Deborah D. McAdams /
02.21.2013 04:15 PM
McAdams On: 4KTV
If only...
LUNCH – I’ll make this quick out of mercy to the dear reader and nothing at all to do with competition in the chow line. I am writing to you live from the Hollywood Post Alliance Technology Retreat in the desert conclave of Indian Wells, Calif., in the company of some of the smartest people in TV and motion pictures. They think 4KTV can be a contender, and so do I. It has the following qualities going for it:

A) It does not make the viewer sick.

That was a wee bit of a strike against 3DTV. That, and—let’s be honest—it’s just not that interesting. A good deal of the time, 3D video images look like moving dioramas. Forget about the glasses. Forget about the dim images from losing half the viewing light. 3DTV is gimmicky. We all knew it, but TV manufacturers needed a hook after the windfall that was HDTV. The problem was, they believed that others would believe their hype about 3DTV. I’m not about to go to bat for the overall intelligence of the species, but I believe it safe to say that humans know enough to draw the line at spending $1,000 on a TV set that literally nauseates them.

Whereas… higher resolutions can provide the type of picture sharpness that makes images seem more like 3D. Look around at your surroundings now, whatever they are, your brain doesn’t inform you that you are processing visual information in three dimensions. Depth perception and spatial awareness just goes with the territory, (with the exception of certain drivers for whom an automobile represents a perceptual Faraday cage, and you know who you are. No you don’t.).

Part of what makes our surroundings dimensional is the resolution is absolute, according to what I just now think. Be that as it may, the higher resolution monitors shown at last year’s HPA retreat and other trade shows provided a more realistic illusion of depth than any 3D display I’ve ever seen. Visual perception scientists will have much more detailed and accurate assessments of how the human eye processes video-display images, but at the end of the day, what matters is what people see, not what others believe that they see. And there is some evidence that people detect a difference between HD- and 4K-sourced material—on HD displays, no less.

That alone is compelling enough for some of the TV guys I talked to here to be optimistic about 4K, even while many of the processing and distribution components do not yet exist. Productions have long been captured with more data than what was ultimately sent out to the world, I’m told. 4K is just another iteration of that.

How 4K fits into today’s television distribution systems is another proposition entirely. The clearest, least-squeezed HD content available on non-physical media today can only be had over-the-air, (though to be fair, HBO doesn’t look bad on some pay systems). We all know that over-the-air TV is bound, however, by MPEG-2, and despite improvements in encoders since the codec was adopted in 1996, transmitting 4K images in 6 MHz of spectrum using MPEG-2 will not occur.

All it needs is industry-wide agreement and approval for an advanced codec that TV manufacturers agree to put in sets that are compelling enough to make a majority of people go out and buy one.

Stranger things, as they say.


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Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 02-22-2013 04:26 PM Report Comment
You don't need to understand oversampling to see the results - the best "HD" video I've seen remains Baraka - shot on 65mm film,scanned at 8K and then downrezzed. More resolution at the front end has to be a good thing, regardless of how long it takes the rest of the chain to creak forward. Thanks for the updates this week Deborah.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 02-22-2013 05:07 PM Report Comment
This was a 3D article more than a 4K article.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 02-22-2013 09:39 PM Report Comment
Good points, but the rush to 4K misses what may be a more important innovation--improving temporal resolution. 4K's 24 fps frame rate is a step down from the ATSC standards. We need a version of 4K that offers at least 48 fps (if not 60 fps).
Posted by: Anonymous
Sat, 02-23-2013 02:10 AM Report Comment
Yes, oversampling is a good thing. But it's also important to note that its returns diminish. Theoretically, there's nothing to be gained by sampling more than twice what you display. Shoot 4K and 8K, and they'll look about the same on a 2K display. Some may claim to see a difference, but it ain't much. Interlace is another mess that messes with resolution. 1080i has maybe 60% of the resolution of 1080p or 2K. So, as long as the broadcasters max out at 1080i/720p, there isn't a good oversampling argument for going from 1080p cameras to 4K cameras. As for higher frame rates at 4K, the issue is spectrum. Even 4K/24 would be a challenge to compress into 19.39 without looking worse than 1080i. The FCC wants TV stations to do the electromagnetic equivalent of phone booth stuffing as it is.... BTW, most scripted episodic TV is shot and posted 1080p/24, and aired with 3-2 pulldown.
Posted by: Anonymous
Mon, 02-25-2013 02:33 PM Report Comment
On any consumer display less than 90" you really can't see the difference. The reality is most people get their content by cable/satellite or internet which means after compression they aren't even getting true HD resolution. No one doing a true double blind comparison can tell the difference between 2k and 4k on less than a 90" screen from more than 8 ft away. Hi res makes sense only for acquisition. for tv/internet it is a waste of bandwidth.
Posted by: Anonymous
Mon, 02-25-2013 08:54 PM Report Comment
" No one doing a true double blind comparison can tell the difference between 2k and 4k on less than a 90" screen from more than 8 ft away." OK, but with all things, the closer you look, the better you see them. If I had a 30" 4K display, I'd just get up closer and put on my computer glasses. The right way to think about it is that human vision maxes out at something like 60 cycles per degree. Give it more pixels, and you can cover more degrees with a bigger picture.

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