4K: Is The Bright Future Of TV Just Around The Corner?


Pressing Play On 4K Ultra HD TVs

Besides cable company drama and smart TV flops, the cable television industry has been making little waves on the consumer level. Enter 4K Ultra HD TVs, a brighter screen technology that delivers four times the resolution of our current 1080p HD TVs. While this kind of picture resolution is creating a buzz in an otherwise stagnant broadcast industry, will 4K be the plasma screen of this era or another 3D-esque fad that's destined to fizzle out?

SEE ALSO: Can New TV Technology Save Television?

What Is 4K?

Presently, the brightest screen quality we can get from an HD TV is 100 nits (nits is a unit used to measure luminance). To put this into perspective, the average 100-Watt light bulb radiates 18,000 nits. When compared to what we can fit in a single lamp, our current television capabilities are significantly limited in clarity and color. Not only do our HD TVs pale in comparison to light bulbs, their 100-nit range is considerably below what our current film and digital cameras can capture.

What 4K does is bridge this divide between the abilities of what cameras can shoot and what we can actually deliver on screen. Ultra HD TVs project 4,000 nits, bringing a picture that is brighter and crisper in quality than what we've seen previously on the market. Yet it took the broadcast world 20 years, from the first HD TV transmissions in Europe in 1990, to completely switch over to HD in 2009—how long until we can expect 4K to be the standard way we watch our content?

4K's Challenges

One of the biggest obstacles inhibiting 4K from becoming the foremost screen technology for media content is the major adjustments that would need to occur for that to happen. In order to manage the 4,000 nits of Ultra HD, the production pipeline would need a complete overhaul, including editing, mastering, and delivery adjustments. For the content creation field to follow through with an undertaking like that, the end result would need to come with the promise of a 'sure-thing'—that is, the demand for 4K would need to be significantly larger than it is now. With only 80,000 Ultra HD sets sold in the U.S. last year, little content is being made in 4K, which provides even less of an incentive for consumers to purchase sets.

The Present And Future Of 4K Ultra HD

Broadband, however, is unsurprisingly getting a leg up on cable and embracing the new screen technology. Streaming services such asNetflix, Amazon, and Microsoft Video have already partnered with Dolby Vision, one of the first adopters of 4K Ultra HD. A WiFi connection isn't the only common thing that'll let you experience clearer and sharper picture quality; product companies like GoPro and Panasonic are creating personal cameras that can record in 4K.

So, are 4K Ultra HD sets the natural next step in the way we watch our favorite shows and movies? "Everything will support the next generation TV technology at some point," writes Wired writer, Roberto Baldwin. " The question is, will it be worth the hassle of upgrading an entire industry for more pixels."

SEE ALSO: Is 3D TV A Thing Of The Past?

Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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