Back in the mid-1960s Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, famously predicted the computing industry would continually add power and diminish the cost of products at a rapid pace. Fifty years later, the tech market can look back and commend the accuracy of what would become known as “Moore’s Law,” and even apply it to categories beyond computing.
One such category that has been seemingly approaching Moore’s Law-like levels of evolution is video.
Over the past 15 years the video market has gone from standard-definition (SD) resolution to a combination of 720p and 1080i high definition (HD), to “full HD” 1080p, 3D 1080p and most recently 4K or Ultra HD. If that hasn’t been a rapid enough format evolution (at the same time shifting associated content playback from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray and impending Ultra HD Blu-ray), in as few as five years the 8K Super Hi-Vision format may be implemented by the Japanese broadcaster NHK in time for the 2020 Olympics.
Facilitating the signal transmission during this time span has been analog component video, RGBHV, DVI and HDMI. Today HDMI and the increasingly popular HDBaseT protocols are enabling the transmission of digital AV formats that include new object-based surround-sound audio such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, as well as the aforementioned Ultra HD/4K video.
Crunching the Numbers
Taking a close look at the video category, it’s important to realize the momentum behind 4K is legitimate. Unlike the passing fad of 3D, which was arguably driven by the consumer electronics industry’s desire to bolster TV sales, 4K is receiving support in broadcast, pro AV and the consumer markets. With that comes additional technical considerations.
As part of a recent webinar presented by TechDecisions sister publication CE Pro, Kevin Iselli, senior curriculum developer, Crestron Electronics, explained the stress that today’s video formats places on the infrastructure of distributed AV system. Iselli points out that existing 1080p systems are becoming bogged down with the resolutions of devices such as MacBook Pros, iPads and PCs such as Dell’s XPS 15 and Precision M3800, which produce high-quality resolutions reaching 2048 x 1536 to 3200 x 1800, for instance. The critical nature of AV transmission will only increase as 4K becomes more accessible.
He succinctly notes that when dealing with the much higher resolution Ultra HD format, the pixel count soars from just over 2 million (1920 x 1080) to well over 8 million pixels (3840 x 2160). This increase, Iselli says, places an enormous burden on distributed A/V systems and their architecture.
“Infrastructure is key to handling 4K and the high data rates necessary to support 4K, especially with longer [cable] runs,” he notes. “At 1080p cables can get as long as 40 feet; with 4K, anything beyond 3 feet gets to be a challenge for carrying these signals.”
Doug Engstrom, vice president of communications and technical support, Contemporary Research, says that from his company’s perspective, the market is trending toward the growing implantation of digital channels for in-house RF systems. Engstrom adds the company also sees increased potential in streaming media with websites improving their bandwidth and multicasting capabilities, which is necessitating the need for more robust encoders and modulating solutions.