Posted by Neil Bennett 21 March 2014
Why are we getting excited about 4K when we can't even do HD properly?
4K is the future of television, say TV set makers and broadcasters – but most of us would like a great HD service first.
Over the past six months or so, you’ve probably heard a lot about 4K – or Ultra HD as some are calling it. After the failure of 3D TV to capture anyone’s imagination, this is where we’re really doing next. Right? TV set makers and broadcasters were sure 3D was going to take off – but they’re really sure about 4K. I mean, it’s 4x better than HD. Who wouldn’t want that?
Well, me – not yet anyway. But why?
It’s not the quality. I’m the first the admit that 4K is noticeably better than HD. As editor of Digital Arts – a sister site of TechAdvisor whose readers include those making films, TV shows, music videos and the like – I’ve seen a lot of 4K at every level from raw capture to final presentation on screen or in the cinema.
It’s not a lack of content. I’m aware everyone involved in creating video content with a shelf life of longer than right now wants to be making it in 4K so it’s ready for when Ultra HD becomes as mainstream as ‘normal’ HD is now. It’s not that TV sets are expensive – the first Ultra HD TV set has gone on sale in the US for less that $1,000 (a big milestone in it becoming affordable) or that delivery systems aren’t there yet – Sky and the BBC have both done trials and Netflix is launching a 4K service with Samsung this month apparently.
It’s that I’d like my standard, average, everyday HD to stop being crap first. I skipped Blu-ray in favour of Virgin TV and now Netflix – and the compression levels can be horrible. Netflix offers wonderful Super HD – and by ’Super’ it means ’not compressed to hell' through a variety of hardware boxes from the Apple TV to the PS4, but not my Windows 7 PC, MacBook Pro or Xbox One. Despite a fibre backbone, Virgin’s HD quality varies from mediocre to goddamnawful.
When the majority of TV and web services can live up to what we were promised from HD, we can start looking ahead to 4K. Til then, let’s not waste our time.