribly inefficient code.
Apple's iPad certainly showed the feasibility of resolution greater than HD in a mass product. A lot of people jumped on that bandwagon.
The industry needs an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs to make the public gotta have one.
Cookie Jar, I love the "You gotta have something to do with all that computing power besides write terribly inefficient code." comment! I found myself agreeing with most of the comments about price vs acceptance. I would love higher resolution and higher bandwidth (from my cable) but currently cost is my limiting factor. Once the cost comes down then people will begin to move towards it. I still remember the first few days after switching from the old modem to cable modems; it seemed that the internet pages just blasted their way onto the monitor! Now I find myself fustrated with "how slow" the internet connection is, funny how quickly we adjust our metrics!
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