9 Reasons 4K ‘Is Not a Flash in the Pan’
Sony executive outlines why 4K is here to stay, saying the technology is 'not 3D' but instead is a paradigm shift in video. But pricing trends remain a question mark.
But according to at least one industry expert, those Doubting Thomases are dead wrong. Gordon Shackelford, 4K specialist at Sony and former long-time executive at Faroudja, says 4K is on the verge of becoming a huge phenomenon that will have long-lasting staying power and deep roots among middle class consumers.
“4K will not have a zombie-like 3D shelf life. It is here to stay,” Shackelford says while speaking at the 11th annual MRI Expo put on by PowerHouse Alliance member MRI Premium Distribution Services in Sturbridge, Mass. Shackelford outlined his reasons to a crowd of several hundred at the keynote kick-off.
“A year ago 4K was a nebulous concept. It was a lot harder to answer the question about the future of 4K one year versus today,” says Shackelford. “This is not a flash in the pan. This is not 3D. It is a paradigm shift taking place from 2K to 4K and there will be a tidal wave of adoption and acceptance. I guarantee you that within one year the typical consumer who buys their TVs at Wal-Mart will be asking about 4K.”
Understandably, Sony execs like Shackelford should be bullish on the technology because the company is the first to market with a 4K projector, along with having its own 2TB FMP X-1 Movie Server that comes pre-loaded with 10 4K movies and links to its streaming service. Also, the company owns Sony Pictures so it has a beeline to access 4K movies.
Here are the nine big reasons Shackelford backs his 4K bullishness.
1. 4K Blu-ray Discs Are Coming
Shackelford notes that just two weeks ago, German manufacturer Singulus Technologies teased the market with the debut of a triple-layer 100GB Blu-ray disc with a storage volume capable of holding 4K movies. The discs would play on the same Bluline II machines used for dual-layer Blu-ray discs.
“The Blu-ray disc is not going away, and it appears the Blu-ray 4K Disc is not that far away from hitting the market,” says Shackelford. According to the German Association of Audio-Visual Media (BVV), worldwide Blu-ray disc sales grew 41 percent in the first half of 2013 compared to 2012.
Shackelford adds, “Hollywood is big behind a disc format for 4K, even if it is interim.” For obvious reasons, Hollywood studios, including Sony Pictures, would stand to benefit financially on the sale of 4K Blu-ray discs.
2. Gamers Love 4K Computer Monitors
Shackelford notes that gamers are raving about new 4K computer monitors from ASUS. The pixel density is adding to the gaming experience tremendously. Knowing that the gaming community often is a leading indicator of future technology acceptance, Shackelford notes this is a very positive sign for 4K with mainstream consumers.
3. HDMI 2.0 Will Make 4K in the Cloud a Reality
The new HDMI 2.0 spec that can carry 4K signal at 60Hz will be a boon for the resolution. “It allows the signal to be carried one-and-a-half times faster than previously possible, opening up the door for 4K content on the cloud,” says Shackelford.
Of course, download speed is still an issue. With the Sony server, Shackelford says consumers still are advised to pick a movie they want to download the night before, go to bed, and then wake up the next day to watch it when the download is completed.
4. 4K Camcorders Will Drive Prosumers
Sony recently introduced a 4K camcorder. With a $4,500 price point, it is certainly not targeted at the average consumer. But Shackelford contends it will garner widespread adoption among “prosumers” who often lead the market.
5. 80% of Movie Projectors Are 4K
Sony is the dominant supplier of movie projectors for commercial theaters, and 80 percent of them with Sony projectors already have 4K units. “If the theater has Sony, it is either a 4K projector or a 2K upconverted to 4K,” he adds. Consumers will soon become accustomed to higher-quality 4K images and begin demanding it in their homes, he believes.
6. 4K Technology Is Awesome
4K has four times the pixels (8,294,200 pixels at 3840x2120) as 2K units (2,073,600 pixels at 1920x1080). Also, the processing “is better than anything we ever did at Faroudja,” says Shackelford.
“The sheer power of 4K content is impressive,” he says. “The pixel density is so great that it makes 2D images look like 3D.” He also noted the increased color saturation and black and white levels.
He encouraged integrators to conduct demos for clients, noting how he assisted one integrator in Southern California with a demo and, using upconverted material from one of the client’s own Hollywood productions, she bought two units before the opening credits were even done.
In terms of which screen to use for a 4K demo, Shackelford says white screens are the best. He also advises against using microperf or woven screens, saying, “I hate them. Why would you want 30 percent of the light and detail presented on the wall behind the screen? You will need a more powerful projector and a bigger screen if you use those screens with 4K. I avoid them like the plague.”
While 4K is as close to 35 millimeter film as digital content can get in terms of quality and resolution, Shackelford says 8K chipsets are already on the drawing board and should start to appear in five years or so.
7. 4K Will Not Have Built-in Obsolescence
Integrators don’t want to guide their clients to buy a $25,000 4K projector only to have it obsolete within a year. Shackelford says Sony is very sensitive to dealers’ concerns on this issue and says the company is making all its 4K products upgradable.
8. More 4K Content Is Coming
“Every movie being shot today is being filmed in 4K,” says Shackelford, who notes that there are more than 100 native 4K movies out there already, along with numerous “Mastered in 4K” pieces of content in which Blu-rays are sourced from “pristine” 4K and presented at high bit-rate 1080p resolution with expanded color. This lack of content is one big reason other projector manufacturers are not leaping into the market with 4K units right now.
9. Margin for Dealers?
Margin is still a big question mark, and Shackelford admits pricing is a sticky issue. “If Sony was the only TV maker, you guys would be making lots of margin. But there are others out there that are still playing the marketshare game and killing the margin on TVs. A lot of my friends want to commit suicide over the pricing issue,” he deadpanned. When asked what the future held in terms of pricing, he joked, “I would rather try to figure out what all the women in the world are thinking than try to predict the future of TV prices.”
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Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org
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