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November 1, 2013

Netflix's 4K Tests: Are We Any Closer to Ultra HD TV Adoption?

Netflix 4KThe timetable for TVs adopting 4K has been up for debate since the 4K's adoption rates began to rise themselves. Some look at the lagging success of 3D TVs as an indicator that not all consumers treat new technologies equally. However, with more and more TVs offering 4K, it might signify that in-home 4K viewing will become the norm. In fact, the fast-becoming in-home media viewing standard, Netflix, has started testing several 4K videos and even has plans to start offering 4K content as early as next year.

If you were hoping that the videos offered by Netflix would be some VFX-heavy action films or awe-inspiring nature documentary, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but no -- there's nothing that cool -- yet. According to an article from Gigaom, there are currently seven 4K videos running 7 to 8 minutes long, containing footage that Netflix regularly uses for internal tests. One video, of which, demonstrates 4K at 24fps.

According to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, the popular VOD platform plans on being "one of the big suppliers of 4K next year,” meaning that if everything goes according to plan, you may be able to watch your favorite effects-driven films in ultra HD rather soon. However, Netflix does plan on offering their own original content in 4K first, then later working with their licensing partners to offer other films and TV shows in ultra HD.

This all seems like a timely plan of action after Sony launched 8 million flower petals out of a Costa Rican volcano to promote their 4K TVs. According to The Verge, the "8 million petals represent each individual pixel contained in Sony's 4K sets — four times the detail of 1080p." And though it's still up in the air whether or not consumers are going to adopt ultra HD TVs, especially at their current prices, these trends definitely seem to indicate that the main media gatekeeper, Netflix, is giving it the old college try. Check out Sony's advertisement, as well as a behind-the-scenes video below:

What do you think the timetable looks like for 4K TV adoption? Do you think these Netflix tests indicate that we're close? Let us know in the comments.

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89 Comments

Jesus, the compression on those videos. I couldn't see anything.

November 1, 2013

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Tyler

4K discussions are like spam, everywhere and pretty useless.

November 2, 2013

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hansd

I saw a 4K Panasonic tv showing 4K content, for the second time, today. The Sony 4K does not look as good as it. But the Samsung 4K on display there looks great. Samsung and Panasonic appear to have the best looking picture. Both salesmen showing me the tvs said the same thing---they didn't expect I would buy today because there isn't enough content yet. Sales of 4K Samsung tvs are going fairly well. The Sony is moving slow. And the Panasonic just came out so they don't have a idea yet how well it is selling.

The primary reason I want a 4K tv is to use it as a monitor for my computer. There still are no low priced 4K resolution video cards for computers. There's two expensive gaming cards that have 4K resolution. But I don't want to pay $700.00 for one of them. I'm not necessarily waiting for the price of 4K tvs to come down as I can get a 39" 4K Seiki for $699.00---but the price coming down will be nice. I am waiting only for a low priced 4K resolution video card to come out, and for more 4K content to be available. Then I will buy. I am look forward to that! :-)

ESPN is, right now, in the process of building a large studio fitted with 4K cameras. It is projected to be done at the end of 2014, with broadcast to start in early 2015. They may broadcast in 4K over the internet first. I really will like to watch football in 4K.

I don't have any doubt the 4K will catch on. I cannot see it being like 3D. I think it's not just me waiting for there to be more 4K content. I think lots of people like the beauty of 4K---especially if 4K tvs come down to 1080p tv prices. 4K tvs already cost less than high end 1080p tvs. The next season of 4K tvs, next Spring, will cost less than the ones out now. Netflix 4K may drive sales of 4K tvs. ESPN will kick in not long after. And YouTube 4K will return any day. YouTube is only waiting for a little more content to be uploaded to go back to 4K. It's true there are quite a few 4K videos on YouTube right now. But you can't view them in 4K yet.

The question I have is what video card manufacturers are in the process of making a simple, low cost 4K resolution video card?

November 1, 2013

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Gene

Sadly someone probably messed with the Sony 4K settings. The Sony Triluminos is the best 4K I've seen so far.

November 2, 2013

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Razor

That could be true.Though at two Best Buy stores I have been to, in Concord, California, and Pleasanton, California, they say a Sony rep visits them. I remember a couple months ago a Sony rep was there full time. It seems he would fix the settings if it didn't look at it's best. But who knows. The Samsung is selling more than twice as much as the Sony.

Is the Sony Triluminos the one that's on display at Best Buys? It could be a different model there. That could explain it.

November 2, 2013

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Gene

I'd look at the menu settings first. Then the strength of the signal. Most electronic stores have a central switch and, the further you get from it, the weaker the signal gets. (yes, one of many tricks a store may have ... in store for its customers, so to say) If you're seriously interested in an item, ask to have a direct input of fewer than six feet. And, they won't do it for you, walk away.

November 2, 2013

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DLD

That round, Sony proprietary media player is right under the Sony tv at Best Buy.The Samsung and Panasonic just look better.

November 3, 2013

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Gene

The Samsung 4K TV is getting negative reviews on Amazon... bad upscaling algorithm, motion blur issues and grain, colors looking washed out, customer service problems with Samsung, etc.

November 3, 2013

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Razor

I have seen the Samsung for myself. It looks better than the Sony. The picture is warmer, has a more pleasant color palette. The Samsung is selling at an average of 7 per week at one of the Best Buys I saw it at. Some weeks the Sony sells zero.

November 3, 2013

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Gene

If you live near a Best Buy or Fry's I'd say go and see it for yourself.

November 3, 2013

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Gene

Re: Gene - Well, I guess you are entitled to your personal opinion based on a TV you don't own, but that still does not discount all of the negative reviews for the Samsung 4K. Some of the Samsung owners in those reviews are even saying the Sony picture and color looks better.

November 4, 2013

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Razor

Razor--Have you seen them?

November 4, 2013

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Gene

There's also lots of negative opinions on the web about Red. I look at things for myself. I don't trust most everything on the internet. 4K tvs are a new product. It's only fair to expect dicey customer service on them at this point.

I would take the Panasonic over both of them---but not at the current price. I'm waiting a little while for prices to come down. The next round of 4K in the Spring promises to cost less.

But so what. It's not that important.

November 4, 2013

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Gene

Wait, the Geforce GTX 660 Ti's been capable of 4k this whole time...? $300 doesn't seem that expensive...

November 2, 2013

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Gabe

The two I had heard of both are around $700.00. I hadn't heard of that one. But still it is not a simple 4K resolution card. $300.00 is even too much. I am meaning something around $90 to $120.00. No buzzer and bells. No extra memory etc. needed for gaming.

November 2, 2013

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Gene

Do you do any editing? Most programs these days support CUDA/OpenCL which the GTX 660 Ti kicks ass at...massive performance bump for very little money.

November 2, 2013

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Gabe

November 3, 2013

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Gene

Also the GTX 650 Ti also supports 4k, and is less expensive (less powerful card): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130909&nm_mc=KN...

November 2, 2013

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Gabe

November 2, 2013

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Gabe

And after checking the Nvidia site, apparently the non-Ti 650 also supports 4k, so here's your cheapest option: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130827

November 2, 2013

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Gabe

In specifications for VCGGTX650T1XPB GeForce GTX 650 Ti :

Max Resolution 2560 x 1600 (Digital)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814133473&nm_mc=KN...

November 3, 2013

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Gene

01G-P4-2650-KR GeForce GTX 650:

Max Analog : 2048x1536
Max Digital : 2560x1600

In details tab:

http://www.evga.com/Products/Product.aspx?pn=01G-P4-2650-KR

November 3, 2013

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Gene

I don't know why Nvidia says these support 4K. It seemed to good to be true.

I know that soon there will be more graphics cards that will have 4K resolution, and at a lower price. 4K is just too beautiful to pass by.

You are right that I should think about having a powerful, i.e., more expensive, graphics card for better editing ability. I haven't edited any 4K video yet. But it is a real possibility I could if I like the Panasonic 4K camcorder that is supposed to be coming out this month. But even if I don't get that one the next Nikon V1 is supposed to record 4K for the full 30 minute limit, and not just in bursts. I like the color palette of that camera, and it's very low price. The thing I dislike is the 30 minute limit! But there's more and more 4K cameras coming out. One of them's got yo make me happy.

November 3, 2013

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Gene

The disparity is because it was added in a later driver update...the hardware was always capable of it. (and when in doubt you should always look at the manufacturer's info anyway) All of the 600 GPUs are based on the same basic hardware.

There should be AMD GPUs with 4k support as well, but I'm not familiar with their current cards because the tools I use often rely on CUDA support.

November 3, 2013

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Gabe

And when I said manufacturer I meant Nvidia since they make the actual main hardware that drives all these cards.

November 3, 2013

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Gabe

Ah, I see.Thank you.

November 3, 2013

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Gene

Do you think the next generation of these cards will come 4K?

November 3, 2013

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Gene

Absolutely, since this is something supported by the architecture, there's no reason for them to drop support...it's not like a fringe bit of hardware, it's a core part of their tech now.

November 3, 2013

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Gabe

BYW, the Panasonic 4K 20 inch tablet is priced at $6000.00:

http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/panasonic-ut-mb5/4505-3126_7-35827454.html

November 1, 2013

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Gene

Showing 4K in 1080p? Anyway 4K... I doubt it takes off as fast as the hype.

November 1, 2013

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Caleb

Its good to see my email campaign to Netflix is working!
Can't wait for 4K streaming. My money is waiting.

November 2, 2013

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marklondon

Whoa, that's like a nightmare situation for an 8-bit ultra-compressed codec. Short of an actual testing environment, these are probably some of the most codec-stressing shots you could possibly pull off, and it shows. There's some sort of incredible irony in trying to depict the benefits of 4k resolution by not only displaying a 4k video in 1080p, but then having its resolution be further obliterated by macroblocking to the point where it looks like upscaled 360p.

Anyway, Netflix entering the 4k video market will definitely push the content a lot more visibly to consumers than most other options at this point. If they're able to offer the video at sufficient quality and speed, they could end up taking a commanding lead amongst any upcoming market competition. I'm still waiting to hear more about Sony's plans via its PlayStation 4, Microsoft's plans via its Xbox One, Red's plans via its Redray system, and any other competing media players that may support the higher resolution in the future..

November 2, 2013

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Mr Blah

The funny thing is no 4K media player is needed since 4K movies can fit on a thumb drive, and the thumb drive can be plugged directly into the USB of the tv and played. Block Buster shelves could be lined with boxes that have thumb drives in them instead of dvds. But manufacturers likely won't go that route though since far more money can be made with 4K dvd players and 4K dvds.

November 2, 2013

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Gene

In that same vein, as cheap as thumb drives are, they're still massively more expensive to manufacture than disc media like Blu-ray. Also, there'd be the added issue of copy protection that I'm sure major studios wouldn't enjoy. Digital downloads are easily the most cost-effective means of distribution.
With downloads also being easier to distribute online, I expect most major movie studios will eventually support their own web portals or digital marketplace applications specifically for distribution of their films, if they haven't already. Then, via those marketplaces, they'll just have consumers download directly to a set-top box, TV, or PC to view the content.
Still, the problem with television sets as platforms has always been massive software fragmentation. One manufacturer will have their own proprietary TV operating system completely different from that of another manufacturer, meaning that each different line of televisions would have to have its own version of a studio's marketplace application. Set-top boxes are more popular as a result of this fragmentation, as they reduce the number of platforms onto which a company needs to port its software. Maybe we'll get lucky in the future and Android (or a similar platform) will become popular and feasible as a TV OS, paving the way for easy access to digital content within the one device.

November 3, 2013

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Mr Blah

There is a company in China called Hisense using Android in it 4K tv. Their tvs cost far less than Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, etc.

You can see Android in Hisense talked about in this video: "Microsoft's New CES Replacement: Learn All About Hisense!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whE6st00-S0

November 3, 2013

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Gene

Without good compression and / or monster bandwidth - not really.

November 2, 2013

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Natt

It won't be done through the current codec compression of H.264, it will be done through H.265 (HEVC) http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/25/h265-is-approved/

November 2, 2013

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Razor

Yes, H.265!

8K tv in Japan will be using H.265, dividing the image into 17 horizontal strips, sending it via H.265, and reconstructing the 17 strips at the end user. They are not only going to be doing it, BUT!, they will be doing it at 120Hz IN REAL TIME!! Meanwhile, here in this blog there's people being luddites about 4K!

http://www.cinema5d.com/news/?p=20105

Video about NHK 8K tv/H.265/120Hz in real time:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhLLjrkSroQ

November 2, 2013

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Gene

Netflix wants their own compression codec, so they won't have to pay the licensing fees. HEVC and the related hardware is actually already available. The Japanese just streamed a marathon in 4K using the new switches, etc.
.
An interesting side story is an open source DAALA, whose programmers assert a great deal of superiority over HEVC and expect the commercially available products to be ready by 2015.
.
PS. 4K Blue Ray (or whatever color it'll turn out to be) players might be ready by 2015 too. I read that the film companies may be asking for discs that can hold several films at once, something around the 300 GB per side.

November 2, 2013

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DLD

Some videos explain DAALA:

bottom of page

http://xiph.org/daala/

November 3, 2013

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Gene

How do you have the time to find all these DLD?

November 3, 2013

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Gene

It's not difficult. Most would probably use an automatic news feed based on a few selected key words. I just do a web search once a month or so, just to see what pops up. The one I did a few days ago was on "4K TV" and "4K streaming" . You go 3-4 pages deep or specify the time frame ("last month" or "last week").
.
As a side note - be ready for Yahoo to throw its hat in the ring. Ms. Mayer fanned out on the Hulu purchase but she's dreaming big.

November 3, 2013

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DLD

You are very right about 8K. BBC just did another field test at a football ground. It's coming!

November 3, 2013

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marklondon

Gah dang things are moving fast!

November 3, 2013

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Gene

nope

November 2, 2013

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andy

Just a heads up. 4K 39" Seiki on sale at $569 with free shipping at Buydig.com. Good till Nov. 6th with couponcode UHD4K.

November 2, 2013

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Dimitri

It's good to know it does come down to near $550.00. Maybe it will be lower in the future.

November 2, 2013

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Gene

If you want a 4k TV buy at least a 65" and make sure you watch TV with your nose 5 inches from the screen, so you can enjoy the difference.

November 2, 2013

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Marcus

While Best Buy doesn't have 1080p and 4K tvs on display next to each other Fry's electronics does. If you can get to a Fry's you'll immediately see the difference. The 4K is beautiful. It makes 1080p look flat and even a bit blurry.

November 2, 2013

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Gene

Here we go again. We are many years away from widespread adoption. 4K tv just appeared and content is non-existent. I'm also not convinced that 4K will have the same appeal as HD, particularly since you need a 50 inch screen to make a difference. Maybe if manufacturers can produce 4k screens as cheaply as HD, but that point is also many years away. Many (most?) people hardly recognize/appreciate the difference between HD and SD anyway.

I think the example of still photography is interesting. Canon and Nikon DSLR sales are getting slaughtered by smartphones. Why? Because people care more about convenience and connectivity than image quality. Way more.

November 2, 2013

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Jackson

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