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The Ugly Truth About Ultra HD and What Dealers Need to Do About It

Ultra HD's rapid evolution is exceeding the capabilities of HDMI, and integrators need to look into future-proof solutions such as fiber products and networking technologies to resolve bandwidth issues and stay ahead of the 4K game.

The Ugly Truth About Ultra HD and What Dealers Need to Do About It
The maturing Ultra HD 4K market is now seeing 18Gbp content such as Ultra HD Blu ray discs hit store shelves. This high-bandwidth content in some cases requires new HDMI infrastructure to ensure full signal compatibility and reliability.

Photos & Slideshow

Robert Archer · October 18, 2016

Networking Technologies Offer Another Alternative

One of the most interesting aspects of the evolving A/V market is that many commercial solutions exist that can support the residential market’s hunger for bandwidth.

Admitting that consumer preferences drive many technology trends in the commercial market, Steven Barlow, president of DVIGear, says that while the appetite for 4K with HDR and WCGs isn’t as big as the consumer market, commercial equipment manufacturers have been preparing for this type of scenario for years.

DVIGear recommends dealers prepare for 4K even if they aren’t installing 4K-based systems now.

He says the reason for this is simply the fact that every step up—1080p to 4K at 30Hz; 4K at 30Hz to 4K at 60Hz, etc. —essentially requires a jump of twice the bandwidth.

Barlow emphasizes that it is not realistic to go from 1080p to 4K at 60Hz with current cables because that requires a quadrupling of speed. He notes that dramatic performance increases like that is a lot to ask for with something even as mundane as cables.

Putting the numbers aside, Barlow boils down the situation succinctly by stating that dealers should specify systems with future formats in mind.

“What we are evangelizing is that if you buy or sell a system, that it be 4K ready. Ultra HD in general means 4K at 30Hz or 4K at 60Hz. There is a lot of gamesmanship out there. It is important when talking 30Hz vs. 60Hz what chroma subsampling is being used. In our case 4:4:4 is in our discussions,” he says.

“We are urging people to buy hardware that supports 4K at 60Hz. If a customer buys a system and it is 1080p then they come back to you and want 4K, you may have to explain to them they need a new system. That disturbs a lot of customers. Customers glance at these details unless they are astute. You need to plan ahead so you need to know what you are specifying.”

Pointing out a product line that solves the issues of high-bandwidth A/V signals, Barlow says DVIGear’s DisplayNet line of products is another option for dealers.

Elaborating on the DisplayNet line of products, Barlow says the components utilize a network approach to the transmission of A/V signals. Barlow explains the products employ 10Gbe-networking technologies to packetize and transmit uncompressed, audio and KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) signals.

According to Barlow, networking technologies are vastly ahead of formats such as HDMI, which were developed in the 1990s and they support the full, uncompressed transmission of HDMI 2.0 with HDR.

“HDMI was never designed for long distances or complex routing applications, and 10Gbe Ethernet is designed for long distances,” asserts Barlow. “The coding system for 10Gbe is extremely efficient and the genius of the AptoVision Division is to use the 10Gbe Ethernet system and use a chipset that takes advantage of it."

"Valens’ is a closed system, and it is extremely popular because it does a similar thing; moving high-bandwidth signals over Cat-5. But it is a closed system. You have to have an HDBaseT transmitter and receiver. DisplayNet allows for any 10Gbe Ethernet switch, and if you look down the road at 8K for example—it is on our product roadmap—it’s using 40Gbe switches, which are already on the market and have been for years.”

InfoComm also reveals a number of other A/V and KVM over IP solutions from companies such as Adder Technologies, Black Box Design, ATEN, RGB Spectrum. In the residential market, Just Add Power has also innovated in the A/V over IP category.

Ultra HD Requires Pragmatic Approach Beyond Signal Transmission

Even high-performance video manufacturers are taking a cautious approach to 4K with HDR and WCGs.

Michael Bridwell, vice president of marketing and home entertainment, Digital Projection, warns that in addition to the signal transmission issues the market is currently experiencing, the problems of 4K implementation extend to hardware too. 

Helping to better define some of the hardware differences, Bridwell cites PMA Research’s classification of 4K products as a starting point to define the various 4K projectors on the market.  He also cites the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) definition of 4K Ultra HD, which is 3,840 x 2,160 as a minimum starting point of more than 8 million pixels.

Taking it beyond numbers, Bridwell recommends that dealers consider brightness, color and contrast as performance guides.

Expanding on some of the product differences, Bridwell says that today’s HDR specs, such as the ones defined by the UHD Alliance, refer to televisions and not projectors. He stresses that projectors are affected by environmental elements, the amount of light output projectors produce, and associated screen choices. These differences are also causing confusion.

“Regarding HDR, WCG, ultra-contrast imagery and other topics that pertain to performance standards, let’s dissect them. Today’s limited HDR standards such as those defined within the UHD Alliance Premium Certification refer to TVs, not projectors. The contrast ratios are direct view specs and don’t take environment into account,” Bridwell emphasizes.


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“So based on the UHD Alliance standards, a projector marketed as ‘HDR capable’ is somewhat misleading if a true contrast performance metric is required. Then there is the Ultra HD Alliance’s brightness spec, which is also defined in terms that apply to TVs. Calling for a minimum of 1,000 nits is much brighter than pretty much every projector you have ever seen. It is like 13,000 lumens on a 120-inch diagonal screen with minimal gain brighter.”

The good news is that companies with bright projectors shouldn’t be concerned, according to Bridwell, but he warns that there are a lot of consumer-grade projectors that don’t deliver high brightness and contrast levels.

Optimistically, Bridwell says there are projectors capable of producing HDR images, including the color criteria, pixel count and color depth.

“If the methods surrounding HDR can deliver a more immersive viewing experience that emulates what our eyes truly see, we’ll all benefit. Digital Projection is working on that goal, but today select LED projectors produce a dazzling color gamut, far beyond the REC 709 standard and in the case of our INSIGHT LED, beyond the P3 color space,” says Bridwell.

“We think it is important to accentuate the benefits that most everyone can enjoy, and a pragmatically delivered wider color gamut experience creates that ‘wow’ factor for most.”

Keeping up with a Moving Target

Highlighted by its “Lunch and Learn” sessions, Metra has been proactive in trying to educate its dealers on the potential hazards that await them as bandwidth requirements escalate. McCall points out that Metra works extensively with Boccaccio to disseminate the latest information as quickly and as accurately as possible.

A good example of how Metra is working with Boccaccio currently can be found in Boccaccio’s advice in dealing with the information overload that is sweeping the industry.

Boccaccio is telling dealers to streamline their thinking to keep from being overwhelmed by all the numbers being thrown around right now. He emphasizes that dealers keep it simple by looking for products that are capable of delivering 18Gbps bandwidth.

“I have people ask me all the time why I say, ‘don’t be concerned with 4:4:4 and 4:2:0 because they’re just numbers,’” says Boccaccio.

“Not too long ago, a majority of folks had never even paid attention to these numbers, meaning sub-sampling and bit rate. Today, it seems that the numbers are all they’re talking about. If you have true 18Gbps transmission line, the systems will support any mix of numbers you want to throw at it whether it’s HDR, 4:4:4 or color depth.”

Boccaccio also reiterates that dealers need to future proof their clients’ systems.

“It is imperative that the transmission line actually covers current and future demands. Whether it is fiber or copper, the need for bandwidth is there,” emphasizes Boccaccio.

“Although, when operating under Rev 2.0a at full bandwidth, the rules change. In addition, we have discovered many anomalies that can affect product interoperability due to signal integrity issues, which had never surfaced before. It’s important to remember that quality products will always have supporting documentation verifying what it can and cannot support. This is where product claims can get you in trouble.”

Providing a level of protection for dealers are companies like AV ProStore, which offer system testers to A/V professionals.

The Sioux Falls, S.D.-based company positions itself as a, “technical resource of choice for installers and integrators serving the residential and commercial Audio Video markets,” and it provides a selection of distribution amplifiers, matrix switchers and testers designed for 18Gbps applications.

AV ProStore offers a number of dealer incentives to step into testing products from manufacturers such as Quantum Data and Murideo, including trade-ins and other sales specials.

These products are designed to test for 18Gbps bandwidth as well as other provisions such as 60Hz refresh rates and 4:4:4 chroma subsampling on formats such as HDMI and HDBaseT.

Silver sums up the current situation by pointing out the CEDIA 2016 Expo was a real turning point for the electronics industry. Silver theorizes the next big innovation to hit the market could be 120Hz frame rates, which he says will make the broadcast of sports on TV much better.


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Silver says fast sports will benefit from this technology, and with 8K on the horizon, dealers need to find solutions to pass these high-bandwidth signals before it’s too late.

“I am hoping to see 120Hz demos by the next Olympics. It will look awesome on sports like hockey and football. Sports at 120Hz will be a revelation. It will look almost 3D. We have been watching 60Hz [content] for so long that we’ve accepted it. We’ve done 8-bit video since 1982, and now we’ve graduated to 4:2:0 and 10 bit. It provides a smoother, more natural looking picture, but it took more content and more speed for it to look that good. Years ago Noel Lee [CEO of Monster Inc.] talked about 18Gbps and he was right, but he got no credit. It shouldn’t be a surprise for people that did their homework. There are massive headaches for UHD players with older TVs,” says Silver.

“The obligation to the clients is to avoid the headaches. You need to be honest with the client and tell them the old cable doesn’t work. Don’t make the mistake again—run conduit. We learn as we go, and we have learned that bandwidth will only go up.”



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  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 robert.archer@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


Home Theater · Displays · Projectors & Screens · AV Receivers · Networking & Cables · HDMI · Audio/Video · Distributed Audio · Multiroom Video · AV Matrix Switchers · News · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by dbendell on October 25, 2016

The Other Ugly Truth!
Content & hardware is poor: DirecTV 4K and Dish 4K receivers look horrible on these new 4K sets. I can’t put my finger on it as to why, but after 35 installs of these 4K receivers we have given up.  The older non 4K receivers look the best on the new 4K TV’s. The bigger the screen the worse it gets, I have to guess the compression ratios of these companies and the many crappy channels they need to offer is restricting quality versus quantity. Streaming 4K on a good internet speed is great, but far and few between for our clients. Last, the amount of 4K content from Cable, DirecTV & Dish is a disgrace in general!

Posted by bobrapoport on October 20, 2016

Good article Robert, indeed cable capacity is an important issue for future proofing native 4K systems.  Another even bigger issue is the “incrementalism” of bringing 3 new versions of HDMI v2.0 to market over the first 9 months of its deployment.  First we had v2.0, then in the spring it became v2.0a, then in the summer it became the current standard v2.0b. 

Enabling Atmos was responsible for the first step, HDR for the second.  Will we need to wait for v2.0c for Dolby Vision or what?  This is chaotic to say the least, it makes me tell everybody to hold off on 4K for a while, let the dust settle a bit.  Since most people still watch 1080i broadcast and 576p streaming upscaled to 1080p, full appreciation of the “native” 1080p standard on Blu-ray is still well beyond the understanding of most consumers.  Native 1080p has 225% more pixels than 720p/1080i, yet its never been fully adopted by either broadcast or streaming providers.  If they cant deliver native 1080p, they certainly cant deliver native UHD 4K.

Everything in the current supply chain for 4K is already obsolete. Consumers are already feeling ripped off about it.  Reminds me of the original roll-out of HDMI in 2004, we went through a lot of iterations before settling at v1.4c.

Your story should mention this, just my two cents.

Posted by bobrapoport on October 20, 2016

Good article Robert, indeed cable capacity is an important issue for future proofing native 4K systems.  Another even bigger issue is the “incrementalism” of bringing 3 new versions of HDMI v2.0 to market over the first 9 months of its deployment.  First we had v2.0, then in the spring it became v2.0a, then in the summer it became the current standard v2.0b. 

Enabling Atmos was responsible for the first step, HDR for the second.  Will we need to wait for v2.0c for Dolby Vision or what?  This is chaotic to say the least, it makes me tell everybody to hold off on 4K for a while, let the dust settle a bit.  Since most people still watch 1080i broadcast and 576p streaming upscaled to 1080p, full appreciation of the “native” 1080p standard on Blu-ray is still well beyond the understanding of most consumers.  Native 1080p has 225% more pixels than 720p/1080i, yet its never been fully adopted by either broadcast or streaming providers.  If they cant deliver native 1080p, they certainly cant deliver native UHD 4K.

Everything in the current supply chain for 4K is already obsolete. Consumers are already feeling ripped off about it.  Reminds me of the original roll-out of HDMI in 2004, we went through a lot of iterations before settling at v1.4c.

Your story should mention this, just my two cents.

Posted by dbendell on October 25, 2016

The Other Ugly Truth!
Content & hardware is poor: DirecTV 4K and Dish 4K receivers look horrible on these new 4K sets. I can’t put my finger on it as to why, but after 35 installs of these 4K receivers we have given up.  The older non 4K receivers look the best on the new 4K TV’s. The bigger the screen the worse it gets, I have to guess the compression ratios of these companies and the many crappy channels they need to offer is restricting quality versus quantity. Streaming 4K on a good internet speed is great, but far and few between for our clients. Last, the amount of 4K content from Cable, DirecTV & Dish is a disgrace in general!