Video and Audio Center Blog

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Getting Ready For High-Def 4K Movies At Home

 4K TVs are pretty amazing — you can stick your face right up to the screen and the high-def image which is made out of pixels is still sharp compared to a HDTV’s 1080p resolution (not that you can/should watch anything that close up). Even if a 4K TV isn’t in your immediate future, the just-finished CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas had a lot of TV manufacturers showing off 4K Ultra HD TVs at all kinds of different prices. Common sense says that as more 4K TVs can be bought from different brands, the prices will go down so that people can buy them. So you might be surprised at how fast prices are going to change.

So how do you get ready for 4K while you wait? You don’t have to worry about audio — your home theater or soundbar will work just fine with a 4K TV, just as it does now with your HDTV. It’s the video side of things that need some patience since, according to the Blu-ray Disc Association, a standard for a specification for 4K content on Blu-ray discs is just now coming, with most of the movie studios and powers-that-be who could slow things down being okay with doing 4k for the home. Still, that means getting your hands on one of these 4K discs will mean waiting for 2015 to say Happy New Year.

But why would you want to watch a disc and not stream the video? It’s a matter of sensibility: streaming HD right now requires a stable and fast Internet connection, which not everyone has. Add to that it’s a “common pool” that’s shared with modems and servers and trying to watch a popular movie on a Saturday night on Netflix might mean “sharing” with hundreds of others. Who needs to compromise and have a HD movie get turned into lower resolution while streaming when you can pop in a disc and watch what you want when you want it? Not to mention pausing for that bathroom trip with absolute certainty that the film will continue once you hit “Play” again.
Does that mean you will have to start assembling a whole new library of discs of your favorite movies again? Well yes and no, because 4K doesn’t follow all the rules that DVD and Blu-ray discs did. Just get yourself a Blu-ray player like Sony’s BDPS790 or the Samsung BDF6700 and you’ll have tech that will up-convert Blu-ray discs to match that of a 4K TV once it comes through your door and give you a really, really good picture (even though it’s not true 4K). Meanwhile the HD picture coming out of the Blu-ray player will perfectly suit your existing or new HDTV. Since most Blu-ray players include “Smart TV’” functions like TVs now do, it also becomes an inexpensive way to update that 4-5 year old HDTV in the basement that didn’t come with an Internet connection.

And once that 4K TV gets put into place, there’ll be the alternative of streaming 4K titles over the Internet as a way for watching high-resolution movies (as in the Sony FMPX1 4K Ultra HD Media Player for Sony 4K TVs which “cheats” by downloading beforehand to a hard drive before you even know there’s a movie you can watch).

In the meantime, the TV manufacturers want you to know that HDTVs are alive and well — curved TVs that envelop your eyes being just the latest advance in the march towards making watching on your home theater of which the TV is the centerpiece more enjoyable than ever.  There’s no reason not to update to a bigger, better TV — be that HDTV or 4K — because high-def obsolescence isn’t going to be happening.

For those wondering, it's not just films that are being made available to watch in 4K resolution (example: The Amazing Spider-Man, Ghostbusters, Lawrence of Arabia) but also TV shows (Breaking Bad) and recent films like After Earth and Elysium. What's "hidden" from the viewer is the fact that the studios will have worked on what is being viewed to make its 4K presentation as good as possible. But what we think will be the most fun will be the trailers for upcoming films -- imagine being able to view a trailer in 4K resolution that is as good to your eyes as what you might be seeing in the theater prior to the movie. 


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