The view from Digital Hollywood looks pretty grim to me. 3-D TV was a disappointment, 4K TV (aka Ultra HDTV) is pretty much a useless extravagance, quality video is a poor stepchild in today’s wireless world and nobody wants to buy movies anymore.
Two Digital Hollywood insiders I talked to in a recent trip there expressed optimism given the breadth and pace of activity these days. Still, I see a town in search of the next big thing.
After its big debut a couple years ago, 3-D TV was hardly mentioned at the recent Consumer Electronics Show and broadcasters have pulled the plug on some 3-D channels. The lack of content and the need for glasses are both taking the blame for 3-D’s fizzle in the home.
Some had high hopes for the autostereoscopic approach Philips pioneered. But few think Dolby, which now owns the technology, has the clout to drive it forward. After a big belly flop, climbing back on the diving board is harder.
Samsung is pushing 3-D TV forward with work on a Bluetooth standard for active shutter glasses with backing from Panasonic and Sony. It also set up a facility in South Korea to convert 2-D content to 3-D.
Live sports is a big missing piece. “If the Super Bowl was broadcast in 3-D, this would be a different discussion,” said Brad Hunt, principal of Digital Media Directions (Westlake Village, Calif.).
The Ultra HDTV (4K x 2K) displays at CES seem to have left everyone cold. To really see all those extra pixels you need the equivalent of a 96-inch home TV, but even the more standard size screens are way too expensive for the average Joe, I am told.
The trouble is without a next big thing like 3-D or 4K, TVs remain stuck with their role as a commodity product. “We are back to TV sets sold by the inch so it’s hard for anyone to make a profit--and 4K is potentially a race to the bottom,” said Andrew G. Setos, chief executive of Blackstar Engineering (Pacific Palisades, Calif.) and a veteran audio-visual engineer.
“I think the improvement could come in truly lower cost of manufacturing--not by lower labor costs but a new mechanism that may be protected by patents--then TV manufacturers could make profits, but until then they are in a world of hurt,” he said.
@Gert22306: "From what I've read, the movie studios are subsidizing the shift to digital cinema."
They may in the case of big chains. If you are a smaller independent, you are likely SOL. I just saw an online note that a respected independent theater in Boston was doing a Kickstarter campaign to get the funding to convert. They're a "rep house" who tends to show foreign films, classics and the like, and are looking at a future where they won't be able to get film prints, and if they can't show digital, they're gone.
They play a vital part in getting films before a discerning public, but *don't* generate the kind of revenue that would make it a studio's while to subsidize them.
I can think of a couple of theaters near me in NYC that are likely in the same position. It will bite the filmmakers too at some point - how many pictures get limited release on less than 100 screens because the studio doubts it will be a breakthrough film, but hopes the limited release will build word of mouth that might lead to wider release and popularity? It's precisely the theaters that tend to get those limited releases that may not be able to afford the costs of switching.
Don't know about everyone else, but I read the paper and check the weather over the Internet too. So my interactivity there is limited to clicking on articles I want to read, or a weather radar loop, much like watching Internet TV.
Most TV on the Internet is in fact "on demand." So it's interactive in that sense. It's not watched by appointment. The PVR function, if you want to compare it to TV shows stored in a PVR at home, is done by some server "in the cloud."
In the US, TV networks and individual broadcasters have shyed away from putting live streams on the Internet, for the most part. In other parts of the world, they aren't so coy. Technically, live streams can be transmitted over your ISP's network. But since I have not watched much of any "prime time" TV live for decades anyway, watching it on demand, via the network's web site or Hulu, is just perfect for me!
Not to belabor this math, although it is fun math. The pixels as they are defined in digital TV are not individual R, G, and B pixels. That is to say, when HDTV is defined as 1920 X 1080 pixels, this means 1080 full color pixels in the vertical dimension, and 1920 color pixels in the horizontal. Not one third that many.
The approximate 8.5 Mpel equivalent of 35mm movie frames, taken through a realistic lens, also refers to full color pixels. Or if you prefer, it refers to just the luminance.
Therefore, black and white images from 35mm film, taken on a camera with decent lens, can definitely benefit from UHDTV.
As an aside, 100 ASA color negative film itself can resolve about 150 line pairs per mm. That's irrespective of lens. Just the film. This means that each film frame in a movie 18mm X 24mm format can store the equivalent of 38.9 Mpixels, were it not for the limitations introduced by the lens.
So UHDTV's 8 Mpel resolution seems very adequate when you take the lens into consideration, where the realistic limit is ~8.5 Mpels, but it hardly approaches what a film frame is capable of storing.
Bob - I barely use my cable. I mostly have it because it's part of a bundle with Internet and phone. I and my kids watch three or four cable channels and not much else. I've probably watched something on the old-guard networks, maybe a handful of times in the last year.
I've hesitated to get rid of the TV portion of the package probably just out of perception.
Bert - Maybe I'm just cynical, but I think TV is still used differently. The Internet gives the expectation of interactivity where TV is strictly passive entertainment.
It's also quite possible that my information is out of date. If indeed, Internet programming can be easily accessed via a remote control, then my argument is invalid.
But Rick, liking PBS doesn't mean you need cable. You can either get your favorite PBS shows online, at this site:
or you can get them over the air.
Now mind you, the overly restricted "connected TV" products you can buy won't get you to that PBS site, or most other TV sites on the Internet. That's why I decided to just dedicate a PC to this role. No need to sit up to a small laptop or tablet screen to watch online TV.
@Bert - Touché, but alas, I was careful to say "black and white":) Even B&W looks good on HDTV though but would not be worth upgrading to a UHDTV. Those old Star Trek movies do seem to show more detail than when viewed on analog sets(probably unintended).
There is a fascinating story about the digital restoration of "Gone With The Wind". The original film was shot in Technicolor with 3 cameras, one for each color.
The digital processing company was lucky and found a pristine version sealed in a can that was never used in a projector. When they took a close look at the original film, it was off by 5 pixels. So they digitally corrected it. The bottom line, the copy on Blue Ray is better than the original.
When I view it on an HDTV, I can see tiny decorative threads in Scarlet's dress that you would never see in the cinema. You can also see the tiny blood vessels in her eyes that you normally would never notice.
And this film was released in 1939!!!
If you are interested, the complete story comes with the DVD, in Special Features.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.