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back to article 4K-ing hell! Will your shiny new Ultra HD TV actually display HD telly?

With just about every TV maker showing off 4K sets at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this month, and companies like Netflix promising to have content available in the format, it’s tempting to think that if you’re buying a new TV, 4K may be worth a look. Or, at least, worth hanging on for until it’s more sensibly …

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multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

I dunno about other ISPs, but talktalk use multicast for all their 'extra' youview channels, so that bit of technology is already in the bag.

My real issue is that from a perceptual point of view proper motion tracking and handling is far more important than more (than existing full HD) pixels. Even 50 or 60hz prgressive scan is still going to mean everything going blurry as soon as it moves, just like it does already, so 4k stuff is going to give a far bigger improvement to costume dramas than sportsy stuff

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Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

Yes, there's some multicast, but not enough for the sort of wholesale switch away from terrestrial transmission that some tech-utopians believe will be coming along Real Soon Now. Wasn't it TalkTalk that gobbled up the old HomeChoice network, which was built primarily for delivering TV in the first place?

Unless companies dig deep into their pockets, those outside major areas are going to be stuck with pretty poor service for a long time, multicast or not; for quite a few years, I would guess that the only practical way to deliver multiple channels of HD to people in those areas is going to be via broadcast, whether terrestrial or satellite, rather than IP.

Some of the demos at recent IBC shows have used much higher frame rates; there have been some BBC demos with rates over 100Hz, and it does make a massive difference to how moving things look on screen. I didn't see the 2013 demos, but I was there in 2012 and it's pretty impressive. There's a little about that at http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/blog/2013/09/4k-crazy-at-ibc

Of course, if anyone's to broadcast at those rates, they'll still run up against the problem that the HDMI 2.0 spec only covers 4K up to 60p, so we'd need another spec bump on that side. Which, I guess, is another good reason to wait before jumping in.

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Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

DisplayPort v1.3 is due later this year - I understand this allows 4K at 120Hz over a cable so a good reason to wait for dust to settle with 4k monitors. Presumably HDMI 2.1 will allow for clearer motion in 4K - anyone know when this might be happening?

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Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

Damn good question; HDMI 2.0 was only last September; and even now, there are sets shipping that have 4K screens and HDMI 1.4.

I fear that at the cheap end of the market, we may well see lots of kit pumped out - like that 'bargain' Kogan set - that only has 1.4. But the less savvy punters will be smitten by the sales patter about 4k, and not realise that they won't be getting anything near the best quality for their money. They'll plug in a fancy new 4K BD player, or a network streamer, and it'll drop down the frame rate, and the colour depth, to match what the set is capable of, when for a little bit more they'd have been able to get the full package.

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Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

Framerate is the main thing I want upgraded. 4K might look great up close but I'm not going to be able to put a larger screen in my current room, and can only see some difference from 720p to 1080p at the current distance. Seeing the Hobbit at 48fps was a much greater improvement in quality than I had expected.

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Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

I was told by somebody who knows these things that HDMI2.0 doubles the data rate over HDMI 1.4, and also introduces a YUV420 option, which halves the bitrate (at the expense of some colour depth I guess). So potentially 4k at 120Hz would be do-able with HDMI 2.0. Might be good for sporting events, where colour depth probably isn't that important.

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Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

I dunno about other ISPs, but talktalk use multicast for all their 'extra' youview channels, so that bit of technology is already in the bag.

The multicasting built into BT's whole products went live a while back.

"Now the telecommunications giant sees a way to get back the millions it costs to rent a channel and instead run the service over its own network. Such a public multicast service could lead to more channels being launched in that way, and White confirmed, "BT Wholesale will certainly resell the multicast capability.""

I can't remember where it sits in the chain but I think it might be part of GEA rather than WB(M)C so is available to all FTTC providers but not all ADSL providers.

Edit:Ah, here we are - looks like it's part of GEA.

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Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

The reason that Youview goes all blurry is nothing to do with frame rate, it's down to bit rate. H.264 uses perceptual techniques to help reduce bit rates, and the lower the rate the more that it applies them. As it happens the eye is not good at detecting detail in moving subjects, so providing you don't cut the bit-rate too far this works well. You get the same effects watching football in HD on Sky. When the camera is still you can see every blade of grass, when it moves the pitch becomes a blurry sea of green.

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Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

YUV420 does not affect the color depth, it affects the color spatial resolution. It operates on the (true) premise that the eye has 1/2 the spatial resolution in color discrimination than it does in the spatial resolution of luminance (Y).

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Vic
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Re: multicast is already here, but 4k is not the answer you were looking for

It operates on the (true) premise that the eye has 1/2 the spatial resolution in color discrimination than it does in the spatial resolution of luminance

The eye is far more complex than that...

In the fovea (the bit of the eye that copes with what you're looking at directly), the retina is stocked almost entirely with cones. These give full-colour vision (luma and chroma are not separated in the eye) at very high resolution. Unfortunately, cones are slow to react to changes in light, and not particularly sensitive anyway[1].

Outside of the fovea - which you might consider peripheral vision - the retina is primarily studded with rods. These are monochrome sensors, and are both faster and more sensitive than the cones. The resolution in the periphery is lower than in the fovea.

The illusion of full-colour vision is actually a goodly amount of video processing occurring in your CNS[2].

Vic.

[1] This is why, if you try to look directly at a dim start at night, it will disappear. Look slightly to one side, and you will see it again.

[2] This can be demonstrated by having someone bring a white card with a coloured dot on it into your view from the periphery. At first, the dot will appear grey or black, depending on how dark a colour it really is. As the card approaches the foveal vision, the colour will suddenly appear. It's quite dramatic. Then comes the really interesting bit - if you move the card back out of view along the same path as you brought it in on, it retains its colour. If you take it right out of view and bring it back in, it again retains its colour. It can take quite a few minutes to go back to the monochrome view.

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Anonymous Coward

But will there ever be anything worth watching?

IMHO, for 98% of the channels I can receive at this point in time there clearly isn't.

So why bother? Oh silly me, its for all those adverts for Betting/Bingo [1] sites, The end of the world is nigh Charities, Bogus Legal services and other stuff that the majority of people don't want.

don't even get me started on the really crap ads you have to suffer on sky Sports. Once was enough thank you.

[1] Why are all those Bingo sites advertised with really good looking females. Isn't bingo the preserve of the blue rinse brigade?

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Re: But will there ever be anything worth watching?

Indeed. 4K TV will be for people who admire the quality of their TV screens, not for people who actually want to watch TV.

Just like top-end super-de-luxe hi-fi is the preserve of people who spend their time listening to how good it sounds, not the actual music.

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Re: Isn't bingo the preserve of the blue rinse brigade?

As I understand it, that hasn't been true since the 1980s.

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Re: Isn't bingo the preserve of the blue rinse brigade?

Indeed; and I have never felt as utterly slow and out of my depth as the time I stumbled into a bingo night in a lesbian pub in Islington. I simply couldn't keep up.

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Re: But will there ever be anything worth watching?

Makes it seem glamorous, I guess. Or, the advertising industry is just incredibly staid, e.g. putting out the same perfume advert every 3 months for every brand, and thus clearly doesn't have any good ideas outside of Guinness ads and those Orange ones where the star pitched the idea. Until they squeezed that to death as well.

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JDX
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Re: But will there ever be anything worth watching?

Boring argument. Films, TV drama shows and live sport all offer great content depending on your tastes. If you don't like any of those or the normal drivel, then maybe TV isn't for you.

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Re: But will there ever be anything worth watching?

Running up to Christmas that was a perfume ad, black and white, male with a chiselled jaw driving and open topped sports care and so on. It was so utterly full of cliches I was waiting for the end of the ad for the punchline seriously believing it to be one of those spoof ads that appears glamorous but is actually for soap powder.

The those sneaky ad men fooled me - it was actually an ad for perfume!

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Bronze badge

Re: But will there ever be anything worth watching?

"Just like top-end super-de-luxe hi-fi is the preserve of people who spend their time listening to how good it sounds, not the actual music."

Great music will sound great on a crappy hi-fi, and utterly amazing on a top-end system. It's just that the more money you spend you get to the realms of diminishing returns. But if you ever heard a really good orchestral piece played on a really expensive hi-fi system - when you can almost feel like you're standing next to the conductor - you'll perhaps understand what some people strive to achieve.

Crap music of course will just sound progressively worse on a decent system, sounding ever more artificial as the equipment strips bare the techniques used to "polish the turd".

Similarly, give a cheap guitar to a great musician and it'll sound great! Give a top end Fender or Gibson to someone like me and, well you can work out the rest...

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JLV
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Meh

>Films, TV drama shows and live sport all offer great content

Perhaps, but mostly when they have been recorded in that format.

Sports will be, as soon as it is available. But for the rest, you'll to wait for a while till the content catches up with the medium and you can kiss your old faves goodbye. Unless you are a true believer in upscaling, which I ain't. Or the director/producer were forward-looking enough to record in UHD and had the right equipment.

4K? Definitely. _After_ the standards have settled, the prices have come down from small-car-level and when the things I like to watch are cheap and plentiful. 1080p in the meantime - 55+"s are dirt cheap by now.

Great article!

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Linux

Re: But will there ever be anything worth watching?

TV drama is not good fodder for increased image clarity. You will just end up becoming far to intimate with the skin conditions of the actors. Not all films benefit from increased image clarity or increased screen size.

As far as sports goes... it already sounds like they are being gravely compromised.

That's not even getting into whether or not your home viewing setup is even capable of showcasing the extra screen resolution.

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FAIL

Nobody's mentioned.....

that Nippon TV (widely regarded to be the standard for high quality - read: definition, not content) have already said that they are NOT going to be broadcasting any 4K. Instead, they are going straight to 8K.

So all these 4K TV's being sold may be obsolete before they have even started!

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Re: Nobody's mentioned.....

Dunno; if I had a chance to replace 4 screens in a row with one screen of equivalent or better resolution I would jump to it, nevermind that this is called "TV" and not "computer monitor" ...

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2K intermediate

Where is this 4K content from?

Most cinema is processed at 2K.

4K just strikes me as a way to sell new TVs to idiots.

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Re: 2K intermediate

There are quite a few 4K cameras around now. Netflix is making content in 4k, as I mentioned in the article. And there will be stuff filmed at various forthcoming sporting events, too.

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Re: 2K intermediate

Where is this 4K content from?

According to Wikipedia cinema projectors are already heading in the direction of 4K, so I'd be surprised if the camera & production parts weren't already 4K ready.

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Re: 2K intermediate

@ Fuzz,

Quote: Most cinema is processed at 2K.

Yes, for now, but they are switching over to 4K, so at some point 2K will be depreciated. (How long this will take, is another question).

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Re: 2K intermediate

4K just strikes me as a way to sell new TVs to idiots.

A lot of whom already sit too far from their screens to benefit from HD. And my own informal polling suggests very few people really care. I've come across a lot of people who say things like "I can't be bothered to go and find the HD version of that channel".

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Re: 2K intermediate

Actually you'll find that most cinema productions that are digitally recorded with any kind of a budget are being shot in 4k these days, and as for the holdouts still using film, decent quality 35mm stock has small enough grain to justify scanning at 4k or higher (16mm less so). Pretty much all of the post-production suites in Soho are equipped for 4k and higher resolutions and film can be rescanned at higher resolutions than it was for the original releases to good effect, if a decent quality master is used. There's a move towards 4k for TV production too - the cost of 4k kit is plumetting.

And I think you'll find it was 3D that was the recent way of selling new TVs to idiots.

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Re: 2K intermediate

Hardly any post is done at 4K. Most films and a lot of TV is now shot at >>2k/HD, but onlining still usually happens at HD/2K.

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Re: 2K intermediate

Indeed, but that's only because there's no consumer outlet for 4k except digital cinema right now so there's little point. Once there's a way to get that content to the home on onto people's shiny new 4k panels both the content and the post capability in 4k already exists. Hence the original comment about there being no 4k content not being entirely accurate.

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Re: 2K intermediate

I'd rather like to see the various video clips that I've recently recorded using the 4K video recording mode of my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 thank you very much. Now who's the idiot?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 2K intermediate

And there are plenty out there happily watching SD content on "HD ready" sets convinced they are already watching HD broadcasts...

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Happy

Re: Now who's the idiot?

Is it the bloke with a phone the size of his head?

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Re: 2K intermediate

Look at the current UK box office top 10 according to imdb

12 years a slave - shot on 35mm, 2K digital intermediate

American Hustle - shot on 35mm, 4K intermediate

The hobbit - shot on red, 2K intermediate

Frozen - digital animation, 2K intermediate

Last vegas - shot on digital, 2K intermediate

The Railway Man - shot on digital, 2K intermediate

Delivery Man - shot on 35mm, 2K intermediate

Mandela - shot on 35mm

Anchorman 2 - shot on digital, 2K intermediate

Paranormal Activity - unknown

So out of 10 films, only 1 uses a 4K process. My point is that this is totally different to when HD arrived. When 1080p came films were being shot and processed at that resolution so the benefits for new films was there. Now people are being sold 4K TVs and the content they are being sold is actually up-scaled 2K.

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MJI
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Re: 2K intermediate

Some of us still watch the SD channel rather than the HD because..........

Some wanker put a sodding great big on screen turd on the HD channel

Channel 4 you are turds!

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JLV
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>sit too far from their screens to benefit from HD

Yeah, you know, that is not so totally true as you may think.

I had a 1080p 32" that I was watching from 8-9' or so for years. Most of the time, if you are engrossed in a movie, you won't tell a 720p DVD from a Blu-Ray. You can, maybe, if you stop to think about it, but I probably won't.

However... freeze frame on a scene involving a letter or a page of a book, held at arms length. Most of the time, you can't read the text from a DVD but you can do that just fine from a BluRay. Or watch Apocalypto, for example, one of the best early movies for HD.

i.e. I may _not_ care most of the time, and I am most assuredly not a "connoisseur", in TVs or sound systems. But believing straight off the bat that regular HD doesn't make any difference because you can't physically see the difference with DVD is a bit of reverse-snobism, IMHO.

Try it for yourself instead of just believing the theory. On 4K you are probably spot on.

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Joke

Re: >sit too far from their screens to benefit from HD

"However... freeze frame on a scene involving a letter or a page of a book, held at arms length. Most of the time, you can't read the text from a DVD but you can do that just fine from a BluRay. Or watch Apocalypto, for example, one of the best early movies for HD."

I generally prefer to watch all movies like this. I just pause them and then advance one frame at a time, that way I don't miss anything.

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Re: >sit too far from their screens to benefit from HD

Sometimes I would like to be able to read the credits on the screen. Particularly the music credits. I don't know if the problem is the frame rate, or the resolution, but I look forward to the day when I can read text on screen, as we used to when watching film movies on analog TV.

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Vic
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Re: >sit too far from their screens to benefit from HD

> I don't know if the problem is the frame rate, or the resolution

Neither.

For most people, it's simply the compression artefacts - text is all high-frequency information, and those values just get quantised out of the DCT.

In the UK - I don't know if it happens elsewhere as well - they've developed this *really* annoying habit of shrinking the credits to about a quarter of the screen so they can shjow an advert for another programme. And voice over as well.

Vic.

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Channel use of 4k?

When (hah) all broadcasts are 1080p with a smattering of 4k I'll consider a 4k set, no sooner. Until then I see little point in anything beyond 1080p with most HD channels only doing 720p or 1080i at best. As others Fuzz said above me it just seems like a way to try and sell more TVs to those that don't need them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Channel use of 4k?

Was listening to the sales patter of a young John Lewis employee just before Christmas, selling a 4K TV to a middle aged couple. Think he did it to - yes, the demo they were showing was absolutely wonderful, but you just know that the majority of people seeing these sets will think that's what they are going to get when they take it home and watch Coronation Street.

An aunt of mine was convinced (and wouldn't take no for an answer since the sales man had told her so) that her HD ready set was showing her HD content - this was back before the digital switchover and she was still watching on the analogue tuner...

Ahh, I remember the days of trying to convince the in-laws that the film they where watching in letterboxed widescreen didn't have the top and bottom cut off by the BBC...

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Re: Channel use of 4k?

I have the responsibility for advising my family on all things technology related. Luckily they trust me and would take my word over a sales rep with £££ signs in his eyes. It does, however, mean that I have to stay up to date on things myself but that's ok as I do it anyway. I really don't know if people like your aunt are believing what they're told to justify the outlay. Nobody likes to be told they've been fleeced.

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Stop

These are not the pixels you are looking for.

Rather than trying to squeeze more and more pixels into limited bandwidth, wouldn't it be better to make the best use of the 1080p pixels we already have by increasing frame rates and colour depth and attempting to reduce or improve the overdone compression on existing channels? That way we can realise the full potential of FullHD which, if done correctly, should more than enough for most households.

Or is it easier to market "MORE PIXELS!" than better quality...?

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Re: These are not the pixels you are looking for.

Would be nice if they would define a reasonable minimum standard for HD, in order to be allowed to claim a channel is actually HD.

I find it annoying I can watch one Sky HD channel, and it looks fine. Then switch to another supposed HD channel, and it have noticeable compression artefacts, pixelation, colour banding etc..

Sorry but HD is more that just a higher resolution. If you're channel looks worse than your SD channel when there is a lot of movement, or other things happening on screen, IT IS NOT HD!

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Re: These are not the pixels you are looking for.

Quote: "Or is it easier to market "MORE PIXELS!" than better quality...?"

It's worked as a marketing gimmick for years for compact and mobile phone cameras, so why expect TVs to be any different?

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Re: These are not the pixels you are looking for.

Try quantifying bitrate and encoding system in a manner as easy as 'More Pixels' - it's hard to explain to someone nontechnical (almost all 4k TV buyers will be nontechnical) why their current HD picture looks so bloody awful.

Stand in front of an HDTV and look at the cringeworthy banding and mosquitoes on on-screen text. You can throw pixels at a shitty image and just end up with more pixel redundancy for a shitty image. Digital transmission has basically stopped me watching telly. Close-ups where large areas of face move hauntingly as if detached from the other features and other compression leftovers make it a ghastly experience.

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Re: "It's worked as a marketing gimmick for years..." @ Boothy

I think TV is different. People buying digital cameras don't look past the Megapixel count, and this is probably true for phones (if they look at the camera specs at all) but, when it comes to TV, most people (in my experience) are quite happy with an HD Ready (720p) set and a DVD player hooked up over SCART.

4K looks lovely, but I can see it having the same problem that Blu-ray does - the technology that it's replacing is already good enough for most people, and so there's no motivation to replace the existing kit (unless it breaks, and even then a like-for-like replacement will be easier on the wallet).

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Re: These are not the pixels you are looking for.

Quantifying those extra things is, one might think, precisely the sort of thing that a labelling system might try to do. A "Fabulous HD" logo might encompass "Sharper pictures; true-to-life colour; smooth movement" and so-on, in a way that might make it a little easier for the less savvy consumer to grasp.

Unfortunately, after the mess and confusion of "HD Ready" I don't personally have much confidence in that, and perhaps still less after seeing that the proposed DE baseline mentions only 8 bits of colour depth, when it's very likely that sources - including BD - will be offering more than that.

After the frustrations many had with 5.1 on Freeview, I'm also a little worried about the specification for audio simply being 2.0 PCM.

A quickly released labelling scheme could end up confusing things even more. But then, when it comes to labelling, I suppose there's a long and pretty dismal history of that sort of thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: These are not the pixels you are looking for.

As an analogue person, there ain't no alternative to bandwidth. The effect of digitisation and compression/decompression + HDMI encoding/decoding in minimal bandwidth is to totally destroy the picture quality before it reaches the screen. I've yet to see a good moving digital picture even at 720. Why would anyone want 4K except as a static display screen?

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