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Culminating in a few weeks ago exciting final match between Germany and Argentina, the World Cup was not just exciting for soccer fans, but an important test for 4K broadcasting future – even though nobody was not able to watch the 4K broadcast in their homes.
Let’s start off with the Japanese giant Sony. Sony transmitted Germany-Argentina World Cup final, as well as the earlier match Germany-France, in 4K to a Vue theater in London. The signal, as you know, has been transmitted from Brazil to a Eutelsat teleport outside of Parise, where the signal has been transcoded to standard 60p HEVC 4K and retransmitted back to a Eutelsat satellite from which it was beamed directly to the multiplex theater in Westfield, London.
David Bush, head of marketing development for Sony Europe has stated these testing phases help Sony prepare for other application areas and use. He also added that Sony collaborated with many technical partners to deliver the 4K stream into a cinema, working with London theatre to show movie War Horse in UHD format at the Curzon cinema in London.
Since Sony is probably the biggest manufacturer of 4K TVs, projectors and other UHD devices, promotion of 4K is a major priority for them. Especially, considering the fact that conventional HD standard is going to be replaced by UHD in the coming years.
However, Sony is not the only company testing 4K streaming. Namely, Japanese broadcaster NHK went to Brazil, just like Sony, and filmed nine FIFA games in whopping 8K resolution, or 7,680 x 4,320 pixel screensize. This resolution is known in Japan as Super Hi-Vision.
Furthermore, these games were then broadcast live to audiences in several Japanese cities and locations in Rio de Janeiro. One of these Super Hi-Vision live broadcasts was also displayed on a monster-size 330-inch TV.
If you didn’t know, the technical difficulties were even more serious, since the signal being beamed from a location to location requires a bandwidth of 24 GB per second. Later on, even after it is compressed, live broadcast still requires 300 MB per second bandwidth.
To not get too much technical, the 8K stream involved three Ikegami cameras. Two of these were using Canon 10x lenses and the third camera used a Fujinon 11x lens – plus 3 4K cameras: Two For-A FT1 Super Slow Motion cameras and one Sony F65 camera to shoot live.
According to NHK technician, the ability to shoot quality closeups in the 8K with image anomalies continues to be of a problem.
The UK media giant BBC also put 4K stream on trial. The BBC labs were in charge of the process, working alongside Arqiva to send 4K live streams to the UK. Used to ensure that viewers get the best 4K streaming experience, the 4K streaming trial was investigated by BBC to discover how it can bring 4K to the masses.
That said, BBC could decide to stream even more programmes in the near future. So perhaps, 4K broadcasting is closer than we even think.
Samsung announced their S9 UHD TV back in February. This huge 4K TV that we previously saw at CES, has been on sale since April for whopping EUR 40,000, which is equal to 54,000 USD or 35,000 pounds at current exchange rates. Of course, even a person who can afford this monster TV, hopefully, has enough of room to house such a big 4K TV.
As you can see, Samsung already announced several models for their Europe markets. Even more, some claim Samsung has overtaken Sony in terms of UHD markets in the Old Continent when it comes to shipment volumes. The data has been collected by market research agency GfK claims Samsung has once again emerged as the leader of the pack.
Even more, this agency states the South Korean giant Samsung grabbed around 48% of European 4K TV market share in terms of volume in the months of November and December 2013. This even represents an impressive increase of 14 percentage points from earlier months, September and the like.
No doubt about it, this is an outstanding achievement considering Samsung only launched back in July 2013 only two sizes of their F9000 series, 55-inch and 65-inch TVs to be precise.
By some data, the dominance of the South Korean giant is even greater in certain countries, especially in the Northern part of Europe: Switzerland, Denmark and the United Kingdom, where Samsung has been accounted for more than 60% of all UHD TVs sold. Even though Samsung might not be as dominant in France and Germany, their market share in these two economically strong countries still exceeded 40%.
Some say that it took Europe a bit longer than the US to finish its digital transition. However, this time it looks like the US will wait longer for its next-generation TV standard – the standard that should allow 4K broadcasts as many experts expect.
Many experts stated Samsung’s success in Europe when it comes to selling 4K TVs can be mainly attributed to its pricing model: the South Korean giant slashed up to $1500 off of the prices, especially trying to promote and push off their UE65F9000 and UE55F9000 TVs just several weeks after initial launch.
Many experts believe that the South Korean giant benefits a lot from Sony’s decision to not bring their slim Bravia X8 series of UHD TVs or 4K media player to many, if not most, European countries. Experts stated had Sony released these two key UHD products in the most of Europe, the South Korean giant might have faced stiffer competition and their business model would require more marketing efforts.
Even more, Samsung suggests at CES that this year, 2014, should be the year of 4K TV and officials from Samsung believe that by the end of the year 4K TV sales should surpass the famous one million mark.
Samsung even confirms that they will launch 4K starter pack for use with its several 4K TVs in Europe as well as access to Netflix 4K UHD streaming service. Currently, Samsung offers 1TB hard-disk for less than $400 that comes with access to around 50 4K movies, including Star Trek: Into the Darkness and Life of Pi.
Got $120,000? Well, if you didn’t know, you can buy Samsung’s monster TV for that amount of money. Namely, Samsung recently unveiled its UHD 4K TV for a price tag of jaw-dropping $120,000.
You probably wonder: ‘But what I get for this amount of money?’ Well, that’s a good question.
Basically, you get a curved display that promises four times the resolution of a standard Full HD TV and a better, more perspective field of view. Even more, it’s a smart TV device, so you can enter ‘What else could I have purchased for this amount of money’ into the Web browser. That said, as the TV has browsing capabilities built-in, you can surf web, watch YouTube, browse Facebook, among many other things.
If you think $120,000 is a lot, then you can go for another relative bargain. Namely, LG sells its own 105-inch big 4K TV for only $70,000. While 4K UHD TVs look nice, believe it or not, these TVs have no much content to display. That means early buyers will have to wait a while if they want to watch most of their favorite movies and shows in their full resolution and glory.
Actually, there were so many 4K TVs on stage back at CES, but you would be forgiven if they all blended together. So allow us to give you a quick recap: the Samsung’s $120,000 was the world’s largest and most curved UHD TV. At least, officials from Samsung’s department say so.
The Samsung UN105S9W, no doubt, sounds like an expensive piece of kit, right? You probably ask what resolution you get?
For this amount of money you get 5 120 x 2 160 resolution on a monster-large screen, with an unusually wide aspect ratio of 21:9. This also means that regular 16:9 HD programs, such as programs from satellite or cable, TV service appear as boxed images with black bars appearing on the sides. However, thanks to Samsung’s Quad Screen Multilink feature, you can even divide the screen into several mini-displays so you can, let’s say, stream video and access the Web at the same time.
Even more, you’ll receive a visit or two from Samsung’s Engineers to walk you through and help you set up this thing.
Granted, this product is not targeted for everyone – you can call this thing a diamond if you like. Even more, it is not like an expensive stone as it has many features, not only showing you are rich. And as some consumers stated, most people might be able to buy one if it comes at a reasonable price in near future. And most likely it will.
That said, choosing a TV like this over another vacation house or expensive sport car helps you at least earn some kind of future proofing: Samsung’s Kit will help owners upgrade their 4K TV’s software for years to come. Like any other 4K TV, the Samsung UN105S9W comes with a separate One Connect Box that manages all TV’s connections and cables – the box can even be upgraded to host new features and technologies.
After Consumer Electronics Show 2014, where several 4K TVs were on Show, Netflix announced its 4K content. However, that’s not the only thing that happened at CES this year. Namely, the Blu-Ray disc association, or BDA, has announced that they will release 4K Blu-ray discs.
Even though many expect that future of 4K content is streaming and online delivery, Blu-ray discs will also be available for those who maybe want to save their favorite 4K show on a hard copy, or maybe they are unable to stream such razor-sharp and huge content.
The decision is very clear: create 4K discs that can store 4K content. However, there is still of bureaucracy to go through before the BDA releases their first Blu-ray 4K disc.
Actually, without HMV or Blockbuster all over the place these days, 4K Blu-ray discs might only appear as supermarket and online sales.
Victor Matsuda, the BDA’s chairman of global promotions stated:
‘We are not only looking to deliver a certain number of pixels, but features that contribute to the overall experience such as bit depth, color gamut, high-dynamic range, mobility and content protection.’
It is very obvious that the BDA’s goal is to encourage content ownership, collection and enable flexible enjoyment of the 4K content in different environments and places.
There have been reports last year that 4K Blu-ray discs could be possible. However, at the time the use of such large capacity discs was mere speculation. Today, this announcement confirms the green light for the development of such huge capacity 4K discs.
Now, the other thing I want to mention is this: if 4K Blu-ray discs do become a true reality, then dedicated 4K players would be needed as well. Besides computers and laptops, of course.
Namely, at CES 2014, YouTube and Netflix both announced plans to stream some content in 4K. However, this surely requires super fast and stable internet connection.
The final version of 4K disc may not be announced yet by the BD Association, but a Blu-ray manufacturers has taken the plunge already. Namely, the manufacturer and disc creator Singlus has revealed that it will be the company that provides the needed technology for three-layer discs with a storage volume of whopping 100 GB.
The big question is also will normal players that already support Blu-ray be able to read these discs with something as easy and quick as a software update? It is too early to say, but the combination of 4K and Blu-ray could be a huge factor in growing the popularity of 4K and UHD technologies fast.
This is an excellent step towards making UHD more common and more popular. As Sky tests 4K broadcasts, we think it is only a matter of time before UHD TVs become popular as well as Blu-ray 4K discs. Of course, there are other 4K content options like Netflix and Sony streaming service, but streaming is mainly an option for those with a fast Internet connection.
If you own a 4K TV, then there you are very lucky today. Namely, the popular TV show Breaking Bad few days ago become available in super-sharp 4K definition at Netflix. Netflix is an online streaming service that for a few dollars a month lets you watch many movies and shows in HD and now, in UHD resolution.
Sony is an actual company that produced Breaking Bad. Namely, this show has been first announced at Consumers Electronic in January. And it turns out that this month the work finally paid off as Netflix recently unveiled 62 episodes of the show, along with a 5.1 audio remastering technology.
If you didn’t know, back in January 2013 this very same company Netflix showed off its ‘new Super HD streaming’. It was a hit. However, a few months later, Netflix actually made a steady decision to jump to UHD definition.
The UHD library has had very limited content at the very beginning, but recently the service gets a massive addition. Breaking Bad streaming has officially begun a few weeks ago. Subscribers can access the show and stream it in UHD version in all markets where Netflix is available right now.
This announcement came from Joris Evers. Unfortunately, I must mention that the 4K stream will not be available for web streaming in the sense that the show is not available for HTML5 and Silverlight players.
The announcement came on Twitter.
‘Breaking Bad now streaming in UHD 4K everywhere where Netflix is available’ stated Joris Evers.
Even though the 4K stream is still ‘too much’ for many and will be available for a few to enjoy the crystal sharp image resolution as decent 4K TVs still cost northwards of $1500 – this move is a sign of intent and quality offered from Netflix. Netflix is obviously trying to push more and more 4K content for their subscribers to enjoy.
That said, the streaming service makes good on its promise and is now fully streaming this popular show. House of Cards is another show the company offered in 4K definition. Netflix said they plan to stream all of its original content in the UHD definition format.
As Greg Peters, Netflix’s officer and streaming chief said: ‘We are excited to do 4K. You will see license us (Netflix streaming service) more and more content in 4K (definition) as (movie producers and) studios start to produce that (type of content).’
Peters also added: ‘It will not be a lot – we are talking about stuff that is new or stuff that has been remastered off of film – but you will see more and more’.
The only question is – what’s next? What would you personally like to see in the 4K format?
On a side note, you need a 2014 4K TV from Sony, Samsung or LG in order to be able to stream from Netflix. I’m not sure about TVs from TLC and similar Chinese TV makers.
Also, you’ll need an internet connection faster than 15 Mb/second.
If you own, or you are looking to buy a UHD TV, you may want to know what content is offered and what type of content you have access to. Even though 4K content is still somewhat limited, there is a hope that 4K content will be soon widely available. Below are several 4K content streams that are good examples of 4K content availability.
During International CES 2014, President of the Netflix, Reed Hastings, predicted that streaming will be the first and foremost way Netflix consumers receive 4K content. Now we know that this won’t shock anyone when thinking about the short-medium term plans Netflix and similar companies may come across. That said, it is very well understood that the latest H265 compression technology and standard is required to actually make UHD content viable for broadcast networks and satellites.
Recently in Las Vegas it became very clear that there is a strong determination among several streaming services to get 4K to consumers now. As expected by many, SmartTV is going to be a first device to support HEVC-based UHD services.
Both Netflix and LG announced that 4K content from Netflix’s ‘video on demand’ service will be available in UHD as soon as possible via the range of LG UHD TV sets manufactured in 2014. This deal is primarily for the US market, but these two companies are discussing partnerships with other companies and services internationally as well.
Sony is trying to catch up as well. The Japanese giant offers UHD movies that can not only streamed from online services but also downloaded on their own Sony UHD media player. The player which arrived a few weeks ago, is also an option for all Sony’s new UHD TVs and several older Sony’s UHD TV sets. This new, box-like player comes with 10 free 4K movies loaded on its HDD. The player has the capacity of 1TB, HDMI 2.0 output and can play videos at a rate of 60 frames per second.
But that’s not all. Sony got more tricks in its hat. Namely, the Sony’s player can stream players directly from Video Unlimited 4K service – a 4K service brought to you by Sony.
On the other side, in Europe, 4K content streaming test has been performed by the BBC in cooperation with FIFA TV, tournament broadcaster television. BBC’s Research & Development team is interested in streaming not all, but most important matches: one of the last sixteen, one quarter-final and the final game itself. The UHD streams will be carried from Brazil to the UK via satellite, and BBC will handle all the decoding and distribution of the stream using DVB-T2 Internet protocol technologies.
However, the streams will not be available to the general public. Namely, these streams will be delivered only to UHD TVs in BBC facilities across the UK. That’s because availability of both 4K content and equipment is still limited. However, BBC R&D controller, Matthew Postgate stated that the trials will be very useful in determining what’s required for UHD technology, understanding 4K technology and evaluating potential distribution plans for the future.