A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away—1998, actually--high-definition televisions (HDTV) enthralled consumers with its theater-quality picture and digital sound audio. Why, it was the ultimate viewing experience, we all crowed.
How quickly things change. Or, perhaps, how quickly technology changes. At this year’s CES conference, 4K Ultra HD TVs will introduce the latest and greatest in the high definition digital television technology. The mammoth consumer electronics show is in full swing this week in Las Vegas. Manufacturers such as Samsung and LG are showcasing not only bigger, clearer, more colorful pictures, but also their operating systems, in other words, the content behind all that eye-popping resolution and lifelike representation.
WHAT IS HIGH DEFINITION TELEVISON?
“High Definition Digital Television (HDTV) is a special type of digital television,” explains BCC Research analyst Paul Korzeniowski. “High definition video is any video that has more than 1M pixels of video per frame. Broadcasters in the United States use two different methods of producing high definition digital modulation. The first method has 1,280 x 720 pixels with the frame lines displayed progressively (P). The picture aspect ratio is 16:9 and the audio is Dolby 5.1. The second method has 1,920 x 1,080 pixels with frame lines displayed off-set interlaced (I). The picture aspect ratio is also 16:9 and the audio is Dolby 5.1.”
Okay, fine. But what is 4K UHD?
According to Brian X. Chen, 4K supercedes 1080p, the current high-definition resolution found on current HDTVs. “The term 4K, also called Ultra HD, refers to screens with two times the vertical resolution and twice the horizontal resolution of current high-definition TVs,” Chen notes.
Using a technology called high dynamic range (HDR) that delivers four times the resolution of current HDTV, this software feature enhances the contrast and color profile of a picture. Bright colors will reveal brighter highlights, and dark colors will show more colors.
“Consumers are starting to embrace the concept of 4K (and) 8 million pixels on the screen and more detail than they have ever seen before," LG Electronics USA's John Taylor told Mike Snider. "Many consumers, the early adopters, are coming back to buy their second and third (4K UHD) set, and the word of mouth is growing significantly."
Snider says that as of last September, UHD TV sales had already surpassed the 2015 total projected by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which owns and manages CES. By year end 2015, Snider notes, U.S. sales of 4k UHD sets could sell 2.5 million units more than anticipated.
TECHNOLOGY CONNECTS HOME ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEMS
The evolution of home entertainment elements like digital TV systems began in the 1980s, when the term “intelligent home” began making its way into the nomenclature, says Korzeniowski. Since then, products have become “smarter” and more efficient.
“The evolution of telecommunications and electronics has expanded the capabilities of intelligent entertainment systems. Integrating learning ability of intelligent systems should give systems the capacity to learn from their experiences with similar cases, thus reaching an optimum solution,” he explains, “In addition to the learning ability, information transferred between systems should be processed and analyzed in a home entertainment system that works as a building’s brain and enable it to act intelligently.”
At CES, LG unveiled an upgraded version of its smart TV operating system, Web OS 3.0. The company’s latest Web OS iteration is an upgrade over version 2.0 released in 2014. This next-gen OS will power the company’s flagship smart TV, the LG6, set for release in the first half of 2016. A key features of the Web OS 3.0 is Majic Zoom, a function that allows users to zoom in on a scene up to five times.
Sony, Panasonic, HiSense, TCL and Sharp, which all have adopted HDR technology, also announced forthcoming UHD-TVs.
According to Leo Kelion, HDR-enabled displays have the ability to process 10-bit signals instead of the 8-bit ones used by normal TVs. 10-bit images can represent 64 times more colors than its 8-bit counterpart, which renders smoother transitions between similar shades and avoid banding effects in dark scenes. Kelion also says that TV sets with HDR have the “ability to actually display at least 90% of the colors in a defined range,” far surpassing that of conventional TVs.
Regulatory updates to HDR standards should add momentum to the groundswell behind adoption of 4K UHD, not just for 4K UHD TV sets but also DVD players and content-streaming devices, Snider observes. Richard Doherty, research director of The Envisioneering Group, tells Snider that “additional movie studio support for 4K Blu-ray Discs and an expected announcement of at least one satellite TV provider delivering 24-hour 4K content” should be in the offing.
"There is somewhat of the industry coming together," Tim Alessi, director of new product development for home entertainment products at LG Electronics USA, informs Snider. "The whole idea is not just more pixels, but better pixels."