8K and the Future of Resolution
Last year, I wrote a short post about the somewhat “newness” of 4K TV’s and their rise to popularity. 8K TV’s are still new to most of us, as we have yet to own a 4K TV, and now we hear 8K TV’s are starting to roll out? What’s the big deal!
Essentially, big is the deal. With 4K resolution being 4 times more pixels than that of its HD predecessor, loss of detail becomes an endangered issue. And now 8K? Yes, a TV with 4 times the resolution of 4K and 16 times that of HD. But what does this mean for all of our various devices including our computers and phones? How will it affect them?
Detail You Never Knew Existed
LG, Samsung and Sharp showcased their 8K TV’s at the 2015 International Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. These were just early prototypes, but considering that 4K TV’s were just prototypes in 2010 and are now gaining mainstream traction, who knows how soon it could be until these TV’s gain traction.
These super high-res TV’s have received mixed reactions, but most were positive. How could they not be? Sharp’s new Aquos TV is an 80-inch display, showcasing 7680×4320 pixels. Not quite 8K, but who’s counting?
It also uses a sub-pixel technology to give it its high pixel count, rather than actual pixels. What does that mean? Without unpacking all the technical details, a quarter of the pixels, or the the sub-pixels, aren’t capable of changing into as many different colors as real pixels are. The result is a high-res looking image, but not exactly a higher color quality.
Compare that with Samsung’s 8K 110-inch 3DTV with full pixels, and you might just faint, literally. Some of those that saw it in action at this years CES, said the felt sick and disoriented. It uses a new tech that doesn’t require any eyewear for the 3D to work, which may be one of the root causes of the dizzy feelings.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, these are very big TV’s. And 110-inches isn’t the limit either. The most commonly sold HDTV is around 40 inches in width. Apply that same pixels per inch, or PPI to an 8K TV, and you’re looking at a 160-inch TV.
In The Palm of Your Hands
And remember, Nokia has already introduced their Lumia 1020 phone boasting a 41-megapixel, or 7728×5368 camera. Couple that with the fact that there are now around 20 phones that can shoot video in 4K, and you’ve got a huge amount of high-res content coming just from phones. Most notably is the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, having one of the more higher quality 4K cameras.
Many critics like to point out that having more pixels doesn’t mean better-looking images, and this is especially true of phone cameras.
The censor size of a camera is really the root of the problem. A cameras censor is essentially the part where the pixels lie and wait to be hit with light. And because a phones camera censor is so small, it can’t be hit with light as well as ‘real’ cameras. Thus often resulting in a noisy and grainy photo.
But phones are also getting higher screen resolutions as well. Like the LG G3 throwing down 2,560×1,440 on a 5.5 inch display. Making it the highest resolution phone on the market.
The Bigger, The Better and Heavier
Editing high resolution content has not been easy. Of course, it depends on the quality of the picture your editing, but if you’re using a prosumer camera, like the Sony SDR-AX1, it takes a fair amount of computing power just to playback the raw footage, let alone playing it back after adding effects and edits. Many of the companies that produce 4K and 8K cameras, also offer some muscle to add to your workstation, like the Red Rocket-X from Red Digital Cinema, should you choose to tackle the high-res footage full on.
You don’t have to have all the fancy equipment to get good use out of 4K or even 8K footage however. Such high resolution gives you plenty of room to fine-tune the framing of your shot in post before exporting to 1080p for editing.
For those of you who don’t care as much for creating high-res content, as you do watching it, it’s a pretty tough sell right now. Amazon and Netflix have both recently enabled 4K streaming services for apps, but neither currently allows streaming on personal computers. And to the frustration of many, they both seem to be dodging the issue. This is due to most computers not having the ability to decode, or playback these large 4K video files.
But why is that?
- Essentially, the big movie studios don’t want computers to be able to, because piracy. The idea is simple; instead of trying to protect their online content and keep you from illegally downloading the movie on your pc, they’ll just never make it available in the first place.
- Then there’s bandwidth. Streaming high-res media, including websites offering high-res content, is probably going to require an upgrade in internet speeds. Netflix recommends 5mbps for HD, and then a big leap to 25mbps for 4K.
Will This Impact Web Design and Development?
Yes, it’s just a little too soon to tell how much. 4K displays for computers really highlight the need for responsive design implementation. It’s near impossible to please everybody in this area as the screen resolutions people use vary greatly. As I mentioned earlier, phones now have high-res displays. Which means many websites might end up looking a little pixilated on mobile.
This is why it’s so important to know your target audience. There are many good tools you can use to find out who visits your site and at what screen resolution. Make sure to design for the audience you want instead of following trends.
With regard to trends, it’s simply valuable knowing what they are. According to the latest data from StatCounter, 1366×768 remains the most steady for common screen resolutions. Yet, you can see how the dotted line, representing a myriad of differing screen resolutions, is running right along side of 1366×768.
This is why our designs should strive to be as resolution free as possible, and instead focus on a more vector-based approach.
So, Is It All Worth It?
Yes, yes it is. In the end, there’s no place to go but up.
If you’re the type to binge watch Netflix, invite some friends over to watch that Michael Bay movie you didn’t want to pay to see in theaters, or just watch that one show you like on HBO, now is a good time to get one of the new, reasonably priced 4K TV’s.
For those of us developing, designing and recording video, it’s certainly something we need to be keeping a keen eye on, but it most likely won’t have a huge impact until much later. Oh, did I mention the 18K camera?