It was just 2013 when the marketing drums started beating for 4k and the response from that journalistic segment – seemingly paid to throw cold water on new technologies – was that 4k TV was unnecessary. The human eye can’t see 4k. Living rooms can’t be built big enough. And, the usual opening salvo: there’s no content.
The fracas over 4k has passed with hardly a scuffle. The people who have complained that 4k TVs are a long way away have shut up – much faster than usual because 4k TVs are being bought much faster than expected. Prices for 4k started their inevitable slide toward the end of 2014, and consumers predictably started buying. Worldwide sales for 4k TVs jumped 500 percent compared to last year, and the content has started to flow, or rather, stream.
The providers of OTT (over-the-top, as in over-the-Internet) content, such as Netflix, Amazon, and UltraFlix, are providing 4k content, and they promise to match the pace of innovation in ways their counterparts in cable and satellite can only dream about matching. However, DirecTV is also going to offer 4k service soon.
The upward trend for 4k TVs will continue of course, but, ironically, 4k really isn’t the point. The content creators and providers – the directors, cinematographers, and broadcasters – are much more excited about the potential of high dynamic range (HDR), and immersive audio, high frame rates, and whatever else they think up that 4k TVs could deliver. The inescapable message at NAB 2015 is that HDR is going to bring a real change in home TV viewing.
Cameras have been adding resolution, and along the way, have become capable of very wide ranges of light capture, which, if you’ll excuse a breathless aside – Isn’t it the most wonderful thing the way digital cameras have become so incredibly capable and relatively inexpensive? These cameras are enabling a shift in favor of independent filmmakers and cinematographers who can create professional content with their own equipment.
Last year, AJA introduced its own camera. A year or so before that, Blackmagic introduced theirs. The cameras have been slow to ship, and both companies admit that making cameras is a lot harder than they had thought, but the goal is end-to-end control over the pipeline: in this case, the entire acquisition to computer workflow. In fact, Blackmagic, Red, and Sony have also added software editing, color grading, audio, and more.