The Road to 4K

HWM (Singapore) - - Trends - BY DAVID CHIENG

The TV in­dus­try hasn't had very much go­ing for it re­cently. Smart TVs were in­ter­est­ing for a while, but then most peo­ple sim­ply de­cided that watch­ing YouTube videos was eas­ier on a PC (or lap­top). The in­dus­try also tried to foist 3D on the con­sumer, and though the tech­nol­ogy caught on for movie cin­e­mas, 3D in the home the­ater's pretty much be­come an af­ter­thought.

4K on the other hand, looks to be an in­ter­est­ing story. At the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show in Las Ve­gas ear­lier this year, Sony CEO Kaz Hi­rai said that "4K is not the fu­ture, it's now".

Cur­rent high-def­i­ni­tion dis­plays fea­ture screen res­o­lu­tions of 1920 x 1080, or more com­monly 1080p. 4K ex­pands that to a res­o­lu­tion of 3840 x 2160. And while early 4K-ca­pa­ble tele­vi­sions pushed the en­ve­lope in terms of price, cost­ing in the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars (mostly due to mas­sive 84-inch pan­els), com­pa­nies like Sony and Sam­sung have moved in re­cent months to in­tro­duce mod­els priced much lower, and with more ap­proach­able 55-inch and 65-inch of­fer­ings. We've spent some time with a num­ber of 4K tele­vi­sions, from Sony as well as the com­pe­ti­tion, and they are sim­ply amaz­ing. From a per­sonal stand­point, if go­ing to Full HD made a big dif­fer­ence, shift­ing to what the in­dus­try's also call­ing Ul­tra HD 4K will be even big­ger.

Cost aside, the white ele­phant stand­ing in the room then, is con­tent. Toshifumi Okuda, Se­nior Gen­eral Man­ager for Sony's Home En­ter­tain­ment and Sound Di­vi­sion, wants Sony's cus­tomers to be clear that Sony un­der­stands that con­tent will be a ma­jor point of con­tention when it comes to con­sumer adop­tion of 4K. Mr Okuda says that with their 4K tele­vi­sion of­fer­ings, Sony is go­ing back to ba­sics, and fo­cus­ing on im­age qual­ity on their tele­vi­sion prod­ucts. The idea is that cus­tomers should en­joy all the con­tent they al­ready have, on their 4K tele­vi­sions, whether the few 4K-re­mas­tered ti­tles avail­able out there, or up­con­verted from ex­ist­ing Blu-ray or other 1080p con­tent.

Hav­ing Sony Pic­tures En­ter­tain­ment in their cor­ner helps greatly, giv­ing Sony a di­rect hand in pro­duc­ing movies shot with 4K in mind. SPE's ex­ist­ing cat­a­logue of movies can also be re-scanned at 4K res­o­lu­tion (with Sony's own 4K scan­ners), and re­mas­tered for ei­ther na­tive 4K or a HD master for reis­sue on Blu-ray, pow­ered by Sony ColorWorks.

Sony's al­ready an­nounced a slew of ti­tles “mas­tered in 4K” that are op­ti­mized for 4K tele­vi­sions (read: 1080p discs that will hope­fully look de­cent when up­scaled back to 4K), with ti­tles in­clud­ing Godzilla, Spi­der-man 2, Men in Black and more.

To sum things up, Sony not only wants you to buy their 4K tele­vi­sions, they also have the means to help cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als pro­duce 4K con­tent, while also hav­ing the abil­ity to pro­duce and pub­lish 4K con­tent. Heck, Sony also makes the projectors that dis­play it in cin­e­mas. It's this all-rounder ecosys­tem that places Sony in prime po­si­tion not only for suc­cess in the 4K space, but also presents the op­por­tu­nity to de­fine where 4K (look­ing for­ward, maybe even 8K) will move in the fu­ture.

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