What’s The Deal with Ultra HDTV?
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently announced the official name for next generation higher-resolution displays: UHD for “Ultra High-Definition,” tossing out the more ambiguous “4K” name. Last week, LG Electronics became the first TV vendor in the USA to deliver an Ultra HD TV. This 84-inch LED LCD, known the 84LM9600, is the second largest screen size consumer television available in the USA. It has a resolution of 3840 x 2160; exactly four times that of a “Full HD” 1080p TV. We take a look at the current state of UHD after the break.
There are now two UHD TVs offered for sale. Both are 84-inches and use LGs passive 3D LCD panel. The Sony, model XBR-84X900, retails for $24,999.99. Sony is taking orders for around a mid-November delivery. It’s available only through Sony Style stores. A Sony sales person told HD Guru they plan to offer their UHD TV until the end of the year or when sales hit 200 units, whichever comes first.
LG began rolling out its version on October 18th at retailer Audio & Video Center in Lawndale, California. The LG has an MSRP of $19,999.99, with an actual selling price of $16,999.99. Tom Campbell, corporate director of AVC, told HD Guru its debut event attracted over 1,100 customers, selling eleven 84EM9600s on day one. Campbell added the interest caused record overall sales of other TVs, soundbars, and electronics for the mid-October week.
Currently, there is no standard for broadcast, cable, consumer camcorders or disc based media with UHD resolution. If a standard ever comes to pass, we doubt the current TV models can be updated. The HDMI inputs are hardware, not software based and are limited (under the current HDMI 1.4a standard) to a 24 frame-per-second UHD signal. HDMI is working on new generation chip standard for UHD with higher frame rates and it we expect it to be announced in January 2013.
Currently we know of no source material, other than a single 40 minute movie in the DCI format (a slightly different resolution) which is only available on hard drive or very highly compressed flash drive. The hard drive is 120 GB, far larger storage than the current Blu-ray discs permits. Certain high-end video cards are capable of outputting UHD (again, maxing out at 24 fps over HDMI), though not all games will support this resolution.
The current HDTV standard allows broadcast HD content a maximum rate of 19.4 megabits per second using Mpeg 2 compression. UHD content with four times the resolution will require a far higher bit rate and more robust compression to be able to achieve an acceptable level of compression artifacts. For example, a new compression standard called HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) H.265 has been submitted to the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) for approval and is expected to be offered in 2013 products. This is an important step in getting UHD content to market.
We expect the second generation UHD TVs to be able to process higher frame rates than the 24 fps used currently with film and many digital cameras. We anticipate consumer UHD camcorders to be offered in 2013 with UHD at frame rates of 30 and perhaps 48 or 60 frames per second. Hollywood is currently experimenting with higher frame rates at the 4K DCI movie industry standard.
DirecTV has committed to UHD transmissions and plans to be ready by 2016 according to a report by advanced-television.com.
What’s UHD Good For Right Now?
While we feel it’s too early to consider purchasing a UHD today due to limitations of the current HDMI standard, sports and other live action HD programming can benefit with the use of UHD recording equipment. In a recent published interview in CE Daily, Bryan Burns, VP of Strategic Business at ESPN, stated they are experimenting with UHD capture. He explained there are no current plans for UHD transmissions; however the higher resolution of UHD cameras and editing will enable ESPN to zoom and reframe sports without a loss of resolution. Expect sharper, more detailed replays and graphics soon. Filmmakers are shooting HDTV content using 4K cameras allowing them to crop the image in post production while maintaining Full HD resolution, and for the growing number of 4K cinemas
How do the new UHD 84-inch TVs look with standard and high definition content from broadcast, cable, and disc? The internal video processor must create three additional pixels for every original one to fill the UHD screen’s 8,294,400 pixels. All the demonstrations we’ve seen to date have been with high data rate native UHD content. Geoff saw a pre-production model of the LG at the recent CEDIA show running upconverted HD content, and wasn’t impressed. We intend to fully evaluate the performance of LGs 84-inch soon using real HD and SD content and tests signals. We will publish our results when available.
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