HD format dead or dying? 4K television? What next?

HD, 4K 5K and now even 6K video cameras. The march continues on for even bigger and bigger packed chip sizes giving better and better resolution which unfortunately we don’t have the equipment available to watch the footage at the detail it was shot! This seems like madness but is it really? Where are we going with this technology?

With still cameras we have seen a large quantity of chip sizes enter the market with people purchasing cameras on their mega pixel count and totally ignoring the chip size. It’s quite possible to have a 20 mega pixel camera with the chip size of less than our thumb nail or you could have a DSLR with only 16 mega pixels on a chip the size of a bit of 35mm film and the later producing a better image. How is the general public supposed to understand enough to make an intelligent decision? And why produce video cameras four times the ability of the viewers?

The Market is seeing entry on the market now of 4K Ultra HD TVs (also known as UHD TVs) which produce four times as much detail as 1080p Full HD, that’s eight million pixels instead of two million pixels from HD of image. So should we all be dumping our HD televisions and rushing out to buy a $K model? Is that wise when there are cameras coming on to the market with 5K and 6K chips – better resolution still, will that result in the 4K televisions being obsolete before you know it?

These aren’t easy questions to answer, my guess is that HD is going to still be around for a long time, for TV companies to be broadcasting in higher formats in the short term is unlikely so what’s the point?

The answer is a convergence of all things digital. When your video function in your tablet or phone is of such high quality that at any point in a recording you can pull out a stills file of good enough quality to please the most demanding of marketing professionals or something that can provide the best quality blow up for a bride and groom we will be nearing the destination.

Of course it was all prophesied on 25th June 1982 with the launch of the film Blade Runner. The main character Decker goes to a murder scene and finds a photograph which he blows up and up to what was then impossible limits – not such a science fiction prospect now is it?

It’s very simple to see where this is going professionally. There will be no more stills photographers in the future, there will be no more film cameramen. They will all merge into one and just be recordists. Web sites and digital magazines will be illustrated with high quality video that at any time can be paused and zoomed in to catch the detail of the action. Rewound and replayed in slow motion with no loss of quality even zoomed in. None of this is very far away. And maybe it will all be in 3D as well, who knows.

What does need developing though is sound capture software. For the film editor the ability to isolate one sound, voice or noise and provide a clean version without distortions would be a great asset. At present it’s a great skill of the sound man with different types of microphone to record the sound as needed for a film. We mostly watch films without any awareness of the amount of work that went into building the sound track.

But even today we often see live outside broadcasts where the background noise, be it crowd or machinery interferes with the main subject. An intelligent computer program that could take a sound sample of a person being interviewed and then isolate that from all background sounds must surely be the holy grail of the sound world. They say if people can imagine something they often can build it, who knows perhaps someone is working on this software in their lab as I type.

So the convergence of digital items continues, the quality of the base models steps up and up and we already take for granted items in our pocket that can not only take a video or picture but also communicate both pictorially and aurally with people remotely, can tell us any information needed whether it be routes, train times, pub opening hours or where the nearest petrol station is and it can bring us our favourite programs when and where we want them – the humble mobile! The future is here already for some!


Brian Russell

Copyright December 2014.