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) 



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