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The inevitability of 4K, and why it’s good in the long run…

Published by Michael Rissi in The Resolution Race · 6/3/2015 18:56:00
Tags: 4KMichaelRissiBlog
In my last blog, I pointed out the dubious state of demand for 4K from the consumer, as well as the relative hassle and significant expense for independent videographers to keep upgrading equipment.

But the point of this post is to look into the future a bit and explain why 4K and all continuing resolution improvements are pretty amazing overall and will be appreciated by all in the long run.

First of all, let’s think about the very recent past. Up until the year 2000, the beginning of the twenty first century in other words, VHS was still the dominant and most viable format for video distribution. That is only 15 years ago. Within five years or so, DVD almost completely wiped out VHS.

Both of those formats have what is still known as the “standard” video aspect ratio with a 4:3 picture frame with 525 lines of analog resolution. For nearly 50 years, NTSC video, with 525 lines, 59.94 fps interlace video was considered state of the art, professional video. Most people had televisions which could only resolve about 350 - 400 lines of that resolution too!

But then came about massive strides in computer displays, analog video conversion to computer video file formats, and the changes couldn’t come fast enough it seems!

-- Which brings us to our current situation.

Translating from the analog NTSC days to the language of digital resolution definitions, the highest resolution for broadcast in those days of “standard” resolution was approximately 720 X 486 pixels -- and Sony DigiBeta was the dominant professional format for acquisition and masters. As computer displays kept improving, people started realizing that TV image quality was significantly inferior to computer monitors.

Also, our old TV’s were bulky and unwieldy, and as new flat panel style TVs were introduced, people realized they were much more convenient and desirable in nearly every way.

When HD televisions became inexpensive enough for the average consumer to purchase, the resolution revolution came pretty quickly, and the final straw, the move that spelled doom for 4:3 NTSC video was the U.S. government mandate that the television industry as a whole switch from analog to digital. Congress set June 12, 2009 as the deadline for full power television stations to stop broadcasting analog signals.

The change had really been long overdue, but there was still quite a bit of resistance until HD televisions became relatively inexpensive during the first decade of the 21st century.

Today, 4K is the new kid on the block, but it will have staying power, and it will eventually be superseded by even higher resolutions. I’ll address all that in the next blog.

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