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back to article 4K video may wow vidiots, but content creators see pitfalls

Don't expect ultra-high-resolution 4K video to be broadcast onto your living room wall anytime soon. According to the people responsible to building the equipment that can capture, edit, and encode 4K, there are a number of hurdles to overcome – not the least being storage requirements on the production side. Sure, 4K displays …

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4k\5k Shooting, editing etc has been around for a few years already. Red were shipping them 5 years ago? Admittedly a lot went to indy or boutique producers but they have been used by studios. Whilst 4k cameras do increase storage requirements etc but HD has been around a long time and computers have been improving. It's fair to say 4k will cost more than 2k does now, but its also valid to compare 4k costs now to 2k costs when HD entered the mainstream market nearly 10 years ago.

There will always been some whining when costs go up, but it's not like studios won't recoup it. In another 2-4 years 4k screens will likely be down to top end consumer pricing (maybe $5k ish range), bluray will have 200gb+ discs for storing the content. No doubt they will add 10 bucks onto the cost of the discs to recoup this, but part of me thinks the additional cost of 4k will be dwarfed by the cost of the riders for any a list celeb.

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*IF* there is another BD spec enhancing 2x the current size I would be surprised. I've read that H.265 is supposedly to cut size drastically, but at which point does a disc of film go from being a warm spinny thing to a whirling ring of fire?

4K has been around longer than Red cameras. I assume Red capitalized off the iMax crowd wanting to go digital (BTW, whatever happened to 8K iMAX...dead?). But, no matter how juicy 4K TV might sound, could 4K stand long in flat panel displays when holographic tech is just yearning to be unleashed? I'm not saying holographic displays will be here tomorrow, but every time you read an article on the subject, one of the lines in that article usually reads as "Oh yeh, we cut costs in half" and/or "Now we can do this too".

All things considered, we can't even get a 24" 2K (Horizontal) LCD under $5,000, so why try to hit up the consumers with $10,000+ TV's when they love their 3.5" mobiles so much? As far as editing 4K and storing 4K, I don't see how this is a problem even today, maybe editing houses want to beef up the prices a little more than they should?

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Sony have a prototype 200gb bluray. That coupled with h265 (as you mention) should fit a feature film at 4k on a single disc. Streaming will benefit, netflixesque streaming should run around 20mbps so in a while we can see that more mainstream.

8k is more of an issue. We aren't really in a place to make 33mp video sensors mainstream just yet, although a triple ccd solution could work if we have the accuracy to mount them. It will happen at some point, although I'm not sure it will make financial sense for a long time (so about 5-10 years then!).

Re editing and storage, I don't think it's so much an issue for small scale houses, it is more an issue for larger productions where the networking gets very expensive but mostly I think this is just whining to justify a price hike or a reluctance to adopt because they haven't milked the last generation tech enough.

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Let's go one step further. A 3.5 inch "Retina" display at 326 ppi and if we assume the typical viewing distance is 18 inches then that means that the average 40 inch 1080p TV would look the same at a distance of roughly 9 feet given that each pixel will subtend roughly the same angle. Moving to 4K at 4096 x 2304 (16:9) and the same pixel size means that at the same 9 feet the screen size would need to be around 86 inches. If we assume that "Retina" is equal to the smallest angle the human eye can differentiate, there isn't much point pushing it further away because the extra pixels will be lost.

Now if you happen to have a 40-42" TV about 9 feet away have a gander at one of the upper corners and imagine that is the middle of the screen and ask yourself if you'd be comfortable watching something about four times that size given how far it extends into your peripheral vision. If the answer to that question is "great, I can finally take in the whole picture" then good on you, a 4K might be in your future. If the answer is "shit, I have to scan around the screen to take it all in and it's confusing" then 4K might not be the best choice. For me, I've only got about 12 feet across the room and I could see moving up to a 50 inch screen but I don't see dropping the extra dosh on 4K but if the kids want to, I won't stop them from buying one.

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Anonymous Coward

Finally we have a technology that has no real world practical use however amazing it might be.

Yes it is amazing, but how will they make money out of it? Until someone comes up with unlimited free storage and a way to transmit it, it will be stuck down a dead end road.

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rise your hand those who want to see Kaley Cuoco in 4k ?

Me, at least.

It is difficult? The Playstation 4 already can handle this resolution!

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Re: rise your hand those who want to see Kaley Cuoco in 4k ?

@Eddy Ito - You're only talking about films though. The same 4K and 8K kit would make for a superb video wall with a live feed from the roof (or somebody else's roof if your view isn't that hot); and using it in that context it's good that you can't see it all at once. Makes it more interesting.

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"All things considered, we can't even get a 24" 2K (Horizontal) LCD under $5,000"

I think you are shopping in the wrong places, or did you accidentally put an extra zero in there?

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"Sony have a prototype 200gb bluray."

Cool. 20+ DVD-quality movies on one disk. I could probably fit every decent Bond ever made onto one disc, for instance.

But, no, what will happen is I'll have to buy a new player (still don't even have a BluRay), new cables, new discs, new "super-duper-hi-res" TV, and then end up with a 90 minute movie, 4 hours of junk extras, 20 minutes of adverts until I can GET to the movie, and pay more than anything else for the privilege.

I don't think there's going to be another big disk format, not for home entertainment anyway, and certainly not until it hits a Terabyte of so. Having to rebuy everything twice in 10 years is a bit of a chore after a while and you question what improvement you've enjoyed by doing so.

Hell, I'd kill for 200Gb backup on a single disc for PC's at a decent price - no questions. But that's because I could backup most of my DVD collection onto a handful of discs.

I honestly think I'd be investing in a faster fibre connection before I would be a 200Gb disk format that may / may not take off and wants me to rebuy everything again. Honestly, the majority of my content just does not need it. It probably wasn't even FILMED in quality enough to notice on a HD screen. And I'd rather have something with secondary utility so it's either waiting or a 200Gb re-writable disc format to become popular and ubiquitous, or upgrade my internet connection so it's not an issue to backup 200Gb online somewhere. I know which I'd rather choose for the next 5-10 years.

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I picked 200gb because I was pretty sure sony had a prototype 200gb bluray, not sure if it was rewriteable. I can't remember if it was pioneer or toshiba but someone was working on a 400gb and 1tb blurays. No idea which will come to market, maybe none but the tech is out there :-)

As for players, cables and tv's. Yes to all 3 most likely, although its going to be a newer hdmi cable capable of higher rates. Version 1.4 of hdmi supports 4k. I'm not running out to buy 4k, but my next video camera will most likely be 4k even if it is a few years before the TV is, did the same with HD and it worked out well. I guess everyone makes their own choice that suits them best.

As for whats on it, couldn't agree more! It really pisses me off when I pay good money for a bluray just to be forced to watch anti piracy messages and adverts for other movies.

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Anonymous Coward

We sit about 9 feet away from our 90" projector screen. I would say that it's just about perfect size to take all of it in. 4K source material and affordable 'real' 4K PJ can't come soon enough.

My activity video camera at less than 100grams, can record @4k - so it really can't be that far away.

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Finally we have a technology that has no real world practical use however amazing it might be.

Frankly, I don't see what's "amazing" about it. But then I am entirely unimpressed by the alleged improvements in consumer video of the past couple of decades. I don't enjoy television any more now than I did when it was noisy, grainy, off-color NTSC broadcasts. Hell, I don't think I enjoy it any more than when it was in black & white. (This thought occurred to me the other day when I read a rather hectoring article in Consumer Reports, of all places, about purchasing a television set. Apparently I would be a fool to get one with a screen smaller than 40" and without 3D capability. OK, I won't, then.)

It's the content that matters, as far as I'm concerned. The rare show I actually enjoy, like Justified or the late, lamented Scrapheap Challenge, don't need visual fireworks. They're for the viewer who wants to do a bit of thinking.

Kids, lawn, etc.

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Hollywood stops making films, digital storage too unreliable/expensive

FRO

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Re: Hollywood stops making films, digital storage too unreliable/expensive

Maybe we should club together and help upgrade them to 750mb zip drives.

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Back-of-napking calculations

Lessee... Raw storage.

4K Ultra HD :- 3840 pixels x 2160 pixels x 32 bits/pixels = 265,420,800 bits or 22,177,600 Bytes (31.64 MB)

That's *per frame*. At 25 fps, you're looking at 528.75 MB per second. At 60 fps, it's 1269.01 MB/s

Which means the average 90 minutes movie would take <big breath> 2.73 TB to store. 6.54 TB @ 60fps. And that's not counting any storage/filesystem overheads.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

BTW: Can someone explain to me why the significance of the number changed?

"720" is 1280 x 720

"1080" is 1920 x 1080

but

"4K UHD" is 3840 x 2160

"4K DCI" is 4096 x 2160

"4K Full Aperture" is 4096 x 3112

"8K" is 7680 x 4320

When did emphasis move from lines-per-frame to pixels-per-line?

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

>BTW: Can someone explain to me why the significance of the number changed?

Marketing. '4K' is snappier than 'really really high definition and we mean it this time', and it is around 4x the number of pixels that today's 'Full HD' boasts. Also, calling it '2K' sounds so turn-of-the-century.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

AFAIK (I'm a stills guy, rarely do video), but broadcast TV was stated in vertical resolution, cinema film \ digital in horizontal resolution. It's not so much a move from one to the other overall, it;s just a move in content i.e. cinema at home and a convergence.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

Since 2k sounds cooler.

It's as much about the aspect ratio, 2k wide images are close to 1.85 than 1.69, another hangover from film days.

Never underestimate the amount of fetishism in cameras, film, lenses, etc., where someone will find something new to grasp onto as the only thing stopping their ponderous introspective navel-gaze selling like Titanic. Really. It is dirt common to see directors demanding the latest super mega fast lenses, then stop them all the way down with rakes of best quality neutral density filters just to reduce the hyperfocal range back to that of a crappy old film camera to do rack focus moves.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

Nothing to do with maintaining a 180 degree shutter in bright light with a wide aperture then? You are right to some degree about the fetishism, but in the stills world at least it is driven by clients not the togs.

I am curious how a ND filter stops down a lens and changes it's hyper focal range? :) Please do share! In stills they are used to effectively extend an exposure for example to get a dreamy water effect. Video \ Film is very sensitive to the shutter speed so this is fixed. Then you add any grads required or polarisers. Next you fix your ap as determined by the required depth of field. Then you see where that leaves the gain, you see if you need to add or reduce the light.

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Boffin

Re: Back-of-napking calculations

@Neoc - bit rate calculations...

SDI video -> 270Mb/s, compressed to about 2Mb/s for broadcast

HD video -> 3Gb/s, compressed to about 8Mb/s for broadcast (though it really needs at least 20!)

4k video -> 12Gb/s, compressed to ???

There's an awful lot of 'never mind the quality, feel the width' going on in broadcast. As a consumer, you will *never* see the quality possible without visiting a broadcasting centre - where you will see that good baseband *analogue* can be subjectively better than broadcast HD...

Hopefully the codecs will improve - there's already significant difference between coding efficiency - but until they do, you're just buying the glitz. Great pictures, right up until something moves.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

I use a ND Filter on my D800 quite a bit. It is most certainly not to get those dreamy water effects.

I use it mainly to reduce the DOF when shooting in bright sunlight.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

In effect it does the same thing, nd filter = less light = longer shutter time, just at the other end of the shutterspeed range, I just gave one example. Using an ND filter does not increase the depth of field! In video it is used to facilitate the opposite if anything, using a shallower dof for a given gain & shutter.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

When 4k and 8k sounded more impressive.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

The catch is that only studios will store raw. They have decent budgets and once done with production they could store on archival media like LTO and the highly repetitivr nature of the data could yield very significant compression.

Consumer delivery would be a lot smaller than RAW as well and as stated by others.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

Studios may only store RAW, but RAW does not have to be uncompressed. REDCODE compresses somewhere between 8 and 12 to one depending on which you pick although it is lossy (red claims visually lossless).

Prores is pretty popular at about 220mbps for 4:2:2 1080p, prores 4444 seems to be the closest for figuring our a real storage requirement, 264mbps for 4:4:4 at 1080 24p so x4 and it should be below 1056mbps for 4k. Thats 132mb per second or about half a TB an hour of footage. Not exactly insane requirements. 512GB SSD's could easily top an hours footage and cope with the speed so we aren't talking warp drive technology.

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Boffin

Re: Back-of-napking calculations

@Rampant Spaniel - true that you can compress anything (isn't it weird that the automatic assumption is that compression = lossy whereas when I were a lad, compression almost always means lossless) but the ability to do that in real-time (and without significant lag) is part of the problem too, especially in the studio which this article was primarily about.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations @Annihilator

Well, mobile chips can encode/decode H264 at 1080p30 on your mobile phone. I doubt decompressing Zlib compression (used in PNG?) would be a problem at 4k in real time - it's a much simpler algorithm. Combine that with some of the motion estimation stuff (which could be lossless) and even RAW images could be stomped down in size, losslessly, by a considerable amount. The requirements are going to be nowhere near the RAW calculations from above.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations @Annihilator

In teh early days that was very valid, processors alone (and to a lesser extent still) didn't stand a chance alone. Red developed the red rocket as a hardware assist for realtime decoding, debayering, output and encoding of red raw footage. Adobe also updated ppro (cs 6 maybe?) with the mercury engine which uses your graphics card for realtime editing at full res, its absolutely lethal with a top range nvidia card. Not sure about avid \ sony etc but where theres a problem with money behind it someone will come along.

I honestly can't see any huge issues that haven't been solved already besides networking.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

Sure, those are big numbers. That's what happens when you quadruple the resolution.

A few points and the reason I gave you thumbs down...

1) Once you have a delivered product there's no need to store the product in an active array, archive to LTO is quite feasible. The repetitive / redundant nature of the RAW data will allow for significant compression from the RAW data. It could even be stored compressed at the file system level.

2) Consumer delivery is going to be in some form of compressed video -- so the end user in this case would see a final product that sits in a SWAG range of 100GB.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

@Neil:

I agree with you, except the article and I were taking about storage of raw footage for later editing, *not* broadcasting. I agree, the bit-stream will be compressed somehow (h.264, h.265?) for broadcasting and quality will be lost. But then again, there's only so much picture quality an eye can notice in a moving picture. ^_^

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

Most HD and virtually all UHD is compressed prior to storage and editing. There are applications where a pure feed is taken from the camera to a broadcast truck or similar via sdi but the vast majority of footage is stored in one compressed form or another. The sony f65, which sony would love to tell the world is an 8k camera (it;'s actually something like 6.5k but the pixels are rotated 45 degrees) takes a 19gbps stream and drops it down to between 1.5gbps and 5gbps. This is what is stored for editing and sony are rather high up the scale on the bitrates, their other 4k offering is 600mbps for 60p 4k raw. .

Arri make a camera called the Alexa which can record pretty much uncompressed but I haven't used it so I'm not sure if it doesn't just output that to an external recorder which then compresses it on the fly for editing. People get a little confused and assume that because it says 'RAW' it means uncompressed full bitrate. In reality even in cameras (i believe nikon does this) raw can be compressed either lossy or lossless and retain its ability to grade \ alter colour temp etc. It's highly impractical, and to some degree has been since HD was released to store raw data streams uncompressed. Even sony's $60k camera compresses the data. Depending on what software you do your post in and what camera you use you can still work realtime and if you are stuck you can often work realtime at half resolution. If you are really stuffed you can transcode it to a better codec for working but this is less common now as computers are faster, coding is better, there is often gpu support or add in cards and cameras often use a decent codec onboard anyway. AVCHD used to be a ballache, now that isn't an issue and it can be edited pretty much on the fly at full res. Studios won't be loosing much sleep over this. They will have decent arrays and a long term storage option and by the time they get sick of replacing hard drives in the array the entire film and raw footage will probably fit on 2 drives anyway.

The hobbit was a great film for seeing all that in action, they made a big deal about it being 48fps and that allowed you to see how they actually did the work. Digital, even 4k, is significantly cheaper than filmstock for purchase, use and storage. Honestly if it wasn't it wouldn't be used. Film was and is very expensive. A small event shooting company, mom and pop style, will have 250-400k sunk into cameras, glass, lighting, power, audio etc. These are the folks I tend to work with, they think nothing of shooting 2-4TB a day of 4k across 2 cams. Storage costs aren't high, maybe $300 for a couple of external drives that you need to replace every 2-4 years by which time drives will be bigger etc. They'd take between 15k and 20k for that shoot. They're good :)

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

I know. Just when you thought they had settled on a sensible system, where the unchanging vertical component was quoted and the width is a ratio of the height (dependent on aspect ratio), they go and throw it out the window!

Next they will be varying the normal framerate by region again, plus because of the bandwidth reqs they go to interlaced formats and we will be back to PAL / NTSC nightmares. I know, let's just chuck in nonsquare pixels again for the hell of it.

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

Exactly what I said. Directors strive to achieve narrow depths of field to look 'filmy'. They take the fastest glass they can get then nd it to fuck to get that narrow dof

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Re: Back-of-napking calculations

Actually you said the exact opposite :) 'Stopping down' a lens increases the DOF not decreases it. You may be getting confused over the use of the term by markerists who tend to call 10 stop ND filters 'big stoppers' or similar because they stop a lot of light. Unfortunately marketerists have been allowed to breed and this has caused endless amounts misinformation in their search for a big enough bonus to get that new Audi.

The term 'stop' is used widely as a measurement (amount of light, iso, aperture, flash etc), but the term 'stopping down' is a very specific one relating to increasing the aperture value \ decreasing it's size which increases the DOF and decreases the amount of light.

A ND filter will decrease the amount of light but unless it is specifically designed to do so (you can have a front mounted filter which is actually a lens as well which alters the FOV and DOF but as basic ND filter does not) it will not have any tangible effect on the DOF, again another source of confusion :) At it's most basic the ND filter will only change the level of the light, the aperture will change the DOF and the light level and it is specifically this which the term stopping down relates to.

The 'film look' is a combination of the size of the film vs video sensors (which generally resulted in narrowed DOF being easier to achieve), the frame rate and the lack of interlacing.

Honestly I didn't know if you knew what you were talking about and were having a bad day or you were just throwing terms about you didn't truly understand. It came across as the latter, apologies if I was wrong but everybody is an expert since phones got video capability and it's frustrating to see incorrect information disseminated as it clouds the water for those that do genuinely want to learn.

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Freetards?

Vidiots?

Is el' Reg courting a Murdoch buyout?

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Vidiots is a perfectly good portmanteau word that I have been using since at least 2004 to describe those people who believe that because they watch kitten videos on YouTube, they know everything there is to know about digital video.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Vidiots

Orlowski-ism (n.)

1. A derogatory, judgemental and not very humorous portmanteau intended to hide the author's own insecurity by attempting to insult and demean anyone who doesn't share their beliefs.

2. An attempt at humour that starts off causing the reader to cringe out of embarrassment and becomes less funny with every subsequent reading.

Myslweski-ism (n.)

An Orlowski-ism repeated with more bile.

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Re: Vidiots

If you're going to insult the man, at least spell his name correctly...

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Anonymous Coward

What a bunch of wank.

Honestly, through a bunch of CPU and disk at it. Calm the F down. No big deal. I work with this so called RAW 5k footage. You need decent editing software. If you don't have that, you shouldn't even be attempting to use RAW footage.

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Re: What a bunch of wank.

Forget the editing, feel the joy at nvidia at the amount of cpu the CGI would need!

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Re: CPU

GPU, shirley?

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Is there any point at the consumer end?

Get a nice large television, sit someone a bit too close to it, and they are still going to have a hard time telling 720p from 1080p. The presence of compression artifacts is more of a bother than limited resolution. 4k and up could have its niche in production and the cinema, but would the typical viewer even be able to notice the difference at home?

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Re: Is there any point at the consumer end?

Not for everyone, it's certainly a desire not a need, but so is HD. It's a subjective call, go to a store, watch them side by side and see if you think the 4k is worth the extra funds (be fair and do this when it is more established, right now it makes a lot less sense).

Once the viewsonic 4k's cost less than a car I will have one for editing but thats a niche requirement. Once there is a 4k ecosystem then I'll make the call for our home. Can I 'see' the difference between hd and 4k, sure but I haven't seen a truly unbiased test so I'm waiting.

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Re: Is there any point at the consumer end?

For broadcast, we need to get 1080 first. Right now what we get is so compressed on cable that you really can't tell the difference between an up sampled DVD and what they call HD. And there is the Hollywood crap "Ultraviolet" for more compressed to hell junk.

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Re: Is there any point at the consumer end?

>And there is the Hollywood crap "Ultraviolet" for more compressed to hell junk.

I thought Ultra-violet was an additional service to people who had bought DVDs or Blu-rays and also want to watch the content on a mobile device or have it streamed to their mate's house (both situations where the content would probably have to be compressed anyway). I.e studios are trying to give average consumers something approaching the convenience enjoyed by those folk who immediately rip their discs to their own home server (because if the studios didn't make this effort, more people would educate themselves about ripping and removing DRM from discs for the sake of convenience).

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Re: Is there any point at the consumer end?

"sit someone a bit too close to it", well actually no, you're wrong on this. The polar opposite is true, having a HD screen, you get the best from it when you have a bigger screen and sit closer. Its when you have a small HD screen and sit further away that is the problem - its pointless as your eyes can't see the detail over a larger distance - like most of our parents generations do with a tiny TV in the corner, for them going "1080P" really is pointless, I know because I've seen my Mum not being able to discern the difference between 720P and 1080P with a 24" TV 3 metres away. Eyesight quality and age also comes into play as a contributing factor.

Basically its all about screen proportional "size" from viewer to screen and supplying enough "detail" (number of pixels) at that size to not be able to see pixels.

In the early 1990s I saw some early HD footage on a SONY stand at a consumer electronics trade show, that really was amazing, I can't remember the resolution, but standing close to the screen I saw, which was easily 40" in physical size I could see no pixels at all even from a foot away - that really was impressive - almost like looking at a glossy magazine.

Some day our walls will be screens - we've seen all this in sci-fi, and we won't think it as a "screen" anymore - personally I can't wait, so its all good stuff!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is there any point at the consumer end?

When I first got FiOS, recorded HD programs typically ran to 6GB-10GB/hour. Now the recordings are running 3,5GB-6GB/hour.

And the bill keeps going up!

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Re: Is there any point at the consumer end?

Some day our walls will be screens

Not mine. That's a ghastly idea.

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WTF?

You think that's a lot of storage?

Seriously, a few TBs is nothing. I really have no idea what they are moaning about, unless this is just an attempt at promoting 4k to those who may not have heard of it.

Superman II the Richard Donner cut was made by working through a basement that contained all of the original reels of film taken during shooting. The combined weight of these tapes was SIX TONNES!

However much storage 4k may require, it's got nothing on those old film reels.

Old reels used to have to be played through by hand and cut up using scissors and tape too. Still think you have bandwidth constraints on your pro workstation?

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