The Oracle of FDTimes speaks: two more days before 2012 futures are due. Here are our soothsayings.


2012 will be the “Year of 4K.”

Like HDTV, it could be premature. 2013 and 2014 will also be the “Year of 4K.” Remember when 2005 was the “Year of HD,” after its US introduction in 1998? This time, it will not take so long. In fact, 4K home TVs should soon be on display in Best Buy stores everywhere, and in your home as soon as prices drop to affordable levels and carpenters can be rounded up to pry the current crop of HDTV and 3D sets from your home theater, den and living room wall systems.

We’ll know for sure beginning January 10 when CES opens in Las Vegas. I’ve heard of at least a dozen vendors planning to introduce big flatscreen 4K consumer televisions. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) represents the $186 billion U.S. consumer technology industry. All those televisions, tablets and tele communicators make the $10 billion US movie box office look almost like petty cash.

Although we think of 4K as 4096 x 2160, consumer 4K television is usually 3,840 x 2160 resolution.

At CES, LG will be showing an 84″ 4K television. Sony and JVC are expected to show 4K home theater projectors. The list will grow.

There will be the usual salvo of denial about whether you can see the difference between HD and 4K. This will follow the “my grandmother can’t tell the difference between color and her old black and white set” discussion. Your grandmother will not have to sit at the the old 4 to 6 times screen-width optimum viewing distance. She can sit at myopic distances for an immersive, almost 3D and lifelike experience. HD at 1920×1080 is 2,073,600 pixels. 4K is 4 times more resolution at 3,840×2160=8,294,400 pixels.

Bit depth, contrast, dynamic range, longevity of circuits, life of bulbs, and quality of close-up reading glasses may be considered.

4K Cinema

A prominent image scientist told me, “We all know that there are different places to sit in a movie theater. The last rows are good for kissing in the dark. The middle is good for enjoying the film. And the first row is for geeks, pixel-counters, and people who arrive late.”

You don’t have to be a geek to enjoy the new 4K projectors from the front rows. Which may be why theater owners and producers are going to love 4K production and 4K projection: you can sit it the front row and it still looks great. There’s no noise or grain. They will be able to pack more people into the theater, even up front.

Rob Hummel is well-known for his lectures on scanning motion picture film at 4K. Up to now, that has been the realm of high-end effects films, rare restorations and a few big budget studio features. I think we’ll see more 4K DI scans and film-outs, as storage of the estimated 65 Terabytes required gets cheaper and more prevalent.

And, of course, Richard Edlund ASC predicted long ago where we are today with 4K digital cinema cameras that are raising the bar in the production process.

Apple TV

Rumors already abound (AppleInsider, MacRumors) about Apple introducing 32″ and 37″ TV sets in 2012. They probably will not be 4K at first (although I hope they are.) Content will probably come via Internet, and control could be Siri style voice command. The holy grail of “any program anytime anywhere” has so far been saddled by slow download times: typically it takes an agonizingly long 1.5 hours to get an HD movie from iTunes Store to iPad here in New York with high speed Time Warner Cable. A few years ago, it took a mere five minutes to rent a DVD from the local video store across the street. Unfortunately, DVD stores in New York are as vestigial as another good technology that worked quite well in New York and LA, but was too hastily replaced: trolley cars.

Happy New Year. I should heed the advice of Clyde Haberman in the New York Times: “We remember words of caution from the late New York columnist Murray Kempton, who once said that his main virtue as a prognosticator was to be wrong 10 minutes ahead of everyone else.”

Picture above: “The Delphic Sibyl,” Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1509, fresco, Sistine Chapel, Rome  (138 x 150 inches) 



Leave a Comment

8 Responses:

  1. Christopher Bell says:

    What are the 4K broadcast standards? The last Ford commercial I shot this year was delivered 4:3 SD. Seems like the TV set makers are putting the cart before the horse.

  2. Jon Fauer says:

    I don’t think we’ll have 4K broadcast. My guess is that home 4K content will come via 4K Blu-Ray Disk. NHK has plans for 8K broadcast by 2020, with some early tests possibly at the 2012 Olympics.

    • Mark Forman says:

      CBS Is working on a 4K compression sceme already which has the same payload as it’s current ATSC methodology.

      Broadcast will be enabled if these experiments work out.

      I have been pushing to see 4K for a number of months now and will be first in line to use it.

      See it in Glorious 4K will be the phrase in 2013.

  3. Joshua says:

    I could see more professional people buying 4K monitors in late 2012, like film editors, but consumers don’t have 4k (minus some youtube videos) available. I haven’t heard of Netflix or Hulu ramping up to handle 4k content, or even 2k content, which seems like a more reasonable step. Will my cable internet even handle 4k streaming? 4k content is so large that delivering content is going to be a big issue. Having the TV would be useless unless you’re editing TV/Film.

  4. will-hutchinson says:

    Interesting article, but I have to agree with Joshua.

    There is no 4k content, so why and how can it be the year of 4k? Unless everybody’s gone crazy. Manufacturers might well be ready to release 4k screens and they will doubtless want to – they’ve already hit critical mass with massive wall sized LED / LCD HD screens – the tech firms need to sell something new, so they need to invent a market and convince consumers that it is the future. A 42 inch screen is overkill in all but the largest rooms and 1080 HD is more than adequate on a screen this size, so they need to up the ante with a new format. This is a lot like the utterly pointless current 3D fad, which will hopefully disappear again just as it has done every 10 years or so after it has made a sad and desperate attempt to convince us it is anything other than a pointless gimmick.

    Also – sorry to be picky, but the only reason for not sitting front row in a cinema is not because you can see the pixels or grain – it is because it is physically too close – you have to move your eyes and or head in order to focus on different areas of the screen which is a tiresome viewing experience.

    Waiting for widespread 4K broadcast might take (in the UK doubtless WILL take) years and as far as I am aware nobody currently markets a 76TB optical disc drive…? Furthermore – in the UK at least – quick, reliable broadband at speeds that can handle current HD streaming is much rarer than you might think unless you have cable.

    Basically – as a consumer option it’s like an internet enabled fridge – it’s possible and exists but is freaking pointless.

  5. Oli Laperal Jr. says:

    2012 Trends.

    Hi Jon,

    We are some 12,500 miles away from NYC, in the Philippines. Nevertheless, trends I seem to see are as follows:

    1. software, firmware, computing & data will all be thru the “cloud”.

    2. 4K SSD recording will be minimum standard for production acquisition. Whereas full HD is the minimum standard for low end viewing by consumers. – for now.

    3. Not long from now, thru NHK’s initial drive, 8K will be the new minimum acquisition standard, as our home’s full wall 4K laser projector is the new minimum standard among prosumers.

    4. As we shoot 8K, the full data is sent simultaneously to client, advertiser and the post house.

    5. Travelers will enjoy almost instant oral language bidirectional translation thru their smart phones.

    6. Travelers will enjoy almost instant billboard language translation thru their smart phones. Take a quick wide photo, translate, and bingo: foreign language billboards are now in English, or Philippine Tagalog in my case.

    7. Do you like those self guided audio sets as you walk thru a museum? Soon, the world will be your museum. Thru advanced GPS in our smart phone or watch, you can walk thru MOMA, Luxor or via dolorosa with the same expert guidance. -stay to hear more, or move on for a new audio spiel.

    5. smart phones will include a mini laser projector as a large screen monitor, which is viewable in the sunny beach without an umbrella, and a projected keyboard as a full size keyboard.

    6. our smart phones will have the power of a super computer.

    7. advancements in laser, light and nano research will provide quantum & exponential leaps in technology.

    8. future generations will not concern themselves with silly diseases like heart ailments, obesity, cancer, AIDS, etc, as life expectancy expands thru selective cell regeneration.

    9. a kid in high school will make his or her first billion dollars, thus making Mark Zuckerberg a slow starter by comparison.

    Happy New Year !


    Oli Laperal Jr.

    Production facilities, Stereoscopic 3D, Epic 5K, etc.


  6. Hamid Hashemi says:

    Hi Jon, Here is a perspective from a theater operator.

    Sony 4k projectors require 4.2kw bulbs. This size bulb cost $1,500 to $1,600 and have a warranty or life expectancy of 600 hours as compared to $600 for a 3kw bulb which lasts 1500 hours for a 2k projector. From the operator perspective, operating 4k projectors costs 4 times more than the 2k. Given the cost factor and the availability of 4k projectors, most of the installations to date have been 2k.

    There is also a big push right now for higher frame rate productions. At Showest this year a panel that included George Lucas, James Cameron and Jeffry Katzenberg was advocating production in 30 and later 60 fps frame rates. They all have pictures in production with the higher frame rate. You can easily upgrade a 2k projector to higher frame rate but you can’t do that on a 4k. At least for the short term, I think higher frame rate will prevail if it was to become readily available. Majority of the 2k projectors that are out today can not be upgraded to 4k. It means substantial reinvestment by the exhibitors which is another reason even if the films are shot in 4k it does not mean they will be shown in 4k in the theaters.

    Distributors will also have to make an investment in delivering 4k files. Today files are either delivered on hard drives or by satellite. The 2k files are typically 100 to 300 gig. The 4k files will be in the 300 to 600 gig. The hard drives currently in use are 500gig and will have to go to 1 terabyte. Satellite delivery is also based on megabyte of data transferred which will be again be more expensive to deliver.

    While it can be argued that the delivery cost is not much, you have to look at the return on investment. The question is will 4k bring more people to the theaters and sell more tickets? I have always been an advocate of moviegoing as an experience. I don’t think in this case people will go to more movies or pay more for a movie that is shot in 4k. For the most part people can’t tell the difference between digital and film right now. We can’t charge more because we have digital projectors.

    As we have seen with 3D and all the other large formats, no technology can improve a bad story. At the end of the day all great movies start with a good story. If the exhibitors or the studios don’t see a potential ROI in investing in 4k when they haven’t even monetized their investment in 2k that they just installed it will be a long time before 4k becomes the standard in the theaters.

  7. David Jahns says:

    Maybe 4K Cinema will take off – but for the home?

    I remember seeing HD technology in 1997. And ten years later, consumers starting buying them, and TV as we knew it has changed forever. So, isn’t 4K the next logical step? Call me a skeptic that it will happen before 2020…

    The difference in between SD and HD was huge – much bigger screens, a different aspect ratio (more like movies), and a different form factor. (sexy flat panels vs. big clunky boxes). The difference between HD and 4K? If you have a gigantic display, and you look really close, it does look a bit sharper. Is that going to be enough for people to upgrade? I seriously doubt it… Come on – how many times have you seen an HD set showing stretched SD content, and the consumer doesn?t know or care? Anyone think the public is going to shell out for a 4k screen at home? Anyone think they’ll notice the difference between BluRay and 4K? Ha!! Is Netflix going to try to quadruple their bandwidth requirements for 4K streaming? Doubtful.

    So – yeah, probably 4K makes sense on a 40 ft screen in a theater, but I’d bet anyone 10:1 odds that the home consumer sets not will be in more than 5% of homes by 2015.