The 4K Conundrum

Tomorrow, Sept. 6th, HDMI Licensing will announce their new HDMI 2.0 standard. Things are heating up– and good timing for our readers. I had just asked Steve Seminario of Planar to write an article on 4K connectivity issues. The article, online now (click here)– goes beyond the commercial TV market hype and outlines the 4K ecosystem and looks at connection options in the pro AV world.

Some context: At InfoComm in June flat panel manufacturers—including exhibitors LG, Planar, Sharp, Sony, ViewSonic, Samsung, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Sony, Seiki— tantalized us with new 4K flat panel displays. They were indeed stunning– even for the jaded industry analyst whose seen countless demos (of both real and vaporware products) at countless trade events. I have to admit I put any skepticism aside and was delighted by the quantum leap in image quality of these new generation 4K displays. The most impressive thing? That uncomfortable feeling you used to get, when you walked right by (or right up to) a flat panel display and the magic and illusion of the image evaporated in an onslaught of too-visible pixels– that feeling was gone as I stood right in front of a big 4K display. Like looking through a window.

Yes, we were all dazzled by 4K LCD panels at InfoComm (and for the record, Sony had its stunning OLED panel at their booth), but who really thought or enquired about how–in a real-world application of 4K screens– you could get 4K content to those screens. Forget about the red herring of “but who has 4K content?” In fact, there is tons of 4K content out there. And lots of 4K capture devices. And with with the right graphic cards most any latest generation computer can generate 4K.

Content is not going to be a hurdle. The displays themselves, to show 4K? We’ve got ‘em. And with the broadcast TV world moving to new 4K capture and dissemination of select content (like next year’s Olympics and soccer World Cup), it’s all blue skies ahead, right?

Yes, and no. Don’t underestimate the power of the broadcast TV world, working together with the giant display manufacturers, to push a new technology out. But we still get back to the question: how do you distribute 4K content, out to 4K screens? Note how I phrased that question. At InfoComm, when you saw all those wonderful 4K displays, were the exhibitors “distributing” the content to those screens? Not really, not it any broadcast or narrowcasting sense (the latter is what we think of when we think of digital signage: narrowcasting content out to multiple, often many, screens in remote locations). At InfoComm the 4K content you saw on one screen in one booth only had to travel a few feet, or maybe a few inches, from its source up to one screen. That's’ not hard to do (but even that’s not as easy as you think). But whether 4K takes off in our market or even in the commercial TV market depends on whether content providers can get 4K content (not compressed into oblivion, thank you) across a campus, an enterprise, or the country.

So how do you get 4K content out, to one screen or many? After an interesting discussion on the topic with Steve Seminario at InfoComm in June, I asked Steve to explain it to our readers. Here’s the link:

David Keene is a publishing executive and editorial leader with extensive business development and content marketing experience for top industry players on all sides of the media divide: publishers, brands, and service providers. Keene is the former content director of Digital Signage Magazine.