By Jeff Murray, VP of Sales @ Zigen
The times are changing rapidly in the world of infrastructure for 4K applications – the televisions are shipping today with HDCP 2.2 chips designed to allow 4K UHD content – yesterday a 2-column article in The Wall Street Journal announced Amazon’s new 4K strategy for Prime subscribers and DirecTV and Netflix both announced plans for 4K recently. If you were lucky enough to have Santa deliver a shiny new 4K TV to you this Christmas here’s what you need to know:
1. The best content available today is via Stream-n-Store services like what is available via the Sony FMP-X10 player or the Samsung CY-SUC105H UHD Video Pack – Here is a recent article that sums it all up: http://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/can-get-4k-ultra-hd-content-new-tv/ The downside of stream-n-store is cost (up to $30 per movie or $8 to rent) and time – the file size is 40GB so in the average home in America the download time would be over 5 hours.
2. Up-scaling Blu-Ray players – outstanding picture quality – better than streaming – low cost and you can play your existing movies and there is no HDCP 2.2 requirement.
3. What everybody is touting – and may cause you to return your new 4K TV is streaming – Netflix and Amazon – this is highly compressed – you will need about 25 Mbps download speeds to make this look better than a VHS tape. It also only works with the TVs internal HEVC encoding system.
4. The Dream – New Blu-Ray player to be released in late 2015 – we hope!
So what about folks like us who are in the business of delivering exceptional experiences to our customers? What can we do today to address 4K?
Without getting overly technical – there are technical considerations to think about…:) The full 4K UHD referenced in the HDMI 2.0 specification is likely a few years down the road on the source side – on the TV side it will be sooner. One of the main issues is bandwidth for transmission – consider 4K UHD (4096x2160p60 4:4:4 @ 16 Bit Deep Color) the bandwidth required for transport is beyond todays infrastructure.
In digital fixed pixel devices (TVs) to make a picture in UHD you need 3840 X 2160 (aspect ratio 16:9) pixels or 4096 X 2160 (aspect ratio 19:10) pixels. Both would be referred to as 2160P with 4096 being the native resolution for digital cinema (a wider format). Regardless – it’s a lot of pixels compared to 1080P – 4 times more. When we encode the picture for transmission (to get it to your TV) we use a practice called chroma subsampling, which is the practice of implementing less resolution for chroma (color) information than for luma (light or black and white) information – we can do this no problem because of human visual systems – we have about 120M rods and 12M cones – rods are for black & white or brightness or luminance and cones are for color – we can essentially fool the human eye with this process and you won’t know the difference – especially in photograph based material. As an example – Blu-Ray, which is still the best in home source for movies is 1080P24 4:2:0 natively – 24 matches film frames, but more on that later…Set Top Boxes – satellite and cable also use 4:2:0 chroma subsampling. This process allows us to effectively transmit full UHD 4K material today using HDMI 1.4 chipsets.
When the new stations are up on satellite and cable will they stop this process? Will the new “dream” Blu-Ray player original content be encoded at 4:4:4? This is highly doubtful and doesn’t fit the business model.
The bigger issue today for source material is not some new HDMI chip – it’s Sony and the rest of the content creators DRM (Digital Rights Management) strategy and essentially revolves around HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) 2.2 (nice article on the topic: http://www.audioholics.com/hdtv-formats/hdmi-2.0-hdcp-2.2. You are going to have to have HDCP 2.2 throughout your system in order to view 4K content – the TV, the AVR or Matrix, and the Source.
Zigen is building for the future and guarantees that not only will our products meet the standard, but will exceed standard by a large margin. As the market evolves Zigen continues to be ahead of the curve with innovative solutions.
Zigen HDCP 2.2 promise – click here: Zigen HDCP 2.2 Assurance Program
Stay tuned in 2015 as 4K makes its way into our homes and then our businesses.
Zigen is field tested and installer approved so YOU can install with confidence!