By the end of this year a brand new format for moving pictures will appear before our eyes in all its brilliant ultra-high definition glory. In the most significant advance in motion-picture technology since the first celluloid film was developed, 4K represents a massive watershed for the production industries, content providers and moving picture enthusiasts.
For those that haven’t heard of it, 4K is a new digital format for moving images that has been quietly developed over the last 10 years and is destined to re-invent cinema and home entertainment. Discussion of screen resolution is always a very tricky affair, but a very basic explanation is HDTV has a resolution of 1K, traditional film, chemically developed has a notional resolution of 2K and so the new format will have twice the detail again. The motion picture industry will soon shift to 4K as its production format and the major electronics companies will start releasing 4K capable Ultra High Definition Televisions by the end of this year.
So what will this mean besides having to completely upgrade your home entertainment system? Well firstly, it represents the passing of film (celluloid) into the annals of history along with Kodak, as well as the most significant technological advance in the motion picture industry since the advent of sound. By comparison it makes other notable technologies like 3D and CGI seem relatively ordinary.
This is because 4K is a whole new ballgame and the marketing will be massive. Of course Hollywood will still produce the same second rate offerings we’re used to, but now you will see them so much more clearly in the cinema or at home. The hype you’re used to hearing will be a little closer to the mark- finally it really will be like being there, (well almost). Screens in Cinemas and at home will be larger, clearer and you will have to sit further away from them to enjoy the added resolution.
But once you get past the hype of 4K, and understand it is the next step in digital convergence, its significance is revealed. The new format will allow cinematographers to create stunning scenes and sequences for their movies and documentary producers will be able to feature incredible images of science and nature in previously unseen detail. And most importantly, it will eventually be available on any platform, on demand and without a loss of resolution.
To emphasise, the improvement in resolution offered by 4K is far more than a new spec, it’s a totally new format, which will facilitate a range of new viewer experiences. A format that doubles the resolution, brightness and clarity has applications beyond movies that include gaming and simulation scenarios as well. As a result, 4K could even resuscitate the fate of the 3D format within its resolution, finally producing crisp clear three dimensional images while avoiding the unwanted eyestrain that currently affects viewers during longer sessions. This opens the doors to completely new ways of story-telling, which include genuinely interactive scenes and stunning visual experiences that truly immerse the viewer.
So it is time to rest the word ‘film’- from now on its motion picture or movies. The celluloid era is over, replaced by an evolution of technology that provides bigger, better, brighter pictures and richer more detailed experiences. Humans have a close (almost natural) relationship to moving images on a screen. The new 4K technology will take this to a whole new level.
For more on this topic, watch FiST Chat 66: 3D vs 4K.