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project1_2It seems that 4K resolution is becoming the new go-to standard in both image acquisition and exhibition.  Not surprisingly, Sony is leading the charge when it comes to 4K in theatres. 

But what about 4K in the home?  To some that may seem technological overkill.  But for the past two years, a growing number of consumer electronics companies have been showing off prototypes of 4K home displays, usually 80” or bigger, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  And more will be on display next month at the 2013 edition of CES.

To a large degree, it’s a “chicken and the egg” situation as far as consumers are concerned.  The best way for 4K to take off in the home is for consumers to be able to experience a dramatic visual difference between 4K resolution, now officially dubbed Ultra-HD, and the standard 1K resolution offered by Blu-ray technology.  But there is barely any native 4K content being shown in theatres, much less available for home use.  Both Sony’s theatrical 4K projectors and the 4K displays for all the CE manufacturers currently use sophisticated up-scaling technology to artificially increase image resolution to 4K.

But the world is changing.  More and more filmmakers have chosen to use digital cinema cameras like the RED Epic and Arri Alexa with their 5K sensors and bit by bit, we’re seeing native 4K DCP prints show up in theatres.  Last week, Sony took the bull by the horns in terms of the home market in announcing a hard disk-based media server for the home - the 4K Ultra HD Video Player, which will be bundled with Sony’s matching XBR-84X900 84-inch LED LCD TV, allowing consumers to view 4K resolution movies and short-form 4K videos.  This is important news for P3 Update readers because the more widespread 4K is embraced in the home, the more demand there will be for native 4K content.  Sony’s announcement underscores their strong commitment to promoting the 4K format both in cinemas and in the home.

Since 4K content means 16x the number of visual data that you’ll find in 1080p content, the CE industry has yet to come up with an industry standard delivery format for Ultra HD and in all likelihood, new technology that’s backwards compatible, just as they did in developing the Blu-ray format.  By offering a hard drive based media server, Sony gets around this limitation.  According to TWICE magazine, a trade magazine for the consumer electronics industry, the 4K Ultra HD Video Player comes pre-loaded with content, including both full-length Hollywood features and a selection of shorter videos, all in native 4K format.  Currently, the device is the only method consumers can use to play natively produced 4K Ultra HD content on the new high-resolution displays.

Content that comes preloaded on Sony’s Ultra HD media server includes 4K versions of the following 10 full-length feature films:

•        “The Amazing Spiderman”
•        “Total Recall (2012)”
•        “The Karate Kid (2010)”
•        “Salt”
•        “Battle Los Angeles”
•        “The Other Guys”
•        “Bad Teacher”
•        “That’s My Boy”
•        “Taxi Driver”
•        “The Bridge on the River Kwai”

Reportedly, Sony will periodically update the server with new titles, though how often that will happen or pricing, whether on a subscription or per-title basis has yet to be announced.  Filmmakers take note.  If Sony and the other CE manufacturers have their way, within a few years, the Ultra HD format will be the new standard in the home and demand will be high for native 4K content.