Video and Audio Center Blog

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sports and 4K TVs

Watching sports has never been a solitary occupation, the reason why sports bars are so popular is that they bring people together to cheer for their teams and capture some of the same exuberance that happens when in a stadium. But watching sports at home is becoming even more popular, now that big screen TVs are so plentiful. But not just any big screen TV will do — to really enjoy the game, it needs to be a 4K Ultra HD TV. The reason is because of what’s built in, the technology that “drives” the 4K TV. Let’s break it down:
The human eye is forgiving — it will adapt to the lighting and “lock in” the correct colors of what is being seen immediately (example: flesh tones look “normal” under a fluorescent light until you take a picture). But a TV has to use a color “engine” to reproduce the colors of what it is displaying, and that can result in a compromise between what the color actually is and what the TV is able to provide. A 4K TV has a wider color spectrum than that of a 1080p HDTV — the amount of colors that can be projected is many times more huge and so allows for massive gradations of tone. This makes all the difference when subtle coloring is displayed — such as the texture or wood grain on a piece of furniture. For sports, where there is often large areas of color (think: soccer field, football field), other colors can end up being smeared or “merging” into the overall image. Not so with 4K, which can display hard to reproduce colors (think: bright red without blockiness or an aqua blue with subtle traces of lighter hues flicking throughout) and give them a sense of “depth”. This makes for less work for the eye and comes closer to the “real world” that the brain is expecting to see.

If there’s anything that characterizes sports, it’s that something is moving fast. It could be the players (basketball), a little white ball (golf) or a combination of both (soccer). Regardless, the screen has to be able to keep up with the images flashing across it — not to mention retain the sharpness of everything that is being seen. 4K TVs handle contrast with more stability — keep in mind that excessive contrast not only creates a “line” around images, but actually destroys sharpness. Through functions such as Edge backlighting and local dimming, image contrast doesn’t occur on a macro scale, but that of a micro — being boosted in those areas where needed. The result is that blacks can be denser and bright white areas higher in illumination; neither of which are “bleeding” into the other to muddy the purity of the color.

Fast, Fast, Fast
The argument against LCD TVs back in the day was that they couldn't handle fast moving scenes — there'd be a "smear" or trail moving behind something onscreen traveling at speed (example: figure skater). While that has gone the way of the passenger pigeon, it's the 4K TVs that excel at presenting fast movements on their display without any issues. The high speed (multiple core as well) computer processors "watch" the image just as you do — only they smooth out what looks to be jagged faster than imagined. Taking a database in their "brain" as examples, the results are more natural to the eye (this combined with the extreme high resolution)

4K Content
This is where the rubber meets the road: the 4K content to watch and specifically 4K sports content. Up-conversion of 1080p HDTV images displayed on a 4K TV look great, that’s a plain fact and you can thank the above technology built into 4K TVs for that. Watching sports on a 4K TV is just more impressive — but when the sports is in 4K, then you’ll kiss sports bars goodbye and discover you’ve more friends than seen at any wedding you’ve been roped into attending. Sony is recording FIFA World Cup 2014 events in 4K for presentation later (3 games in their entirety as well as a “movie” through their 4K Ultra HD Media Player which connects to their 4K TVs). Networks will be slow to change their resolution habits — most HD sports presentations are in 720p — but it’s expected that this will change over time. Until then, the 4K Ultra HD TV will still make watching sports better than anything else out there.


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