December 21, 2012

4K TV Battle Heats Up: After Poor OLED HDTV Yields, LG and Samsung Could Shift Priorities to UHD

We consistently hear that 4K won't be happening for a long, long time, especially considering plenty of broadcasters only made the switch a few years ago. I've been somewhere in the middle in thinking it won't happen tomorrow, and it will happen sooner than 10 years. Solutions are beginning to show up from RED and Sony for 4K distribution (at least as far as movies are concerned), and of course we've had the cameras capable of 4K for quite a while now -- with more on the way. Now it looks like the TV landscape could be changing drastically. LG and Samsung, two of the biggest display makers, have been having serious issues with OLED high definition panels, so instead it looks like they may be shifting focus instead to 4K panels.

Here's a bit from a DisplaySearch Blog post:

Korean TV panel makers are in the process of adjusting their priorities. The adjustment is mainly due to difficulties in commercializing AMOLED TV, but also to the fact that the outlook for 4Kx2K (ultra-high definition) TV is becoming more promising

A fundamental challenge for AMOLED TV remains manufacturing yield. Pilot production indicates that 55” AMOLED TV panel straight yield (without repair) is in single digits due to instability in the large backplanes (using LTPS or oxide TFT). Total yield (after repair) is estimated to be less than 30%. Finally, frit encapsulation is too fragile for large area TV, and is resulting in reduced panel life.

After IFA 2012, Korean panel makers lost some confidence in AMOLED, and began to feel that they could not justify a further investment into capacity expansion for AMOLED. At the same time, the visual quality of 4Kx2K became clearer to consumers. For panel makers, 4Kx2K LCD TV seems to be easier to manufacture than 4Kx2K AMOLED TV.

So what does this mean? Well, not a whole lot right at this moment, as things are certainly in flux, and if the OLED yields improve drastically in the next 3-6 months, they may ease off the 4K push and continue with better HDTVs. If that doesn't happen -- and it's looking like it won't -- it means we could see some serious development ramp up for Ultra High Definition. OLED development may continue for HD and UHD panels, but a 4K LCD TV would probably be cheaper and easier to produce over the shorter term.

I think what we could see are much cheaper panels in a shorter period of time (rather than the over $20,000 behemoths currently for sale). Manufacturers need to sell more TVs, and it has become clear to them that consumers don't care as much about paper-thin displays, and will settle for less quality if it's cheaper. OLED is expensive, and will probably remain expensive, especially since they are having difficulties scaling to larger screens. If mass producing 4K LCD TVs ends up costing a lot less, and it's much easier to scale to larger screen sizes, then it is certainly possible they may stop producing HDTVs at larger screen sizes all together in the next few years. Budget and smaller panels will still exist for a long time, but it's not like HD content can't be played on a 4K TV, so there isn't a huge downside from the manufacturers standpoint -- if anything -- they have another way to convince people that they need a new TV.

There has been a lot of backlash about not needing 4K right now and not wanting it because of increased demands on hardware, but when has filmmaking ever been about just doing enough to get by? Making movies is a constant struggle, but one of the few constants has been a focus on increasing the technical quality of the image. We got better film stocks like clockwork, lenses have gotten sharper and less flawed, and our finishing and post processes keep the image as pristine as possible all the way through to delivery -- whether that is on an HDTV or on a 4K Sony Projector. Sure, 4K in 2D is right on the cusp of diminishing returns as far as human vision goes at normal screen sizes (40"-60"), but not a single person I've talked to who has seen a 4K image on a 4K display wants to go back to 1080p if they could help it (including me). There is a depth and a clarity to a 4K image on a 4K screen that goes beyond whether you can see individual pixels.

As long as older movies shot on film can still benefit from higher resolutions, I'm still going to want to see them in the best possible quality. I know I'm probably in the minority, but even if the films of Godard, Antonioni, Bergman, and Tarkovsky aren't quite resolving 4K when you get down to it, if image clarity and the overall experience is improved, I say bring it on, especially since film prints are on their way out.

What do you guys think?

Link: Korean Panel Makers Change TV Priorities: OLED vs. 4Kx2K -- DisplaySearch Blog

[via HDTV Test]

Your Comment

19 Comments

4k TV in 2013 = biggest waste of money in the eletronics history

December 21, 2012

0
Reply
Marcus

Maybe a 4K TV is very expansive now... but 4K is THE FUTURE!

December 29, 2012

0
Reply

expansive and expensive ;)

December 29, 2012

0
Reply

Main stations in Australia are still mostly Standard Def... Gonna take a while to benefit from a 4k display TV wise. But if 4k films start coming out that might generate some interest. But even still, people not as interested in film for the most part could care less. 1080p still looks pretty nice at 60" or under and most peoples TV's are under that size.

December 21, 2012

1
Reply

I will be thankful for broadcast in HD..

December 21, 2012

0
Reply
matt

Here's a great article explaining why 4k tvs are stupid: http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-33199_7-57366319-221/why-4k-tvs-are-stupid/

I love shooting in 4k - it's very useful for reframing, stabilization, and perceived sharpness but I don't care to watch something that close to a tv

I am really rooting for OLED technology - to be able to get back to richer blacks and more contrast.

Its a struggle for them right now but hopefully it will improve.

I am liking the image out of my macbook pro a million times more than any hdtv screen I watch.

December 21, 2012

0
Reply

I think Oled will have to be on screens smaller than 55 inches - but the question is will technophiles with tons of money blow up to $10k on a tv that small . That's probably the biggest issue.

But in the meantime, is there any other technology that can make tv screens have rich blacks and good contrast?

Because I am getting pretty tired of how bad stuff looks across the board on hdtvs.

December 21, 2012

0
Reply

Good plasmas have deep blacks and good contrast.

December 22, 2012

0
Reply
PeterK

Content, Content, Content is King. And I still feel the majority of consumers want to buy a TV as often as they buy a washing machine. Once a decade, if that often.

December 21, 2012

1
Reply

I'm personally very excited about 4K TV's. I'm half blind and I can see a significant difference between mac 1080p monitors and their 2.5k+ monitors and they're small. I mean, it's not going to change the way we watch a film, but it will certainly improve the experience. 4K home projectors will be even more exciting to see in my opinion.

Television will take years to catch up, but many of my favorite HBO, AMC and BBC series are shot in 3.5 - 5k and will probably be made available to watch in that format after airing. I think it's exciting and plan on buying a 4k TV as soon as one is made available at a reasonable price.

December 21, 2012

0
Reply
Tyler Larson

Im sorry Tyler, but you dont know what you talking about, your favorite tv shows might be shot in 4k but they are mastered in 2k and will be a long time until they start getting mastered in 4k, I mean years. Also you wouldn't probably see the difference between 4k and 2k at home.

December 21, 2012

0
Reply
Marcus

Haha, glad to hear you know :D

December 21, 2012

1
Reply
Tyler Larson

How can someone "not know what they're talking about" when they are "personally very excited"? If Tyler is very excited, I think he knows himself well enough to know that he honestly is.

Did you know films mastered for VHS have been remastered for DVD and *gasp* Blu-Ray as well? It took years, just like Tyler stated! All you do is insult and then restate the exact same scale of time.

I'm sorry Marcus, but you sound like a scrub.

December 21, 2012

0
Reply
Christian Anderson

humm what am I doing here? you are right, if you are excited, go buy a 4k TV. Just one thing, most of the movies mastered for VHS then after DVD and Bluray were shot on film to be shown on the big screen. they have it somewhere the original master in 2k. Things can be shot in 4k today but the final delivery is still 2k due to the very expensive post production costs for a 4k delivery. What they will do is like they did for 28 Days Later, they shot the movie in 480p and released later in Bluray 1080p (!!!??). I have a 1080p TV at home and besides my bluray collection I can't watch anything with a decent image out of netflix, Itunes, or hd cable, due to the heavy compression. I'd rather get this right first before jumping ahead of the horses, but again, you are probably the consumer they love, not me :)

December 21, 2012

0
Reply
Marcus

Just so you know...4k post production is SUPER CHEAP now. Tom Lowe proved that with his 4k film "Timescapes."
https://vimeo.com/36969764
This paradigm shift is unprecedented thanks to Cuda technology.
And, yes, this blows me away because I've edited most of my career in million dollar SD and HD edit suite's.

December 27, 2012

0
Reply
Cyrus

It wont catch on for ages just like HD didn't. My country spent a good 5 or 6 months with stupid interviews and the like asking was there really a benefit to get HD.

December 21, 2012

0
Reply
Tyler

4K TVs again.. And many people actually can't tell difference between 1080p and 720p at their typical home viewing distances :-/
4K projectors (or any for that matter) for home use? Now that's really a HUGE market. Probably something like satelite phones :-D

December 22, 2012

1
Reply
PeterK

@ Joe: "There is a depth and a clarity to a 4K image on a 4K screen that goes beyond whether you can see individual pixels."

If panel technology is the same, then resolution has no discernible impact on overall contrast, colors etc.. And perception of resolution is totally dependent on the distance to the screen. The further you are the more the pixels 'melt' together in your vision. Humans are not eagles. There is no doubt that from 2-4 meters you would not be able to tell retina iPad from non-retina iPad. Also most people I know do not have perfect vision and are not wearing glasses..

So all these 4K TV fantasies basically boil down to one simple thing - how close are people to their screens? And I mean ordinary people, not video nerds. Whatever this distance may be, would they be able to see the difference at this distance to 1080p? This is of course debatable, but it seems that ordinary people actually sit too far away from their TVs to be able to tell the difference (and no, most people will not buy +60" TVs). And lucky for them, because they probably cant' see the horrible video compression that's prevailing in most sources either..

All that said, I can see 4K creeping in the same way like 3D did. If you now want a decent TV, you probably can't get it without 3D (even if you are not planing on using it).

December 22, 2012

-1
Reply
PeterK

I think a lot of people are missing out on what will be the greatest benefit of all with 4K:

With economies of scale as they are, mass produced 4K TV screens means that we are also likely to get 4K computer monitors at reasonable prices - just like how 1080p monitors dominate the market now, even though such a wide, narrow screen makes little sense on a computer where we read mainly vertically-formatted articles, and how such a low resolution hinders productivity by having to waste time scrolling around.

Right now, a high resolution 2560 x 1600 display is priced prohibitively high for someone at the enthusiast level. Having access to affordable ultra high definition screens will revolutionize the video market and open it up to enthusiasts the way HDSLR revolutionized the video scene for enthusiasts 5 years ago.

And when enthusiasts rush in to take the place once held by the pros, the pro gear manufacturers step up their game and drop their prices and release a while bunch of shiny new toys.

This way, everybody with an ounce of talent or skill wins.

I would love to get some ultra high resolution displays - Imagine the work you could get done on a pair of 32" 4K screens! I could see 10 tracks at once and still have the full 1080p output visible on the same monitor!

December 28, 2012

0
Reply
Kyle