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4K Arrives at CES 2013: Budget Westinghouse TVs, Netflix Streaming UHD, 20-Inch Panasonic 4K Tablet

01.11.13 @ 3:28PM Tags : , , , , ,

If you thought 4K was a buzzword at last year’s NAB, it was the real deal at CES this year. All of the manufacturers were out in force, and not just camera makers — everyone who makes a screen had a 4K display at the show. There were a couple interesting developments so far that might actually mean 4K comes to your home sooner rather than later, including much cheaper 4K TVs from Westinghouse, Netflix streaming a video in 4K at the show itself, and a 4K Windows 8 tablet from Panasonic. RED was also in attendance at CES, showing off their new tech and playing videos in their new highly-compressed but high-quality .RED format. Check out all of the latest developments below.

First, here is Ted Schilowitz from RED talking to Engadget (though most of it we know already):

For me, the biggest news is that an affordable 4K screen is coming this year (sometime in the first quarter no less), and at sizes that begin to make the differences between 1080p and 4K noticeable. Westinghouse announced brand new sets that come in at relatively bargain prices compared to the competition, and their new 50″, 55″, and 65″ sets are well within the realm of affordability for many filmmakers or post-houses, as well as many consumers. Here is a bit from Twice about the announcement:

Unlike the currently available $20,000-plus 84-inch Ultra HD sets from LG and Sony, Westinghouse is going to offer its sets starting in the first quarter at the bargain suggested retail prices of $2,499 for the 50-inch set, $3,000 for the 55-inch set and $3,995 for the 65-inch set.

But unlike Sony and LG, Westinghouse’s models will be barebones displays with no on-board Smart TV features and no elaborate 4K up-conversion video processing technology.

Instead, Roque said, Westinghouse expects viewers to use the 4K video processing converters that come built into select Blu-ray Disc players, A/V receivers and other devices to handle that load. To present pictures from regular sources, the sets will have only simple 4K up-scaling circuitry and 120Hz refresh rates.

So this means that your 1080p content would be reliant on the upconverter coming from the signal source. This was likely one of the ways they saved money with the set, but for those who want a 4K TV to view 4K content and possibly use in an edit suite, this is probably the most affordable option out there right now. This TV could also be combined with something like REDRAY, and you could be viewing content in true 4K for under $5,000 — which might sound like a lot, but when you consider that some sets are going for over $20,000, it’s a bargain. Vizio has also announced that they will be introducing their own budget 4K sets, but no prices have been announced yet.

We already talked a little about Sony’s 4K strategy, and their own distribution tied in with their ultra-expensive TVs, but CEO Kaz Hirai talked quite a bit about their own strategy and where 4K is headed in the future. A disc format is not out of the question, but Sony hasn’t progressed very far into making that a standard, especially since more and more consumers are moving away from disc formats. The Blu-Ray spec does contain the possibility of 4K, but it would require completely new players than most consumers have at the moment because the HDMI 1.4 standard, which includes 4K over a single HDMI, was not added until more recently. Either way, Sony believes that all of the manufacturers need to come together to help develop true 4K codec and file format standards for consumers.

Some other news comes from Netflix, who was quietly streaming 4K video to a display at the show:

Compression still has a way to go before it can be realistically streamed to most homes, but the new HEVC or H.265 standard will halve current bitrates from H.264 with equivalent quality. Those are the sorts of advances that will make Ultra High Definition a possibility, and as more people move away from cable, content providers will have to figure out other ways to get UHD to consumers, with streaming services like Netflix or Hulu at the forefront of those conversations.

Lastly, the arena where we are likely to see the first affordable and widely available 4K screens are in computers. That was made even more apparent by the 20″ Windows 8 tablet introduced by Panasonic:

Obviously the first use that immediately comes to mind would be for photographers to be able to see their photos in much higher resolution, and actually be able to edit them that way. Graphic designers could also benefit from such a high-quality touch-screen display. There are many possibilities though, especially for filmmakers, and I could see this being a great client preview monitor that you could bring with you. It’s not the most powerful device in the world, and the pixel density is actually lower than an Apple Retina display, but this is likely going to be the first place where 4K makes a huge difference, especially because of viewing distances.

There are still many that talk about whether 4K is really necessary at the screen sizes most people have in their homes, but there is no doubt in my mind that 5 years from now the majority of new displays will only be 4K. Technology is racing forward at an incredibly rapid pace, and those who are at the cutting edge with 4K may stand to benefit from content that has already been shot that way — because that’s really the biggest hurdle that still won’t be overcome for a few more years: where does the 4K content come from and how do we get it to consumers? I would be surprised in that same time period if companies are still releasing 1080p cameras for filmmaking, especially when you consider how far computing technology has come in the last few years. It’s going to be interesting and expensive in the short-term, but higher resolutions are coming, and they will be within the price range of most people in a relatively short amount of time.

What do you guys think? Who do you think will come out on top in the race to provide 4K content? What about screens? When do you think we’ll see under $1,000 4K TVs at 65″ or more?



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  • One other question comes to mind amidst the whole 4K bustle: when will we get affordable computers with processing power capable of handling the resulting data and software able to withstand and rapidly work with 4K rushes? Thanks but no thanks will most likely be the reaction on the part of many indie filmmakers for some time.. or not?

    • NVIDIA created a handheld video game device using their new tegra 4 tech, it was able to stream 4K video to a 4K tv easily. Not sure what the bitrate was but if a handheld android based gaming device can do it i would say putting it into computers and players is not far behind.,3253,l=306640&a=306638&po=12,00.asp

      • What I actually meant was the hardware and software load when shooting/editing.. playback will always be fine, not to worry. It’s the insane volumes of shot footage and fried processors I fear most.

    • I won’t be rushing to shoot 4K for sometime. 1080P or less looks great on the net and almost everyone watches content on the web. So my feeling is that like my work has the potential to be viewed by a huge audience there. 4K will be a niche market for quite a while I think and will really only be relevant on large screens. 4K on an iPhone would be pretty pointless for example. So HD is still the way to go for me.

  • Antony Alvarez on 01.11.13 @ 3:37PM

    Under 2 and a half mb/s for 4K video from that projector? That’s insanely impressive compression… I would like to see that in person.

  • 2 things: 1. I should probably get glasses since resolution is now better than my slightly-under-20/20 vision.

    2. BMCC pre-order peeps (including myself): with where the industry is quickly looming, do we want to wait for higher resolution cameras?

    3. ok, I lied, I have another point. With even the Alexa not being 4k, will most programs simply UPREZ for the first few years these TV’s are out??

    • Chris Lambert on 01.11.13 @ 6:42PM

      I think the BMC’s price negates that really partly the reason why they turned as many heads as they did but it really is such a transitional period at the moment it’s a good time to have a decent blagging game at the rental house

  • “4K” is a theatrical term. For TV it should be called UHD or 2160p, 8K should be called UHD level 2 or 4320p

  • 4k TV in 2013 = so useless

  • Broadcast unlikely to go 4k for a quite a while yet. The chain isn’t anywhere near ready yet.
    As for the BMDCC/Alexa thing, we upres 2k to 4k all the time for DCP masters. It looks pretty good.
    Re your BMDCC question, depends if you’re shooting something this year. There a ton of announcements coming at NAB. Actual product releases will be much later. Can you wait?

    • Broadcast is slowly dying anyway. I don’t think our 4K sources will come from broadcast.

  • 4K RAW is great. Do those guys just find new ways to increase our storage requirements?
    And what about distribution? Who are they kidding? USA internet speeds are slower than many countries in the developing World, and way behing Europe and Japan.
    4K will not be viable until the average computer screen will be capable of 4K.
    Will we have an iMac with a 27″ Retina Display next year?

  • Ill wait till BBC does another awesome documentary, but in 4K. Also, im sure many imax movies could be remastered in 4K for showing off that new 4K screen. Other than that, there are some receivers out there that do 4K up-scaling.

    another thought, i would imagine that up-scaling from 1080P or 2K to 4K will look more seamless and impressive than the up-scale from SD to HD, given diminishing returns, peoples ability to notice the difference, and simply having more data to work with from the start, although I have no empirical evidence for this.

  • Remembering back to 1080p vs 720p and how most consumers have an issue with distinguishing SD from HD (any flavor), this is a waste of time of resources. For a few select theaters and films down the road it will be nothing short of magnificent. The fact that sizes are listed as 50″ and larger, look at how small that market is.
    As Sony, LG, Panasonic, etc…. find that the market is saturated with LCD,LED, & Plasma TV’s, what other choice do they have but to try and keep shareholders happy with the next big thing? We’ve got overheating in 5DII, audible fans in RED’s, and all of the high frame rate cameras are just now at the cusp. Almost all options are 1080p, and I for one, hope that adoption is slow.
    We’ve only just begun to see proper sensors in actual “video camera” formats and this is just another rush away from a technology that has great potential.

  • also, one more thing and i will stop blowing up this feed. Sharp is making a 32 inch 4k tv aimed at video editors and other pros for around 5 grand. not a panty dropping price…but still pretty good all things considered

  • as always planned obsolescense…I have at home a sony bravia 32inches 1080p. now after 4 and a half years, this tv looks like crappy years 50′s TV. One year from now it will be 4K 3D, then a year later 4K 3D Smart TV, and so on….it’s everything planned just to make that companies get lots of money….it’s really disgusting all this strategy..

  • “To present pictures from regular sources, the sets will have only simple 4K up-scaling circuitry and 120Hz refresh rates.”

    I really hope 120Hz (and 240Hz and beyond) isn’t the standard for 4K displays, I absolutely despise the look of this effect.

  • lol@ “4k tablet”. you need an engineer to actually tell you that it’s 4k – the screen is way too small for it to matter that it’s 4k.

    • Since a device like that will be viewed at such a close distance, those pixels actually can make a difference. As I said above, it’s actually below the pixel density of Apple’s Retina screens.

      • For CONSUMER tablets at manageable sizes, 3K (iPad) resolution seems quite sufficient. It is very hard to see any aliasing. Photos look amazing. And watching 4K movies on an iPad? David Lynch has some interesting thoughts on that ;-)

    • 4K 20inch at 230DPI is perfect for design/drawing and displaying fine patterns.

  • I think we can all relax about the 4K push because it will most likely exist as an optional experience. When ever you choose to view the content weather it’s on your 4K tv, 1080 tv, iMac, iPhone, etc… you should be able to select your resolution. 720, 1080, 4K. Computers in the next coming months/years should be well equipped to handle this data. Not sure about hard drive sizes and prices though lol.

  • ThunderBolt on 01.11.13 @ 8:09PM

    I think this post is the best argument for what your next camera should be, 4K. I’ve been on the fence for 6 months watching prices drop and technology advance before considering buying a Scarlet over a C300. Now it feels like a no brainer. I totally agree that broadcast will go the way of daily newspapers within this decade. Content will be supplied by indie houses and even the big studios will have to compete with the likes of us. The main thing studios offer is distribution and this will evolve allowing little known production houses to compete as new channels evolve. If you’re shooting 1080 now and plan on the same for another year, the shelf-life of your content will be less than 5 years. No one will be interested in viewing 1080 in much the same was watching pre HD versions on TV. Given the option, I always select the highest resolution available. Great post Joe.

    • To be fair, plenty of consumers today still watch content on DVDs and web streaming, which hardly reach 1080. And HD isn’t exactly new.

      It’s silly to think 4K alone will make all of the content generated in this “pre-4K” era obsolete.

      • ThunderBolt on 01.12.13 @ 12:23PM

        I agree, it is silly to think 4K alone will do this. I should of mentioned everything after 4K and beyond. You have to be one with the fact that standards will change and change quickly. Once manufacturing sees consumers are willing to convert, the next thing will already be in R&D. Silly, silly me…

        To be fair, consumers who watch DVD do so because this is what’s available to them. This statement is sillier than my silly statement. It’s akin to saying people like and use their walkman pre iPod.

        Silly, silly me again on thinking that HD is new, shucks… I remember back in the early 80′s when I was in school the hype about future broadcast standards being adopted that would allow 800 x 600. Once the FCC made this a mandate and stations went a step further to 1080, we now see the push to 4k. The challenge is to engineer technology that would make bandwidth a nonissue. This will mean major upgrade for struggling news affiliates and small local stations. Some will be able to upgrade and others not so much. I’m sure that deals will be made to allow licensed distribution to these small stations so they too can offer 4k+ content vs HD. But alas, this ma be silly or the extreme of just plain crazy talk. Silly, silly me.

        One more thing to think about… The psychological drive for consumers to own 4k devices once this is made available. This is another topic all to it’s own. This would require conversion models that fully explain behavior and desire. Fact is… 4K conversion has a tail and this tail is very long.

        • 3D was pushed really hard, but it did not work out the way the companies wanted. Many established TV makers had major loses in the past few years. No one I know cares about 3D. Consumers just want a decent but cheap HD TV. They often don’t even want the largest TVs they can afford.

          In cinemas they usually only watch 3D because it’s the only option. They don’t know what’s resolution or dynamic range or highlight roll-off. They don’t notice overexposed areas, they don’t notice ugly digital chroma noise (such as was in Dredd). Quite often they don’t even notice 1080p/720p difference.

          So why should they care for imperceptible 4K home experience? There are zero pixel-peepers among the consumers. Based on these opinions I believe that for consumers (vast majority of population) 1080p is quite enough. No one is going to throw it out of the equation just because 4K will be an option. 1080p will always be cheaper and faster to download. Convenience against pixel-peeping? Yeah right..

  • 4k sounds good. But content is still the king. I would rather watch a SD program that has good content over some junk shot in 4k. I am just saying.

  • 4K for high-end purposes is here now. One example is 4K cinema projection. And that is the most reasonable 4K use. But do the audiences really care? I think they care much more about decent movies than about amazing image quality..

    Strangly people don’t seem to understand, that 4K for home use is something completely different. I believe it’s for pixel-peepers mainly. People who will be leaning close to their new 4K screen, marveling at pixel-level detail. But consumers are not pixel-peepers. They don’t focus on image quality, they try to enjoy the content. Sitting far away from the screen in a comfy sofa, probably having some food & drink on the side.

    Many have posted good articles on this topic, Google it up.

    Just don’t try to convince your selves and others, that 2K is dead and 4K is the new necessity. RED moving into 4K big time is great. But 4K still has to move into the mainstream (cinema, broadcast, streaming). And that is more than a couple of years away. By that time your new cutting edge 4K RED/Sony/Canon camera will be on eBay, and you will be convincing your self that you need the new 8K future-proof stuff – while the vast majority of people will still be happy watching 1080p content on their 40-50″ TVs.