Evaluating Ultra HD 4K: Will it Become Mainstream?

Manufacturers are pushing for the adoption of Ultra HD 4K video. Dealers now need to learn the pros and cons of offering 4K video systems to clients.

Stewart Filmscreen's FireHawk G3 is one of the most popular home theater screens in the video category. The FireHawk G3 is compatible with 4K video, allowing dealers to install 1080p or 4K projectors with the customizable material.
Robert Archer · September 11, 2013

Once the hype of 3D began to fade, the home video industry quickly shifted gears to promote the next era of video entertainment: Ultra HD 4K. This latest video resolution promises the best-looking home video experience the world has ever seen.

And manufacturers are heavily investing in research and development (R&D) and marketing to try and ensure Ultra HD 4K will indeed be the next big thing.

The only problem is that despite the hoopla, not everyone is on board with its potential. But that doesn’t mean Ultra HD 4K supporters aren’t doing their best to make it successful.

More to Resolution than Meets the Eye

George Walter, Digital Projection Internationals’ VP of home cinema, says there is more to resolution than just pixel counts, including spatial resolution, which has to do with a projector’s lens and the measurement of how closely lines can be resolved within an image, and temporal resolution, which is the measurement of refresh rates with respect to time. The final element in the resolution equation, he adds, is radiometric resolution (color depth which is measured in bits) and this determines how well a system can distinguish the differences in intensity he says.

Walter says there are many factors that can affect the perception of resolution, including screen height, room lighting, a projector’s brightness, and a projector’s ability to produce contrast. Walter says to produce a quality image, the video needs plenty of light and colors must be accurate.

“For the brain to recognize an object, it must be reproduced as close to the actual object as possible, and you must have as much as possible. Eight bits minimum; cinema [quality color] is greater than 10 bits,” he says. “Contrast is the difference in luminance and/or color that makes an object or its representation in an image or display distinguishable. The eye is a dynamic organ and can detect contrast ratio from 400:1 to over 10,000:1.”

Sony Steps Up

One of the biggest criticisms from Ultra HD detractors is the lack of 4K content. The format’s supporters, however, point to Sony and its efforts to promote 4K. Not only has Sony launched 4K TVs, but it has also introduced the FMP-X1 4K Media player to allow consumers to play native 4K content in their homes.

“Our TVs deliver a vibrant and natural picture that is four times clearer than high definition,” says Mike Lucas, senior vice president, Sony Electronics Home Division. “As for content, these new sets enhance all of the video people are watching today, and this summer our 4K media player followed in the fall by the video distribution service will demonstrate how Sony continues to lead in bringing the 4K entertainment experience to viewers.”

Sony’s 4K Video Unlimited distribution service will offer subscribers a selection of movies in 4K from Sony Pictures Entertainment and other movie houses. Some of the titles Sony plans on releasing include “Bad Teacher,” “Battle, Los Angeles,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” “The Karate Kid (2010),” “Taxi Driver,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Total Recall (2010).” Movie rentals for 24 hours will cost $7.99, while purchases will cost $29.99. TV show rentals will cost $3.99.

Sony also rolled out a marketing initiative to help educate the public. The marketing campaign features Garth Davis, co-director of the mini-series “Top of the Lake”, and a film he created with Claudio Miranda, ASC, using Sony’s F55 and F65 4K cameras.

Davis says Ultra HD provides viewers with a more realistic experience than anything they’ve ever seen. “The Sony 4K Ultra HD TV really is a new way of looking at things, a new visual language. There is so much detail, it’s almost like you can walk into the picture,” he says. “One of the things unique to the TV is color. And the story we’ve been creating for this project is about celebrating color in lots of ways. With Sony 4K we are working at the highest end of technology and creativity.”

Miranda adds the richness of 4K’s color palette is a key element to its potential. “It is so nice to have a larger color gamut to work with in 4K,” he points out. “You can extract more information and show what you may not have seen before on a TV.”

During the annual E3 gaming show, Sony announced its next-generation Playstation 4 (PS) gaming system. The speculation within the gaming community is it will offer the ability to stream 4K content. As for 4K video games, neither Sony or Microsoft have officially announced any 4K titles, and both companies have been ambiguous in their comments.

  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at

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  Article Topics

News · 3D · Digital Projection · Screen Innovations · Sony · Ultra HD · All Topics
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