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UHD Alliance - TV makers and Hollywood team up for 4K

Seth Barton
5 Jan 2015
Sony S90 curved 4K TV
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4K looks like it's finally getting into gear with the UHD Alliance

When usually competing manufacturers get together to support a new technical standard it looks like a good thing. It's often a waste of everyone's time and money when you get competing standards, such as when VHS famously took on Betamax. The UHD Alliance brings together TV manufacturers such as Samsung, video streamers such as Netflix and big Hollywood movie studios. The idea is to give Ultra HD TV (more commonly known as 4K) a steadying hand, and to hopefully ensure it doesn’t end up like 3D TV.

4K INEVITABLY

Now 4K isn’t ever going to be like 3D thankfully, as technology improves TV resolutions are bound to rise eventually; just as they evolved from most TVs having 1,366x768 resolutions to the 1,920x1,080 sets we almost all have today. Left to its own devices this wouldn’t happen anytime soon though, as there’s little reason to upgrade your TV (at great expense) to a more detailed one when the vast majority of content doesn’t support the new resolution.

This year we’re hoping that the flow of content starts to increase, beyond the smatterings of 4K currently available via Netflix and more recently Amazon Instant Video. The key will be persuading the Hollywood studios that there’s enough appetite to make it worth their while. They’re nervous about security issues around any new format, and a 4K stream or Blu-ray format.

4K Blu-ray player prototype revealed by Panasonic

CONTENT HEROES

Based on the line-up of this high-resolution team of super corporates, they certainly look to have the ability to deliver 4K. Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic and Sharp cover a lot of the TV market. Disney, (Twentieth Century) Fox and Warner Bros. certainly know a lot about making content from movies, sports and TV, but it’s a list short a few big studios. Netflix and DirecTV are the kind of companies who can/could deliver such content, but no Amazon at present. At present there’s no announcement of the involvement of the Blu-ray Disc Association, which is formulating a 4K Blu-ray standard.

Such omissions leave us wondering if this is less an all-powerful group of technology uniting heroes and more of an interest group looking to push Ultra HD/4K in a direction that suits their own needs.

ULTRA OBSTACLES

Either way they’ve got some pretty big obstacles to overcome. Customer lethargy is the first, most people are more than happy with their current Full HD TVs and many households (especially in the UK) don’t want a TV big enough to get the full benefit of the new technology. More practically, streaming 4K requires fast broadband, so average internet speeds will need to improve and there’s bound to be another argument about who’s going to pay for all this extra traffic (ps. in the end it will certainly be you).

So is the UHD Alliance a sensible technological get together of the big players, or a cheerleading group for a technology that very few consumers actually want. Probably a little of both, but it’s good to know that if you do ever fancy buying a 4K TV that the content you watch will be delivered in a format that all the various strata of the entertainment industry have had a hand in.

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