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The year 2012 brought us the first couple of consumer 4K displays, some available and some just announcements, and the naysayers are warming up their keyboards again, cranking their blogs from their kitchen chair as they did when negatively wrote about 3DTV over the past 3 years, with comments such as “is too expensive”, “it will bomb as 3DTV”, “4KTV is stupid”, “who is going to buy 4K?”, “there is no glasses in 4K but who needs so many pixels?”, “where is the content?”

Other than the owners forum of this projector I have not seen one blogger comment that said: I like my 4K display.

Why? Perhaps because a common denominator of most columns and blogs is that they express their opinion without actually owning the product, the same way they did regarding 3DTV, based on casual viewings at CE shows, or from what others in the same wavelength are saying.

I see 4K as part of a new UHDTV vision for the TV industry, and I hope is promoted right this time, not like 3DTV, because 4K is not just about more pixels.

The main problem with 3DTV was that it was promoted as a new TV when 3D was actually just one more feature of a good TV, for someone to occasionally view a 3D movie or sport wearing the 3D glasses for just that event, not for a whole day of 3DTV viewing of simulated content.

4K promises a better image for home entertainment. U(ltra)HDTV is a standard that encompasses 4K and 8K image resolution, which is a rounded number of horizontal pixels in the video line, not of the entire pixel-grid in the whole video frame.

As I did with the series of 3DTV articles that I started even before 3DTV was introduced at 2010 CES and available to consumers later that year, I am again launching a similar effort now with 4K. This is the first of a series of articles under the name “Living with 4K”.

Early this year I could have just reviewed the Sony 4K projector but I knew I would not want it to leave my home afterwards, so I bought it about 6 months ago and I am experiencing all its capabilities and features.

Even without 4K content, my investment was worth every penny. I put a lot of trust on this great 4K effort of Sony, a company with proven technology that uniquely covers the whole 4K loop from camera to projection.

My love affair with 4K started 7 years ago. I was interested in the SRX-110 4K projector Sony released in 2005. It was a large-venue projector that cost about $80,000 plus $15,000 lens; I did not have the economic justification for such expenditure for my home theater, so I bought another large-venue projector back then.

Besides, I would have needed a forklift to install this 187 lbs monster, but it was always in my dreams. The projector was mentioned in my 2005 (pg 44) and 2006 (pg 69) HDTV Technology Reviews (and again in the 2007 pg 101), all free:

SRX-R110, introduced at Digital Cinema Laboratory in Hollywood, CA; resolution of 4096x2160, judged as with a picture quality of at least 35 mm, 10000 ANSI lumens, expected in movie theaters by 2005, dual-screen mode for the projection of dual 1920x1080 images, and quad-mode for four 1920x1080 images, $80,000, $15,000 extra for lens, TTM Jan 05, suitable for up to 40 feet wide screens.

Today the Sony 4K consumer version is valued at about a quarter of that price, has 2000 super bright lumens with a $700+ lamp, is suitable for up to 300-inches screens, and weights +- 50 lbs, still a bit heavy, but no forklift is needed.

In relative terms, 7 years later, Sony has made of 4K an attractive proposition to consumers like me, I am not as lucky as Jeremy (6 million $ home theatre), who has one of the 187 lbs monsters above and a Meridian 4K projector twice the price.

Let us talk about resolution

You probably know that HD has 1920 horizontal pixels in the line of video, which is close to the horizontal resolution of the 2K image at the local theater, but for simplicity I will not discuss here the exact resolution of 2K, or the Digital Cinema standards.

In bulk figures, 4K approximately doubles the 2K/HD resolution horizontally, and 8K doubles it horizontally again. That is just the number of pixels in the horizontal axis.

The vertical axis of 2K/HD (1080 lines) is also doubled to 2160 in 4K, and doubled again for 8K (4320).

So when considering both axes the actual pixel count of the whole image jumps about 4 times from 2K/HD to 4K, and 4 times again from 4K to 8K (2 million HD image pixels jump to 8 million of 4K, and jump again to 32 million of 8K, approximately).

The bottom line is that the 4K image of the newer displays is four times more detailed than HD; and 8K would be 16 times more detailed than HD (7680x4320) when available to consumers, now as prototypes in CE shows and events.

But having a 4K display is not enough to see the “best” of such image detail, because a) it has to be viewed at the correct viewing distance (view it from too far away and the benefit may be lost), b) original 4K content has to be fed to the 4K display in order to get the full benefit, and c) the display has to be capable to accept 4K resolution as input.

(a) & (c) can be possible now, how can we compensate for the temporary lack of (b)? And, is (b) important now?

Stay tuned for part 2, where I will discuss how one can start enjoying the capabilities of a 4K display even without 4K content, and when 4K content is expected to arrive.

Posted by Rodolfo La Maestra, October 26, 2012 7:59 AM

More in Category: 4K (Ultra HD)

About Rodolfo La Maestra

Rodolfo La Maestra is the Senior Technical Director of UHDTV Magazine and HDTV Magazine and participated in the HDTV vision since the late 1980's. In the late 1990's, he began tracking and reviewing HDTV consumer equipment, and authored the annual HDTV Technology Review report, tutorials, and educative articles for HDTV Magazine, DVDetc and HDTVetc  magazines, Veritas et Visus Newsletter, Display Search, and served as technical consultant/editor for the "Reference Guide" and the "HDTV Glossary of Terms" for HDTVetc and HDTV Magazines.  In 2004, he began recording a weekly HDTV technology program for MD Cable television, which by 2006 reached the rating of second most viewed.

Rodolfo's background encompasses Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, and Audio and Video Electronics, with over 4,700 hours of professional training, a BS in Computer and Information Systems, and thirty+ professional and post-graduate certifications, some from MIT, American, and George Washington Universities.  Rodolfo was also Computer Science professor in five institutions between 1966-1973 in Argentina, regarding IBM, Burroughs, and Honeywell mainframe computers.  After 38 years of computer systems career, Rodolfo retired in 2003 as Chief of Systems Development from the Inter-American Development Bank directing sixty+ software-development computer professionals, supporting member countries in north/central/south America.

In parallel, from 1998 he helped the public with his other career of audio/video electronics, which started with hi-end audio in the early 60’s and merged with Home Theater video, multichannel audio
, HD, 3D and UHDTV. When HDTV started airing in November 1998, and later followed by 3DTV and 4K UHDTV, he realized that the technology as implemented would overwhelm consumers due to its complexity, and it certainly does even today, and launched his mission of educating and helping consumers understand the complexity, the challenge, and the beauty of the technology pursuing better sound and image, so the public learn to appreciate it not just as another television.