As IFA ends I am trying to reflect on the main messages behind the glossy presentations and booths.
I have a few big impressions:
- Toshiba’s 4k2k footage ‘Skydive Dubai’ had a jaw-dropping sequence of parachutists flying between two skyscrapers. I dislike heights and it sent a shiver down my spine. It felt real – much more than any 3D experience ever did.
- Samsung Display showed an amazing 31.5” 4k2k LCD panel with Adobe RGB color. Again, it looked more like a window onto a three-dimensional world – perceptually I had a ‘puppet theater’ 3D experience. Yet it was a 2D display.
- David Wood of the European Broadcasting Union, speaking at our conference, said that the extra image information from high dynamic range, high bit-depth, fast refresh displays enabled the brain to perform its object-recognition naturally. This created the real perception of depth I had experienced.
Sky Deutschland showed some of their ideas for 4k2k broadcasts: not just one huge image, but instead a tiled multi-view experience of a sports event. It comprised an overall static view like being in the best seat in the stadium, combined with extra video tiles for close-ups of the action and replays. While unfamiliar at first, it quickly felt natural.
Figure 1: 4k2k Skydiving sequence shown by Toshiba
Figure 2: Split screen 4k2k sports presentation on a Sony 84” TV, demonstrated by Sky Deutschland
In the movie ‘Groundhog Day’, Bill Murray is forced to live the same day over and over again until he escapes from the time warp. I think that the TV industry is trapped in exactly the same position; 4k2k presents a dilemma. There is a stark lesson from 3D: optimism and premium positioning gave way to degraded quality to enable price cuts (both of TVs and movie production). Finally consumer disinterest set in.
However the value destruction time warp is not inescapable, here are my prescriptions:
- The TV business has reached a plateau for the next year or two. There are few high-growth markets, so any introduction timetable is self-imposed.
- 4k2k TV could be about so much more than pixels. It could enable a new way of viewing. However a lot of experimentation and standards development is necessary to create the right pieces and then fit them together.
- The industry needs to be protected from itself. A consumer labeling scheme (let’s say ‘True 4k’) for sets that can genuinely accept, process and display video natively in 4k2k, 60Hz progressive would safeguard a minimum quality.