4K kicks off
Deloitte predicts that in 2013 the television industry will commence the roll-out of the next generation of high definition (HD) TV, known as 4K, which will offer four times higher resolution than the current highest standard HD1. It may be 18-36 months before 4K is technically and commercially broadcast-ready, but 2013 should see several significant landmarks in preparations:
- about 20 4K TV set models from more than ten vendors should be available by year-end2
- the first consumers should take delivery of 4K TV sets
- a range of 4K content will become available, initially blockbuster movies
- a growing range of professional and semi-professional 4K cameras should become available
- new supporting standards should be agreed, including a new high definition multimedia interface (HDMI) standard to service 4K data rates
- multiple test broadcasts are likely, with commercial services expected 2014/20153
The roll-out of any new broadcast standard is a major step, so the expected landmarks for 2013 should be considered significant.
That said, many commentators are likely to question the need for a new version of HD4. After all standard definition (SD) TV remains the most popular resolution globally – even for satellite TV customers, who have access to most bandwidth5.
Demand for 4K will likely grow over the medium-term, fuelled by rising expectations of higher resolutions across all screens, as well as larger TV sets and next generation games consoles. A growing range of smartphones, tablets and computers offer sufficient resolution for individual pixels not to be discernible 6. With a 40 inch 4K television, pixels would be hard to see close up, and disappear from about a meter.
The average size of TV sets will likely become steadily larger. As this happens, the need for more dots to fill larger screens will grow. 'Standard' HD on an 80 inch screen viewed from about three meters away would present a pixelated image.
Advances in video games could also drive demand for 4K. In 2013, powerful PCs with sufficiently fast Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) should be able to work with 4K TV sets. In subsequent years, new generations of games consoles may well ship with 4K support7.
While 4K TVs may be a medium-term purchase for mainstream consumers, wealthy early adopters should be able to satisfy their 4K needs in 2013. The commercial range of 4K TV sets should grow from a handful in 2012 to about 20 models by end-2013 8. At least half of these sets may be available for under $10,0009. Over subsequent years, the price of 4K TV sets is likely to drop steadily and significantly. With every price decline the accessible market should increase10. Within five years if not before, it is likely that smaller (about 50 inch) 4K TV sets will sell for under $1,000. The cost of manufacturing 50 inch 4K TV sets is expected to be significantly lower than 80 inch sets (about a third of the price)11.
4K TV set owners will need to rely on pre-recorded or streamed content in 2013: no broadcast services are planned. But there should be plenty of movies available to watch. Many blockbusters from 201212and 2011 are already digitally captured in 4K; about fifty films have been screened in 4K and films shot in 35mm can be scaled to 4K. Most major films since the early 1980s were shot in 35mm.
In 2013, commercially available eight-layer Blu-ray discs, with 200 gigabyte (GB) capacity (sufficient for a compressed 4K film) may become available. The first eight-layer prototype was announced almost ten years ago. Multi-layered discs are needed because a single Blu-ray disc, with 25 GB of memory, would be too small to store an entire movie13.
Streaming 4K content may also be challenging: with uncompressed files a user would require a half gigabit per second (Gbit/s) connection. Downloading an uncompressed 4K movie would take days over a standard broadband connection14. But few consumers would ever download an uncompressed file. A one hour compressed 4K film is about 160GB and would take seven and a half hours to download on a 50 Mbit/s broadband connection.
In 2013 the first connectors supporting 4K data rates should be available, based on the HDMI 2.0 standard15. Over the past decade, the HDMI standard has been regularly enhanced16. Prior to the introduction of an upgraded connector, cable connecting a source to a 4K TV will require four parallel high definition media interface (HDMI) connections, which may be considered inelegant in a domestic setting17.
A key landmark for 4K in 2013 should be test broadcasts, following initial trials in 201218. The broadcasts should prove useful for optimizing considerations such as frame rate (the number of still images shown per second to create video effect) by genre. Broadcasters will need to balance minimization of bandwidth requirements while maximizing viewer experience. For sports, the frame rate may need to be 120Hz to provide a fluid picture with no blurring: with higher resolutions image blurring is more visible, making 60Hz transmission less viable. Sports is likely to be one of the genres most likely to be captured in 4K given its strong commercial appeal, but it may require a higher bit rate19.
A relatively small set of broadcasters may experiment with 4K. But, as costs fall involvement and interest should steadily rise, reflecting what has happened in HD20. In 2013, a growing range of dedicated 4K cameras may become available, adding to the existing range of 4K cameras, which include digital SLRs21. As the supply of cameras rises, prices should fall, making 4K more appealing to a higher number of broadcasters22.
The upgrade to 4K entails significant capital expenditure for broadcasters, producers, television manufacturers, infrastructure owners and consumers. It is not a move to be taken lightly.
The cost for broadcasters of creating a 4K channel, factoring in upgrades to existing equipment and infrastructure, could be $10 million to $15 million. In future years the costs will decline. Currently an HD channel costs about $2 million; a decade ago it would have cost about $10 million.
The top estimate of $15 million for 4K may seem high, but broadcasters should remember television's commercial success is predicated on its ability to distribute high production costs across a large audience, resulting in a reasonable cost per viewer. A major television event costing $10 million to stage and watched by a billion people costs one cent per viewer.
Broadcasters evaluating 4K should also note that 4K subscribers would need a new set top box to support the new HEVC compression standard23. These would need to include larger hard drives to cope with bigger file sizes. Set top boxes might need about four terabytes (TBs) of storage, though by 2015 hard disk storage prices may have fallen to about $15 per TB. Initial customers for 4K services are most likely to be relatively price insensitive to service costs; service providers should be predisposed to upgrading these clients' customer premise equipment (CPE) for no or little cost.
One of the major bottlenecks to offering 4K services will be bandwidth. Broadcasters should consider how much they are likely to need, and must have a handle on likely improvements in 4K compression. In 2013 Deloitte 4K could require up to 40 Mbit/s; by end 2014 it should require as little as 20 Mbit/s, equivalent to the bandwidth requirements for the first standard HD transmissions in 2005, and the first 3D TV transmissions in 201024.
Satellite-based broadcasters should be in a good position to offer 4K. Satellite capacity is growing steadily25. 4K test transmissions via satellite links are expected in 201326. Terrestrial broadcasters may have less bandwidth at their disposal. They should consider whether they need to request more spectrum to enable 4K broadcast. They are likely to face strong competition for available spectrum. Companies offering IPTV services should consider 4K's impact on the case for rolling out fiber to the home (FTTH).
Program makers need to balance the investment required against potential returns. One consideration is viewing figures. According to one analysis the higher the resolution of the program being watched the less likely the viewer is to change channel27.
For TV manufacturers, one attraction of 4K is that it could provide a motivation to upgrade existing sets 28. Some commentators may question, however, whether 4K provides sufficient incentive to buy a new set. 4K's unique selling point – the intensity of its resolution – loses its uniqueness once the viewer is a certain distance from the TV set. In other words, the visual quality of 4K is most evident when in close proximity to the TV set. Yet few watch television in very close proximity.
The first owners of 4K TVs in 2013-2015, shortly after purchasing their set, are likely to hold "pixel parties" at which friends and family are encouraged to view some 4K footage from close proximity – about a meter away. They may be asked to try and spot an individual pixel. This experience – should individual pixels prove impressively elusive – is likely to provoke admiration and envy, and possibly catalyze further sales29. Thereafter the set will be watched from normal distance, but the memory of the quality of that close encounter will likely linger. This ritual is likely to resemble when new owners of high resolution tablet computers and smartphones take ownership of their new devices30.
TV manufacturers will need to determine what the optimal size of 4K TV sets should be. 4K's impact may be more evident on larger TV sets, but the larger the set the higher the cost of manufacture, limiting the market for such TVs.
Manufacturers should also consider other markets for large, high resolution sets, particularly the commercial market. Initial sales of larger 4K sets are likely to be sold to large companies for boardrooms and meeting rooms. The visual quality of a presentation delivered on large, high resolution sets may be higher than that for an overhead projector, and may in some cases be cheaper, when factoring in the cost of a high quality projection screen.
24K is the lower definition version of the Ultra High Definition (UHD) standard, 8K is the higher resolution variant. 8K is not expected to become commercially available until the 2020s. For a list of 4K TV sets announced: Source: Faster 4Kx2K, Slower AMOLED TV?, Display Search Blog, 13 September 2012. See: http://www.displaysearchblog.com/2012/09/faster-4kx2k-slower-amoled-tv/
3 Sources: 4K channels could launch in 2014, 3D Focus, 29 November 2012. See: http://www.3dfocus.co.uk/3d-news-2/ultra-hd/4k-channels-could-launch-in-2014/11300; First commercial 4K services coming by 2015, Smart TV Radar, 12 September 2012. See: http://www.smarttvradar.com/5303/first-commercial-4k-services-coming-by-2015/
4For a discussion on some of the challenges of 4K adoption Source: 4K TVs are coming, but they face an uphill battle in the home, Ars Technica, 28 June 2012. See: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/06/4k-tvs-are-coming-but-they-face-an-uphill-battle-in-the-home/
5Source: SD remains dominant choice for worldwide DTH subscribers, says NSR, Broadcast Engineering, 17 September 2012. See:http://broadcastengineering.com/hdtv/sd-remains-dominant-choice-worldwide-dth-subscribers-says-nsr
6For example resolution on smartphones is now at 1K HD, equivalent to over 400 pixels per inch. This concentration of pixels makes individual pixels invisible to the standard human eye. Source: Why will you want a 1080p screen on your smartphone, GigaOM, 29 May 2012. See:http://gigaom.com/mobile/why-youll-want-a-1080p-screen-on-your-smartphone/
7One forthcoming games console is rumored to support 4K. Source: SONY'S PLAYSTATION 4 TO SUPPORT 4K RESOLUTION, BGR, 22 August 2012. See: http://bgr.com/2012/08/22/playstation-4-4k-resolution/
8Sony and LG are among vendors that have already launched a 4K TV set. Source: 4K, 84-inch 'ultra' HDTV from LG is ready to start shipping now in Korea, worldwide next month, Engadget, 22 August 2012. See: http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/22/lg-4k-84-inch-uhdtv/. 4K overhead projectors are also available. Source: 4K home cinema front projector offering 4x the resolution of Full HD, Sony, 2012. See: http://www.sony.co.uk/pro/product/fpjhomecinema/vpl-vw1000es/overview
9For a list of 4K TV sets announced: Source: Faster 4Kx2K, Slower AMOLED TV?, DisplaySearch Blog, 13 September 2012. See: http://www.displaysearchblog.com/2012/09/faster-4kx2k-slower-amoled-tv/
10Price declines could be about 30 percent year-on-year in the short term. The actual price declines depend on demand. If demand for 4K demand is strong price decline will be faster.
11TV set manufacturing assumes a certain number of bad pixels per square inch, with a certain acceptable level of errors. If a manufacturing process delivers a good 50 inch glass 90 percent of the time and assuming the error rate is not affected by screen size, you would get 76 percent good (90 percent ^ 2.5) glass on an 80 inch line of TV sets (an 80 inch set has two and half times the surface area of a 50 inch set). However factoring in other issues, yields for 80 inch sets are likely to be much lower. This means the cost of making 80 inch sets is markedly higher than 50 inch sets. In terms of market share, one analyst has forecast that 4K screens will account for over 20 percent of the 50 inch and larger TV market. For a discussion on demand drivers for 4K screens: Source: Faster 4Kx2K, Slower AMOLED TV?, DisplaySearch Blog, 13 September 2012. See: http://www.displaysearchblog.com/2012/09/faster-4kx2k-slower-amoled-tv/
12About 50 films have been screened in 4K, but Hollywood plans to convert existing films to 4K. Laurence of Arabia is one title that has undergone conversion: Source: 4K channels could launch in 2014, 3D Focus, 29 November 2012. See: http://www.3dfocus.co.uk/3d-news-2/ultra-hd/4k-channels-could-launch-in-2014/11300
13Some commentators have noted that an uncompressed 4K movie (4 terabytes in size) would require about 200 standard 25 GB Blu-ray disks for storage. Changing disc every few minutes might disrupt the viewing experience. However movies are compressed prior to being launched to the public. A compressed 4K movie could fit on a few standard Blu-ray discs or a single eight-layer disc. Source: Why Ultra HD isn't ready to replace HD, TechRadar, 23 February 2012. See: http://www.techradar.com/news/television/tv/why-ultra-hd-isnt-ready-to-replace-hd-1065703
14This assumes a NTB file and an average throughput of about 7.5 Mbit/s
15For more information on support for 4K standards: Source: Ivy Bridge Gets 4K Display Support in October, AnandTech, 9 November 2012. See: http://www.anandtech.com/show/6270/ivy-bridge-gets-4k-display-support-in-october . HDMI 2 is expected to support 4K.
16For a table showing iterations of the HDMI standard: Source: HDMI, Wikipedia. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMI#Version_2.0
17Source: Why Ultra HD isn't ready to replace HD, TechRadar, 23 February 2012. See: http://www.techradar.com/news/television/tv/why-ultra-hd-isnt-ready-to-replace-hd-1065703
18BSkyB in the UK and SKY Perfect JSAT have been trialling capture of football in 4K. Source: Sky tests 4K at The Emirates, Broadcast, 11 October 2012. See: http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/techfacils/sky-tests-4k-at-the-emirates/5047650.article; Source: SKY Perfect JSAT airs soccer game at 4K, BroadcastEngineering, 2 November 2012. See: http://broadcastengineering.com/satellite/sky-perfect-jsat-airs-soccer-game-4k
19Source: The opportunities for 4K video technology, Futuresource Consulting, November 2012. See: http://www.futuresource-consulting.com/press.html
20Readers may be interested in the progress of 8K ultra high definition (UHD). While the first broadcasts of 8K are not expected till the 2020s, the practicality of shooting in 8K is improving rapidly. One major improvement is in terms of weight. The first super high vision 8K cameras weighed more than the average adult at 80kg. As of end 2012, the weight of 8K cameras had fallen to 4 kg.
21For example: Source: Canon has unveiled the 4K EOS-1D C, Canon, April 2012. See: http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/news/canon_unveils_4K_eos_1d_c.do
22Source: Resellers snap up 4K Sony cameras, Broadcast, 19 November 2012. See: http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/techfacils/resellers-snap-up-4k-sony-cameras/5049124.article (requires subscription to read the full article); Source: Red 4K Cinema Player, Red. See: http://www.red.com/products/redray
23HEVC, also known as H.265, is the successor to H.264. It breaks video frames into blocks of 64x64 pixels versus 16x16 for H.264. For more information: Source: HEVC, a new weapon in codec wars, to appear in September, CNET, 22 August 2012. See: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57498163-93/hevc-a-new-weapon-in-codec-wars-to-appear-in-september/; Source: High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), Fraunhofer. See: http://hevc.hhi.fraunhofer.de/
24As of H2 2012, 4K transmission was possible within a 50 Mbit/s link. In 2013, 4K trial broadcasts are expected to start in Korea, at between 30 and 40 Mbit/s. Source: First 4K Ultra High Definition Transmission via ASTRA 3B, Enhanced Online News, 7 September, 2012. See: http://eon.businesswire.com/news/eon/20120907005241/en ; Source: Get Ready For 4K and 8K Broadcasts (if you live in Korea or Japan), definitionmagazine, 8 November 2012. See: http://www.definitionmagazine.com/journal/2012/11/8/get-ready-for-4k-and-8k-broadcasts-if-you-live-in-korea-or-j.html
25Capacity offered through high throughput satellite (HTS) systems is expected to increase through 2015 to over 450 Gbit/s from 77 Gbit/s in 2010. The number of HTS capacity suppliers should increase. Source: TV most robust growth driver for satellite industry, Broadband TV News, 11 August, 2011. See: http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2011/08/11/tv-most-robust-growth-driver-for-satellite-industry/. For a view on recent increases in capacity: Source: Video brings solid growth for satellite, Broadband TV News, 23 August, 2012. See: http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2012/08/23/video-brings-solid-growth-for-satellite/. For information on readiness to transmit via satellite in 4K: Source: Satellites Ready for Ultra HD, Triple-play, Digital Cinema, New-generation Newsgathering and More, PRNewswire, 5 September, 2012. See:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eutelsat-at-ibc-2012-satellites-ready-for-ultra-hd-triple-play-digital-cinema-new-generation-newsgathering-and-more-168581206.html; Source: First 4K Ultra High Definition Transmission via ASTRA 3B, Enhanced Online News, 7 September, 2012. See: http://eon.businesswire.com/news/eon/20120907005241/en
26Source: Astra plans 4K and iPad for HD+, Broadband TV News, 29 November, 2012. See:http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2012/11/29/astra-plans-4k-and-ipad-for-hd/
27According to research, higher picture quality discourages channel hopping. Source: Get Ready For 4K and 8K Broadcasts (if you live in Korea or Japan), definitionmagazine, 8 November, 2012. See: rhttp://www.definitionmagazine.com/journal/2012/11/8/get-ready-for-4k-and-8k-broadcasts-if-you-live-in-korea-or-j.html
28The need for a reason to upgrade is particularly pressing given recent declines in sales volumes of TV sets. Source: LCD TV shipments decline for first time ever, CNN Money, 21 June, 2012. See: http://money.cnn.com/2012/06/21/technology/TV-shipments-LCD/index.htm
29For a discussion on the impact of high resolution screens in phones, tablets and computers: Source: Why does a retina display matter?, TechRadar, 2 June, 2012. See: http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/tablets/why-does-a-retina-display-matter-1082433
20For a discussion on pixel density: Source: Will Apple Keep Upgrading Display Resolution?, DisplaySearch Blog, 8 November, 2012. See: http://www.displaysearchblog.com/2012/11/will-apple-keep-upgrading-display-resolution/