Greetings from Zigen - this is the first of what we intend to become a monthly piece where we share technology, events and integration tips.
The Zigen Team
Why 4K - What You Need to Know Now
4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) is upon us!
Let's start with the typical questions regarding 4K...
Is content available for Ultra HD now?
Content is very limited right now. In the US, Sony is shipping pre-loaded media servers with their 4K panels (in what seems to be a stop-gap measure) until an industry-ratified medium comes along. This will most likely be answered by Blu-ray, with the BDA (Blu-Ray Disc Association) working on defining a new expanded and elevated specification right now, expected for release later this year. Additionally, it has been hinted that Roku may launch a 4K streamer this summer (2014).
Why do you need to be aware of Ultra HD? Are consumers buying into this new technology?
Integrators need to be aware of 4K because it's happening now - consumers are converting, consumers are asking questions. Your top customers - if not already they will be in 4K in 2014. Some integrators are thinking 4K is another 3D experiment - a passing fad or a peripheral feature. In reality it is similar to the leap we made from SD to 1080p; it's being supported by SMPTE, movie studios and equipment vendors alike at a very high level of adoption although most consumers and even dealers are not aware of this. If you happened to attend ISE earlier this year you would have noticed the major control manufacturer and several well known display and source manufacturers are investing heavily in 4K technologies. Main stream consumers will inevitably buy into the technology, but it will take time. Serious penetration won't happen until prices come down and content is broadly available. Ten years ago you could only get 1080p by upscaling before Blu-ray (and HD-DVD) came along in 2006, but look at it now - 1080p is 'normal'. The 4K path will be the same, but the timeframe to react will be shorter.
What are some common misconceptions about Ultra HD/4K?
Misconception number one - there's no content. OK, that's true right now - but it's close. There is actually already an impressive catalog of movies in 4K - and films are actively being mastered in 8K digitally - so content will come - we just need the delivery mechanism and there are several major players working on that today.
Misconception two - there is no real benefit to upgrading to 4K (more pixels) - the resolution will exceed what can be seen by a human being. This is just not true - look back through recent history - there was a time when a 26" TV was regarded as HUGE (remember the Sony Trinitron?). Now 42" is small, 50-65" is normal, and even sizes over 80" are gaining popularity. However we're not sitting any further away than we used to. IMAX cinemas allow a much bigger picture with relatively close seating by increasing picture resolution. 4K panels and content will do the same.
How can 4K help me in my business today?
- Retrofits - Old installs will eventually require all-new hardware and possibly even new cabling.
- New 4K sales and installation requirements.
- This is a high bandwidth specialty installation of 4K infrastructure and the need for a professional integrator will be required - this could lead to more hardware sales.
- May even help software (BD disc) sellers as 4K reduces the threat of downloads due to sheer file size and delivery bit rates.
Technically - what are the gotchas when dealing with 4K UHD - what should I know?
Cables mislabeled: 4K is deliverable via HDMI at one fixed clock speed of 297MHz (up to 30 frames). This equates to an aggregate data rate nearing 9Gbps which will double again with the new HDMI specification. Although the existing 'High Speed' HDMI cable spec technically has this 9Gbps rate covered, many HDMI cables are not accurately labeled nor will they pass the signal.
Some devices may just not be capable of handling 4K. The biggest issue likely is with devices connected to a system and the HDMI silicon they contain. Currently most devices employ HDMI chipsets (transmitters & receivers) that are limited to 225MHz, or 6.75Gbps and matching the 2006 specifications. This is clearly insufficient for 4K, even with firmware upgrades the pipe simply isn't big enough. Many HDMI extenders, switchers, splitters, matrix switchers etc, on the market also contain this restricted silicon, and so are not adaptable to 4K applications. Even if the silicon is upgraded, length potential will be reduced by more then half. Category cable has become a favorite choice for installers for HDMI extension because of ease of use and field termination, however 4K fundamentally challenges the limits of this cable type. Technologies like HDBaseT addresses this through proprietary firmware driven timing technologies, but it's no longer native HDMI. Matrix switchers with HDBaseT will generally still perform the switching in the HDMI space, so they may still be restricted even though the HDBaseT stage is capable of more.
Final Thoughts: 4K is not only coming, it's here. We'll exist in a world of upscaling and some proprietary file delivery for perhaps a year or two, then things will turn very quickly to more mass-market. The challenge for the custom installer is that they are expected to pre-wire jobs for future 4K support NOW, even though most can't really even test what they're putting in for validation. They will need to rely on their product suppliers and a leap of faith that the products will deliver as expected, when expected. The phrase "future proof" is more difficult to define than ever as the new HDMI specification will push the data rate to 18Gbps, driving the need for all-active connectivity and pretty much wiping out CATx cable as a viable extension cable option (other than possibly HDBaseT).
It's exciting times ahead with the best sales opportunities opening-up to those that learn the basics NOW and stay ahead of the curve. Call us for all your 4K connectivity questions.
Zigen Team can be reached at: +1-818-654-5252
Read to the bottom for a special offer form Zigen
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Want to find out more about Zigen 4K products?
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Check back frequently - we are adding to the Zigen network almost weekly and are proud to welcome the following new partners in the last few months:
AVProAlliance.com - National
Aim High Audio - Southeast - MS, AL, GA, SC, NC, FL, TN
B. Rich - Northeast - ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, Upstate NY
DSG - NYC, ,N. NJ
Glenn International - Puerto Rico and Caribbean
Performance Plus - S. ID, MT, WY, UT, CO, NM, El Paso, TX
Rybski & Associates - N. CA, N. NV
Turkey - HET Otomasyon