With 4K films hitting the cinemas and 4K cameras hitting the shelves, our intrepid reporter Natalie Howard takes a closer look at 4K.
With four times as many pixels as 1080 Full HD, for consumers, 4K is essentially the step up from Blu-ray.
However, to describe 4K in such a way may not be considered a compliment. In the US it took six years for DVD to become the dominant form of home video distribution after its release in 1997, meaning that if Blu-ray were to follow the same trend it should have become dominant in 2012. This was not the case; in the year Blu-ray would have hoped to dominate DVD, it only took 25-30% of the market share.
The most obvious reason for Blu-ray’s lack of popularity is price. Does HD really merit a Blu-ray costing twice as much as a DVD? Is owning the Blu-ray really worth that much more than the cost of a membership to Netflix or LoveFilm? Evidently, the majority of the population’s answer to these questions is ‘no’.
So, will cost be an even bigger problem with 4K? Not necessarily. When Blu-ray was first marketed buying a new player was essential, and they were not cheap! It must have been realised that the expectation for consumers to purchase 4K players is unrealistic, as Trustedreviews.com states that ‘work is underway as we speak to develop and ratify a compression system capable of squeezing a 4K film onto a Blu-ray.’ It seems that a new player is one cost consumers will not need to concern themselves with.
Furthermore, Sony are already marketing 55-inch 4K TVs for under $6,000 and as 4K is not predicted to be seen in homes before 2016, by that time the cost may have approached something the average consumer could consider affordable. As for consumers for whom a new television is entirely out of the question, Netflix have announced that they ‘expect to be delivering 4K within a year or two’.
Although 4K is a relatively new concept for consumers, it has been around in the industry for longer than we may realise. 4K projectors were first installed in cinemas in 2006 and now ‘there are more than 20,000 4K projectors globally, with 40% of all US commercial screens now using 4K digital projectors.’
As well as its use in cinemas, industry professionals are starting to hold 4K in high esteem with regard to filmmaking. In 2009 both Knowing and District 9 were shot using 4K cameras, as was The Social Network in 2010. In an interview with Sony Bedabrata Pain talks about his experience shooting his film, Chittagong, in 4K: ‘I dare you to tell me that it was not shot on film. It has that soft lighting. It has that beautiful washed out look. It has all those textures that you want. And for all of that look and that quality you need that 4K.’
So, rather than thinking of 4K as a step up from Blu-ray you could consider it as a step back to the visual quality that came from films being shot on film, with the convenience of it being digital. Potentially 4K will lead to the release of an abundance of low budget films with high visual quality as the correlation between cost and quality is diminished.
Evidently 4K has more longevity than you might initially think and, with big names such as Sony and Netflix backing it, it most likely will be the next big thing. However, with 8K technology and rumours of 28K capabilities on the horizon, 4K may have even bigger things to compete with.
Natalie Howard is an student of English, an avid Star Wars fan and a lover of rainbow bacon.