Thoughts on 4K for production and distribution.

The present and future of post production business and technology by Philip Hodgetts

I have conflicting thoughts about 4K for production and distribution. At one level I’m convinced it’s being pushed on us by equipment manufacturers when there is no real demand: at another I know from experience that there are some non-obvious advantages to 4K. But one thing is clear: the push to 4K is not about a push to improved quality.

As I articulately point out in this interview I did with Rick Young just before the Supermeet at IBC in Amsterdam, if the push was really to have better quality in the production chain that would translate to improved viewing quality in the home, we’d be focusing on greater bit depth per color channel, and full color bandwidth. Instead we have such silliness at 4K with 4:2:0 color at 8 bits!

A true focus on quality would use the extra bits we apparently have (in order to do 4K) not for extra resolution (which there is little to no demand for) but to improve bit depth and color channel detail. Before we create a single 4K camera, we should have 2K/1920 at a minimum of 4:2:2 and 10 bits per channel. If we cared about quality that is.

On the other hand, if you only care about selling new gear, particularly new display panels (because the Japanese display manufacturers are doing poorly financially) then 4K is an easy “sell”, because simple minds equate “bigger” with “better”. We see this already in HD, where 720P has been demonstrated year after year (at IBC) to deliver better images into the home than 1080P of the same material, because of the additional compression required for 1080P. (1080P in a master suite will show the additional quality.) 4K is going to require even more compression, with more blocking and poorer quality color gradients, even with the improved efficiency of H.265. read more...

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