02.05.14

Industry Opinion - Is there Demand for 4K?

Yasmin-Hashmi

By Yasmin Hashmi, HiddenWires. There has been a lot of talk about 4K in professional circles, but given how long it took HD to be embr...

Yasmin HashmiBy Yasmin Hashmi, HiddenWires. There has been a lot of talk about 4K in professional circles, but given how long it took HD to be embraced by consumers, what is the outlook for its successor, UHD? We asked some leading lights about how much demand for 4K there is among their customers, what they have been doing to encourage its uptake, and what the industry as a whole can do to help. Here are their replies:
Steve MooreSteve Moore, Owner & Chairman of SMC, DigitalPlumbers, and FreeSpeakers. 4K is not the limiting factor in my happiness, but with the right projector and content authored in 4K, the results can be spectacular. Given that there is very little content for consumers to see at the moment, it is not surprising that there is little demand - most of the momentum is coming from the supply side. In preparing for 4K, especially if it is going to be streamed to or distributed around the home, proper networking infrastructure has to be in place. This means having fibre to the home, using CISCO- and Ruckus-like products, and providing proper support. www.smc-uk.com
Jonathan PengilleyJonathan Pengilley, Managing Director, Habitech Firstly, I think we need to define what the 4K signal really is. I'm going to assume that it is the next level up from 1080p, i.e. UHD. So, in answer to the original question, yes, there is huge demand for UHD, as leading-edge high-net-worth customers always want leading-edge technology and want to try and future-proof themselves. We have seen a real swing to 4K projectors, and while I was a little cynical about the real improvement in image quality based on the fact that 99% of the media available today is 1080p - which means that 99% of what you are viewing is upscaled - I must say that the images coming out of the 4K projectors that we sell are so much better than last year's 2K models. There is a lot of demand for UHD, and I don’t believe it will be a fad like 3D. It is here to stay as it makes the image look so much more real and makes the viewing experience that much better. We also know that companies such as Netflix are pushing 4K, so even though there is basically no UHD content available today, it will come, especially since so many movies are already being shot in 4K. There is a lot of scaremongering about the amount of data or bandwidth that UHD uses, which makes it impractical to deliver it, but there are compression techniques that apparently compress the data many times with very little drop in image quality. I have always wondered why, if a 1080p HD film is 35GB, I am then able to download an HD film to my iPad over a 12MB/s IP connection at home within 10 minutes, whereas if you do the maths (and assuming I truly get 12MB/s), it should take 48 minutes. Obviously the signal is being compressed, and this makes UHD a very useable format. Lastly, have you stopped to wonder why the big studios really cut the price of Blu-rays to within a couple of quid of a DVD? Well, it is because they have already planned the launch of UHD/4K, and 1080p is in their eyes is now the standard format, and UHD/4K is the premium product. www.habitech.co.uk
Bruno VerhenneBruno Verhenne, Integration Consultant, Groep Alelek, Aletech Division In Benelux, we have seen a slow but gradual increase for a demand for 4K solutions in the residential market. This is mainly driven by the existence of a few projector and TV products on the one hand, and some upcoming 4K consumer cameras on the other. While customers are starting to ask for 4K, they need to appreciate the impact that the format will have on the cable infrastructure in the home. There is a cost involved if you want to have it all, so we firstly need to establish whether they already have a video distribution installed, whether they are prepared to invest in an upgrade, and whether it is necessary to have 4K distributed all around the home. Sometimes, they only actually need a 4K solution locally, and can live with 2K in the rest of the home. If a video distribution system is being planned from scratch, I certainly advise installers to ensure that it is 4K ready. From the customer's point of view, I try to point out that if they have a limited budget, then it is easier to upgrade their hardware at a later date, much harder to upgrade the cable infrastructure, unless they want to open up the walls again! However, if a 2K video distribution system already exists in the home, it is worth considering that most content providers only supply 2K or less, the cable box outputs 1080i, most of the Blu-ray players output in 1080p, and if they do output 4K, it is an upscaled version of a 2K master. Does this discussion sound familiar? I remember the same points being made when 1080 was superseding 720p. Was there such as great difference? And even if one sees a difference, which image do you actually prefer? As former ISF instructor, I know there is so much more involved in a good picture quality than resolution alone. It might sound strange, but the way I encourage customers to think about 4K is not by pushing the solution. There have been so many changes in technology in recent times that there is a danger of end users becoming afraid of investing in the latest AV products in case they become outdated as soon as they are bought. I find that educating customers by guiding them as to what to buy and when to buy it works better in the long term, especially if you keep your promises using products that are available today. This helps build confidence and gives customers space to start thinking about 4K. Some will invest immediately, and others will come around to it at a later date. Either way, we need to make sure that the path is as painless as possible. www.aletech.be
Kris HoggKris Hogg, Managing Director, Konnectiv 4K is for the most part still a discussion point rather than a 'must have' for most customers. We have seen the early adopters dive into buying 4K screens, but for the majority, it’s still a technology that is on the horizon and wish list. I also foresee a problem as HDMI 2.0 starts to roll out and those early adopter customers realise that their screens may not be compatible without a visit from an engineer. The real key to 4K's success however, will be the availability of content, and I don’t think we are too far away from seeing that happen. So in the short term, yes, we are discussing 4K, and selling it when requested, but we are offering a line of caution on selecting the hardware until after the roll out of both content and HDMI 2.0. www.konnectiv.com
Yasmin Hashmi is the Editor of HiddenWires, EMEA's leading English-language publication for the home control trade. You are welcome to add to this discussion by commenting below or through the HiddenWires group on LinkedIn. You are welcome to comment on this discussion. See below.