The 4K evolution is not about 4K

RedShark by Patrick Jong Taylor

For consumers, the switch to 4K is inevitable. But the transition may not be as impactful for manufacturers as they hope. Here’s why, and what consumers really want.

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a revolution in full swing. Or did it already happen? Either way, if you work behind a camera or in post, you’ve probably been affected by the Industry-wide race to 4K. This past winter, RED slashed their prices and introduced an amazing new sensor. Sony debuted two new 4K cameras and a whole production and post “ecosystem.” Blackmagic surprised everyone at NAB 2013 with two new cameras of its own, headlined by the 4K Cinema Camera for $4000. There’s no doubt about it; 4K acquisition and workflow is becoming ubiquitous, and before long, will be the de facto standard for professional video productions.

In the consumer space, the 4K revolution barely registers a blip, lagging well behind professional level adoption. To be fair, the consumer transition to 4K is really more of an evolution, with milestones marked in years, not months or weeks. And it will definitely happen, as it must for electronics manufacturers, who are still smarting from the lukewarm reception of 3D for the living room and the bottoming of the HD market. For these companies, 4K is a long, high-stakes game, played at the billion-dollar table, and one that will likely spawn many more losers than winners.

4K, someday

While it may seem that technology, in general, advances rapidly and springs from nowhere, platform changes for consumer products are much more cyclical and gradual. Example: video game consoles, whose product cycles span roughly a decade. Sony or Nintendo could debut a new Playstation or Wii every year, but it would be foolish and counterproductive. Simply put, video game consoles can’t be profitable without a lengthy life cycle and the support of a constellation of game developers, accessory makers, and most importantly, consumers to buy it all. The transition from HD to 4K will follow the same playbook: early adopters pay a premium to be first, but must suffer through limited content options; as more 4K content becomes available, more consumers will buy-in, lowering prices as retailers phase out HD; prices plummet, drawing in the budget-conscious buyers, who will set-up their new 4K televisions just in time to watch commercials for the glory that is 8K television. read more...

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