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The Ultimate Guide to 4K and 8K Ultra HD

1950familySince its development in the 1920’s, the first public broadcast in 1939, and widespread adoption in the 1950’s, television continues to mesmerize its worldwide audience. Spanning from the time of electro-mechanical rotating mirror-drum scanners and Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT), to today’s household staple — The Flat-Screen Television.

High Definition Television (HDTV), also known as Full HD (1920 × 1080 px) was introduced to the United States in the 1990’s, and — along with the smartphone — remains among the most popular consumer electronic devices in history. Television is destined to evolve once again. In fact, it already has…

Ultra High Definition Television (also known as “Ultra HDTV”) is available today.

What is Ultra HD?

Ultra HD is an umbrella term selected by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) in 2012, used to describe a new high resolution video format with a minimum resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels in a 16 × 9 aspect ratio. In fact, the term “Ultra HD” actually refers to two different resolutions: 4K Ultra HD (3840 × 2160 px) and 8K Ultra HD (7680 × 4320 px). We will discuss these two formats in more detail momentarily.

See Also: A Complete Tour of Ultra HD at CES 2013

Before the CEA announced “Ultra HD” as the official term to describe the new television format however, it was (and still is) known as Super Hi-Vision, which was conceptualized and developed by the Japanese public broadcasting network, NHK. By today’s standards and definitions, Super Hi-Vision is equivalent to 8K Ultra HD — that is, both feature a 7680 × 4320 px resolution.

As history demonstrates, a new television format requires some time to become mainstream — sometimes many years. After all, the first Full HD plasma TV’s cost well over $20,000 with limited high definition content, and didn’t become mainstream until manufacturing costs were reduced over the following years.

Today, 75% of households in the United States have at least one HDTV (Leichtman Research Group). It is simply a matter of time before Ultra HDTV’s become a common living room item. In fact, 10 million homes are expected to have Ultra HDTV’s by 2016.

See Also: Ultra HDTV Technical Specifications

What is 4K?

As we mentioned earlier, 4K Ultra HD is one of the two Ultra HD formats. Unfortunately, a common misnomer arises when describing 4K, let’s clear up any confusion right now.

Technically speaking, 4K is not the same as 4K Ultra HD. The standalone term “4K” was originally used to describe Digital Cinema (4096 × 2160 px). Since Digital Cinema resolution is not available in a consumer television, the term “4K Ultra HD” (3840 × 2160 px) was invented — notice the slight reduction in 4K Ultra HD resolution to achieve a 16 × 9 aspect ratio.

4K Ultra HD is exactly four times the resolution of Full HD, which produces a magnificent image when viewed in person. You will be doing yourself a great injustice if you try to gauge the clarity of a 4K Ultra HDTV screen using your computer or current Full HDTV, you will not experience anything near the actual quality of 4K Ultra HD.

4K Ultra HDTV’s are available today from several manufacturers, including: Sony, Samsung, and Seiki. Other companies, like Sharp, Toshiba, TCL, and HiSense will begin offering 4K Ultra HDTV’s toward the end of 2013.

Several entertainment studios are preparing their footage for viewing in 4K Ultra HD. Sony has proactively approached the lack of 4K Ultra HD content by releasing their own “Mastered in 4K” Blu-ray discs. The content on these discs is encoded in Full HD, and is later up-scaled to 4K Ultra HD by the Blu-ray player and television.

The term True 4K or Native 4K is used to describe 4K Ultra HD content which does not require up-scaling from a lower resolution source, thus (theoretically) producing a sharper image. Very little True 4K content exists at this time.

See Also: What is “Mastered in 4K”?

What is 8K?

8K Ultra HD is the second of the two Ultra HD formats, featuring a 7680 × 4320 px resolution, which is exactly 16 times the resolution of Full HD. 8K Ultra HD technology is still largely experimental at this point, with only one 8K Ultra HDTV being featured at CES 2013 by Sharp. Having seen this resolution in person, I can tell you that the astounding video quality cannot be described with words, nor can a still photograph accurately represent the sheer awesomeness of this video resolution. When 8K Ultra HD is combined with 22.2 surround sound, NHK advocates this as Super Hi-Vision.

8K Ultra HD is still (at least) several years away from your living room. Three main obstacles must be overcome to bring this resolution to mainstream: Storage, Bandwidth, and Content.

Various 8K Ultra HD products are being designed, such as the AH-4800 camera by Astro Design, capable of recording 8K resolution.

See Also: 8K Articles

List of 4K Ultra HDTV’s

4K Ultra HDTV’s currently range from 39-inches to 110-inches, with a variety of  sizes in between.

Sony: 55″ | 65″ | 84″

LG: 55″ | 65″ | 84″

Samsung: 55″ | 65″ | 85″ | 110″

Seiki: 39″ | 50″ | 55″ | 65″

Toshiba: 55″ | 65″ | 84″

Sharp: 70″

TCL: 50″

HiSense: 50″ | 58″ | 65″ | 84″ | 110″

Ultra HD Content

What good is an Ultra HDTV if you can’t watch anything on it? Thankfully, several entertainment studios are working hard to bring 4K Ultra HD content to your living room. 4K Ultra HD broadcasts are in the works, and will require some more time before they reach mainstream usage.

Sony has released several “Mastered in 4K” Blu-ray discs. These Full HD (1080p) discs can function in any Blu-ray player, but when used with a Sony 4K Blu-ray player and Sony 4K Ultra HDTV — the viewer will experience the up-scaled 4K Ultra HD resolution along with an expanded color spectrum. Here’s a list of Sony’s initial “Mastered in 4K” titles:

Various TV Shows will also be Mastered in 4K, like AMC’s Breaking Bad.

Sony has also released a 4K Ultra HD media player, which comes pre-loaded with 10 movies in True 4K. Furthermore, Sony will launch a 4K download service in Fall 2013. This service will allow users to browse, purchase, and download True 4K titles to the player’s built-in 2TB hard drive using the Sony 4K Ultra HDTV native menu (you won’t need a seperate remote control), with each movie using approximately 60GB of storage.

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