It’s not the size that counts! (Oh, who are you kidding?)
After around six/seven years of using a “dumb” 40″ television – a step up from not having a television back in 2008 because when I was working in film and TV helping to make the stuff, it had the opposite effect when I came home – I couldn’t bare to watch it.
So I’ve upgraded.
I’ve upgraded size (it’s now a 60″) and resolution (Ultra HD – or “4K”, but technically Ultra HD falls a little short of the cinema 4K resolution) and have gone for an LG mid-range model.
This little puppy has got to last me as long as the previous one (which has been repurposed for the bedroom) – and thankfully John Lewis provides a decent warranty with all their electricals.
4K or not 4K, that is the question!
This new TV is capable of playing back Ultra HD content from Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. Netflix’s Ultra HD selection is small but decent, and the streaming quality is decent. 4K certainly makes all those lovely pixels work their little socks off. The Wachowski’s Sense8 in particular makes good use of UHD cinematography. Better Call Saul is also lovely in UHD too – as is Breaking Bad (with some caveats).
Amazon’s Instant Video Ultra HD selection is tiny, expensive if it’s not included with one’s Prime selection – and doesn’t work very well at all. I noticed that when streaming Orphan Black S1, it started off in UHD (which confirmed it was streaming in UHD when paused), then dropped down to regular HD. Never seen the UHD symbol during pause since. It *looks* UHD, but I’d like to see confirmation because I’m paranoid. Just because I have a 152Mbs downstream connection (via ethernet, direct to the TV) doesn’t necessarily mean I’m getting a constant stable high bandwidth stream from the streaming provider. The thing that makes UHD streaming worthwhile is if you stream with a decent enough high bitrate.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to Ultra HD adoption was in the codec – the algorithm in which video is encoded at one end, streamed and decoded at the other end. Early 4K/UHD TV sets used an entirely different codec and are not capable of streaming from the likes of Amazon, Netflix, etc. But a standard called HEVC was devised and is now widely adopted.
Money, money, money, it’s a rich man’s world!
There is a new guy in town. The HEVC Advance group. This is made up companies who own the patents found in the HEVC/H.265 codecs. And they want money (which is fair enough, they must have spent a fair amount in research and development).
But the problem is in the how, how much and when payment is required. In essence, the terms could lead to companies such as Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, and goodness – maybe the BBC – having to spend an extra $100 million a year just to license and use the technology. This includes the TV manufacturers that include HEVC decoding kit.
My beef is: Could HEVC Advance royalty fees hamper further Ultra HD adoption? It’s taken a looooooong time to get Ultra HD out the door, and now it looks like the fees being charged could do serious damage to the whole adoption of Ultra HD/4K.
I recommend a really good documentary called Rewind This! – about the halcyon days of VHS video. Of the format wars (Betamax versus VHS), the cheaper format won. Furthermore, it doesn’t look as if the format suffered from the same kind of licensing nightmare that the HEVC Advance group proposes. It’s because of simple licensing that the VHS format took off and became as popular as it did.
Rewind This! is a real eye opener, and the HEVC Advance group could do well to pay heed that if they price themselves out the market, they’ll be no more money for them. Manufacturers will look elsewhere; consumers will be mightily pissed.
That would mean in the short term a big yield in royalty payments. But in the longer term that yield will start to shrivel up as companies and consumers abandon HEVC and move to possible alternatives (which may be cheaper or even free).
BTW, Ultra HD Blu-Ray is affected by the HEVC Advance licensing fees too since it uses the same HEVC codec. Expect players to be extortionately expensive when they come out on the market. Who wants to bet that the Ultra HD Blu-Ray format will die out faster than anticipated due to expense ?
I love my new TV, but I’m concerned that the Ultra HD capabilities may have shorter lifespan than I originally hoped.. all because of patents and royalty payments.
 Digital cinema still projects, if I recall, at a whopping 2K – only slighter higher than normal HD.