What is 4k?

If you haven’t heard the new buzz word “4K” yet then you’re about to hear all about it in this post. If you have heard 4k and have been wondering what all this talk is about then you’ve come to the right place. I will try to explain things as simply as possible without filling this post with too much tech jargon that just confuses most of us even more. Currently, the highest resolution that is widely available for consumer use is 1080p or commonly call Full HD. Most of the media content that we watch right now is a step below that in resolutions of 720p or 1080i and commonly call HD or HDTV. While this looks just fine for most viewers compared to what we all had before, content providers are always striving to get the consumer better, faster content. 1080p or Full HD content can  be found on Bluray discs, Kaleidescape systems, select Directv Pay per View and movies, select Appletv content, select Netflix content, etc. Simply buying a Bluray disc does not ensure you can view it properly. Having the proper hdmi cables and tv to view the 1080p content is necessary. The Kaleidescape systems we sell have been doing 1080 content forever it seems like. All imported Bluray discs are output in 1080p as well as all your old dvd content is upconverted to 1080p so they look almost as good as you remembered. One thing I have noticed since the flood of high definition content is that when you view an non HD channel or try to watch an old dvd disc it seems horrible to watch. Kaleidescape solves this problem for me, in fact I often pick up old dvd discs when I see them on sale because the Kscape players do such a great job of making them look good. Select 1080p content on Appletv and Netflix type services is a little harder to find. Not all shows and movies are at the 1080p resolution and often the ones that are need to be chosen when purchasing and they often cost more than the standard definition and HD versions. Download times for this content along your internet is also greatly increased with 1080p. If you don’t have blazing fast internet don’t even try to view a 1080p movie. All this being said, we are now looking at 4k taking over as the best of the best. 4k resolution is essentially twice the resolution of 1080p.Simply put, the display will have twice as many pixels in the same area as before meaning the picture will be much sharper and more capable of realistic images. All this sounds great doesn’t it? Well, here’s the skinny. The manufacturers rushed to get the 4k tvs out before the content! It’s true that the 4k tvs do “upscale” all the media content you have now so the shiny new 4k tv you just bought will give you a picture BUT not the true picture you should be getting with 4k content. DEG installed one of the first Sony 4k televisions in the country last year. The Sony XBR-84X900… awesome tv. At a retail price of $25,000 Sony got smart and shipped the tv with it’s own Sony 4k content server. This server was basically just a pc loaded with 15-20 Sony movies. While the picture looked good, it was a royal pain to use and the client never touched it. 6 months later, we got a call from Sony saying they had a new 4k server the FMP-X1 and wanted to install it along with a 4k upgrade to the Sony tv. They sent a tech out and we worked with him to get it installed and a few hours later we had it up and running. The new server is an actual unit that is sold to the public now and once again came loaded with a few movies, the rest are purchased through the online Sony store that the server connects to. It’s still limited to Sony movies and the operation is still a bit of a mess. Sony provided one of their tablets to control the server but I’m still not impressed. I don’t think the client has used the new 4k server now either! The manufacturers producing the new 4k tvs are in my opinion banking on the consumer using built in apps on the tv itself to find 4k content. These “smart” tvs often come loaded with apps such as Youtube and Netflix which both offer some 4k content now. Keep in mind all of this content you find with apps on the tv will have to be downloaded and or streamed to the tv for viewing. Remember what I said about blazing fast internet with 1080p? To sum up, I think 4k content looks absolutely stunning on high quality tvs and projectors like the ones Sony makes. I think 4k IS the future of high quality content and is not going to be a fad like 3d. However, getting that wonderful 4k content into your home and on the screen is the big challenge I see moving forward. It will happen though and those of us early adopters who are struggling to get 4k content will one day forget how hard it was and will look to the future for even a better viewing experience one day. .


Paul Beauregard CTO/Designer    Design Engineering Group