It is an undeniable fact that 4K has surpassed standard high definition displays. The picture quality on 4K displays account for four times the pixel counts as standard HD displays, and the difference is noticeable immediately to even the most casual viewer of content on flat panel displays. The technology behind Ultra High Definition displays is a significant improvement over the already crisp and clear displays we have grown accustomed to.
The problem with 4K is not in the display, but in what is being displayed. There are problems that exist with creating and distributing content to 4K displays. As it stands, standard HD streams look great on 4K displays, but do not stretch the technology to its full capacity. It’s not exactly enough of an improvement to justify three- to four-times the cost of a standard HD TV. There are three main reasons for the lack of content.
The first problem is that there has not been enough time to create content. As it stands, there are a few shows and films on Netflix available to stream in 4K. There are not, however, any broadcasts available in 4K, nor any sort of disc format like Blu-ray. Content providers are not yet sure that there is incentive to make content available in 4K. Film studios are still considering ways to provide 4K masters at a fiscal cost. Broadcasters are hesitant to spend huge amounts of money on new cameras, data storage systems, and broadcasting infrastructure that would be needed to shoot in 4K.
The second problem comes with compression. Since 4K picture quality is so superior to standard HD, it stands to reason that the data required to deliver these video files are much greater as well. The heavy compression needed to stream 4K to 15Mbps on Netflix would result in blocking and banding artifacts in backgrounds. There is talk about introducing other picture-improving technologies, but viable solutions have yet to emerge.
The final problem is the lack of a technical standard that 4K content would abide by. There is currently no certainty over what format or system 4K broadcasts might adopt, so there is no certainty that the tuners built into 4K TVs will work. There is also no standard for compression, and some 4K TVs are already incompatible with Netflix’s 4K service. Even the connection to hook up 4K TVs to 4K sources is a confusing subject. There are already two 4K HDMI standards in common circulation.
4K is already here, and it looks as if it is here to stay. Predictions say that 25 percent of TVs sold in 2015 will be 4K, and 40 percent will be 4K in 2016. The problem is that, if we don’t figure out the answers to the problems behind content creation and distribution, the reality of 4K will fall far short of the ideal.