Hollywood Executives See Bright Future For 4K UHD
Top level executives from the home entertainment divisions of Hollywood’s four leading studios gave 4K Ultra HDTV and all of its recent enhancements a unified endorsement during the Ultra HD Alliance meeting at the recent CES 2016 in Las Vegas.
The UHD Alliance used its event to underscore that the world’s leading content producers are on board with 4K Ultra HD for the home, and will be stepping up efforts in coming months to deliver the most popular natively produced and distributed 4K Ultra HD feature films via streaming, digital download, Ultra HD Blu-ray and satellite and cable TV platforms.
The Ultra HD Alliance is a multi-industry association of consumer electronics hardware manufacturers, content producers, distributors and others unified in the common interest of making 4K Ultra HD a success in the consumer hardware/software marketplaces.
Read more on how Hollywood is gearing up for 4K UHD after the jump:
During the event, the UHD Alliance leaders detailed a new certification process for digital devices as well as software conforming to new standards just released to ensure quality performance at the highest levels.
The 35-member group said it was opening a new membership level, called “adopter,” that allows a company to have its products certified after signing a license agreement to use the group’s new Ultra HD Premium logo.
The Alliance is also setting out to educate consumers on what 4K Ultra HD is, and the many new enhancements that will make the high-resolution images stand out dramatically from previous high definition technologies.
At the event, the Alliance also illustrated that the market is about to be filled with as many as 100 4K Ultra HD titles available on the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format as well as via over-the-top streaming services, digital download services and cable and satellite services.
The group presented a panel discussion with leading studio executives to assure attendees that both the software and hardware sides of the industry are aligned and on target for the delivery of content to play on next generation TVs this year.
Speakers included: (Pictured at top from left) Ron Sanders, president Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; Mike Dunn, president Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment; Man Jit Singh, president Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; and Michael Bonner, digital distribution executive VP Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
The following is a transcript of their remarks at the Ultra HD Alliance press conference before the opening of CES:
Will 4K Ultra HD be a major success?
Ron Sanders: “When you look at the assumptions of the installed base Ultra HD televisions, not only in the United States, but around the world, we think there will be over $1 billion in consumer spend by 2019 in the U.S. market, so we are very, very excited about where it is going to go.”
Mike Dunn: “About a year ago, we saw a side by side comparison of 4K UHD and HDR, and clearly we saw that as a full step up in the consumer experience. It was mind blowing. And when we shared that with our colleagues at the studio, and within the creative community, the feeling was likewise. So it helps to get behind a technology that is a full step up in the consumer experience. When you look at the trend, there should be something close to 360 million 4K UHD TVs installed in consumer homes by 2019, and that’s a great market.”
Man Jit Singh: “This is truly an immersive consumer experience, and the consumer can clearly perceive the quality difference. This is a medium where we can for the first time at home provide the range of what a 35mm film can provide, and show a film the way the creator actually thought of it. So, it is a unique consumer experience. Then we have this huge installed base of 4K TVs and this is a way for consumers to actually be able to use the capabilities that this wonderful projection equipment has given them. So, I think there is a real marrying of content and devices that has come together. The last thing is that there is this wonderful set of quality standards that is so different and so dramatic that in terms of the fight for consumers share of mind, where there is free stuff and there is our kind of content, when you produce stuff like this I think it will lead to us getting a larger share of market.”
Michael Bonner: “For us this is really an improvement on quality and keeping up with the advantages of the displays and the technology on the CE side of things, and on top of that serving the greater community will create opportunities for all of us.”
How do all of the enhancements of Ultra HD fit together, which elements are the most critical and how does the production community feel about this opportunity?
Man Jit Singh: “I think it is a combination of all of these unique features. You have high resolution with 4K; with HDR you have the depth of colors that are unique; with this broad spectrum of colors you expand your color palette. All of these are meaningful, and then you have your sound quality. It’s that combination of all of these that creates the opportunity for us to take advantage of.”
Mike Dunn: “I think this technology combines the technology with the creative intent of the filmmaker. When you see the filmmaker’s thumb print on some of the work that we’ve created so far, it’s a huge step up, and it gets as close to their creative intent as we’ve seen so far. You can really express yourself as a filmmaker in this media, and I think that’s exciting.”
Ron Sanders: “I think that seeing is believing, and with some of the past technology we’ve seen an evolution improvement in some of the quality levels over the past decade. This is kind of a step-change improvement, particularly with HDR added to 4K and then with the immersive audio – with that packaged together, we show it to filmmakers – the people we have to work with – and it is an impactful change when they see it. You see it in Mad Max in the fire and NITs, it seems to be really coming at you. It’s almost a 3D experience without the glasses. It’s much better than what we had before.”
Is the consumer ready to take this step forward in quality?
Man Jit Singh: “I think we have to be very careful not to confuse the consumer. There are a lot of elements – high dynamic range, 4K UHD, the color spectrum. We as an industry, both on the hardware and on the development side, have to be very, very consistent in our messaging. Through the Alliance we have provided that consistency. It will be very important to provide that consistency at the store level. We have a challenge because we didn’t do as good a job when we moved to Blu-ray. I think as an industry we learned a lot from that transition. This time we think it will be a lot smoother.”
Mike Dunn: “From our initial research we found that only 7 percent of consumers understand what 4K is, and it is an aspirational technology. So, it has rallied, and if you ventured out on Black Friday, you saw a lot of that happen right before your eyes.”
Ron Sanders: “We’ve done some consumer research as well and we think there is a broad awareness of what 4K is. We have some work to do to explain what is immersive audio; to explain what is HDR. Seeing is believing and with the retail partners it is going to be really important to have high quality in-store demos. Because I believe when they see it they will buy in. We know the early adopter will be on the higher end of the price spectrum to start, because prices will come down over time and it will become a mass item.”
Of all of the delivery platforms available for 4K UHD today, which ones standout for both the retailers and distributors?
Michael Bonner: “I think UHD is going to become available in every window and every business model. I think you are going to see initial emphasis and push from us on the film side in particular in the first home window and it will continue down streaming to other home windows. I don’t think you will see it limited to any one particular type of business model.”
Mike Dunn: “You have all types of different delivery systems and services involved in the UHD Alliance. Unless you have a standards group that puts the glue for the industry together it’s not seamless to the consumer. The team in the UHD Alliance did a great job in quickly bringing the industry together and putting the glue behind it so you can deliver it over-the-top or through the bits on a cable or satellite system. So it is well set up to succeed.”
Man Jit Singh: “All of the platforms are important, and the advantage that consumers have is that it is not only available through streaming and digitally, it is also going to be available in a physical form. So the consumer at the end of the day is going to make the decision: how does one consume and where does one consume? Will you pick the physical format or the digital format? But both will be important and I am a big supporter of the physical format.”
Ron Sanders: “It’s interesting because we have some digital 4K Ultra HD HDR Dolby Vision titles out now. I think it is going to be a mix. Our modeling shows the digital maybe being even bigger than the physical. But the physical is going to be the most efficient way of getting all of those bits up on the screen. Depending on where you live in the country, based on your broadband pipe, to download it using Vudu or whatever, so I think it is going to be mix of everything. It is going to become ubiquitous and hopefully it will stay a premium product for a little while we evolve people to it.”
Mike Dunn: “For the home theater buff, the Ultra HD disc does deliver 100 Mbps versus some deliveries at 6Mbps or 12Mbps, and Blu-ray at 40Mbps. And even just to map, if you have a home theater system, it lights that bad boy up.”
How important is physical media going to be for 4K Ultra HD?
Ron Sanders: “We already have titles out in digital. We are going to have around 60 titles out this year in physical and/or digital media. Physical media is going to match, probably when Ultra HD Blu-ray players launch, probably later in the spring into summer. I think the big push that becomes critical for us begins probably in the fourth quarter as it ramps up into homes and becomes broadly promoted. We will have a bigger materiality of titles out there, but it takes some time for filmmakers to go back and color grade and re-master titles.”
Mike Dunn: “It feels like between all of us, we will have 100 titles in the fourth quarter at least. And I think it will be a great selection. We’ve announced that all of our upcoming slate will be 4K UHD HDR.”
Is there going to be an opportunity for catalog titles to be released in UHD HDR and will this spur another re-release of classic titles?
Man Jit Singh: “Absolutely. Our standard for remastering is in 4K UHD, so we are releasing classics like Bridge Over The River Kwai and classics will be available in 4K UHD.”
How do we get the message across to the end consumer about the whole 4K UHD experience?
Michael Bonner: “It’s very complicated with all of these enhancements happening across resolution, color and audio. I think the alliance has done a really fantastic job of bringing together the CE companies, the studios, distribution partners and collaborating on the marketing the messaging and the education. The quality stands for itself. It is a better experience for the consumer, without a doubt and they will like that. But education is going to be important and that takes collaboration.”
Man Jit Singh: “That store-level communication is going to be key to capturing attention and getting this thing really going. Once people see demos side-by-side, it’s important to explain in the simplest manner the technology that will get it out to you.”
Mike Dunn: “We’ve really worked hard both here and in the [Digital Entertainment Group] in getting out a consistent message and that will help.”
Can we expect that all of these different companies and industries are going to continue to work together over the next 18 months, two years and beyond?
Mike Dunn: “Having been in a format war at the launch of Blu-ray and HD DVD, I can say this is nothing like that.”
Ron Sanders: “I can also say there is a lot of good content already out there. The exciting thing from the software side is that we’re going to be first. There isn’t a lot of broadcast yet and there isn’t a lot of gaming yet. I think that will be coming too. But what is exciting is that we can lead with some of the most popular films for Ultra HD TVs in the marketplace, and I think that is going to make it successful fast. The alternative is a format war and that is obviously not the best solution.
Man Jit Singh: I think the fact that we have an alliance. We’ve held it together and keep it so consistent on message and keep it so consistently working, I think it speaks volumes for what’s going to come. And I don’t see any change in that.
By Greg Tarr
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