A few months back, the highly publicized pictures of Kim Kardashian where touted to “break the internet”. Well, we all know as bizarre and self-serving as the publicity stunt was, it really broke nothing except some eyeballs. However, 4K video on the other hand, just might.
This April, we attended and exhibited at NAB 2015 in Las Vegas and had a chance to see all of the latest up and coming technologies and trends. 4K video seemed to be everywhere and lots of people were asking about it. We even saw some people promoting 8K products - even before 4K has hit the mainstream!
First off, what is 4K? Also known as Ultra High Definition, UHD for short and defined as resolutions at least 3840 x 2160 in size - this is the minimum, 4K means, More pixels = higher definition & resolution = more bandwidth required for delivery. At an average viewing distance (5 to 8 feet from your TV) broadcast television in 4K is largely undistinguishable from 1080p (regular HD), but that’s not stopping television and equipment manufacturers from leading the charge to make it the new standard.
While traditional broadcasting in 4K is probably a ways off, services like Netflix are already embracing the new technology and are starting to experiment and make 4K content available via streaming. While this is exciting for early adopters and technophiles, what does it mean in terms of internet bandwidth? As many home internet users have already witnessed using services like Comcast’s Xfinity, AT&T’s Universe or Century Link’s Prism, there are certain times of the day when Netflix and similar streaming services get a bit laggy. Most notably, right around prime time when users are home from work and start streaming content. Throwing 4K content into the mix is most likely going exacerbate the lag, making it the next big IT challenge for internet service providers to carry this extra load and mitigate network issues.
The next big challenge is the burden it puts on content creators. Companies that produce television shows are now being encouraged (by the market) and will need to create content in 4K to stay competitive and keep up with the trend. Not only having to maintain the current HD standard, but also maintaining additional content in 4K adds the extra costs and burden of more file storage, the need faster file transfers and tools that support 4K.
As content creators increasingly turn to internet based tools and have distributed remote teams, storage and transfer of 4K files to production, post and ultimately delivery to networks and streaming services will come into play. Many service providers are already adopting strategies to address this growing need to handle 4K content and over the next year, it will be exciting to see what technology providers come up with to handle these new requirements….