As I mentioned on the introduction part 1 of this series:
Regardless what A/V gear you buy today it is already obsolete for some functionality or feature, primarily due to HDMI and 4K with HDR, but audio is not as innocent as it seems compared to the former. Consumers know that manufacturers want them to buy again and replace components that are still perfectly functional for the legacy content they already have, but there is not a single component on a home theater that maybe fully compatible with the rapidly changing features and standards that are continuously emerging and most components are not upgradeable.
Most consumers may resist the urge of upgrading, and continue with stereo, Dolby Digital, DTS, HDTV, cable/satellite set-top-box, 5.1 channels (if you have that, many only have a bar or two speakers), but the fact is that the components they use for those purposes are not compatible with new technology and content that are already here, not to mention with what is coming down the line.
The first article of this series was about audio, this article is about video, the following articles will cover connectivity, not-too-distant-future, Internet and Broadcasting, and the Final thoughts.
Streaming and downloading SD, HD, UHD content with various compression algorithms (MPEG-4, HEVC, VP9, etc.) and various levels of image quality affected by the ISP connection is a concept that is generally accepted by consumers primarily due to convenience; more details are covered in the part-5 article regarding Internet and Broadcasting.
UHDTV started over 3 years ago as 4-times the pixel count using the same color space of HDTV (Rec.709), 8-bit color depth (SD and HD consumer quality for years), 4:2:0 chroma subsampling (compressing about 75% of an original 4:4:4 full color source), and 24 frames per second film sources (60fps for video camera sources). In other words, more pixels of the same quality image.
Although the TVs displayed stunning images they were still criticized because, they said, the human eye's acuity had difficulty seeing the benefit of the higher resolution at the distances people typically view TV, which is commonly constrained by room and furniture/decor arrangements rather than 1.5 times the picture height of an UHDTV (3 times for an HDTV).
However, as I have been experiencing from 2012 with my Sony 4K projector on a large screen, seeing or not small pixels should not be the commanding factor to realize better image quality, there was a presentation made by an eye Doctor at a recent SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) in Hollywood California that discussed the innate ability of the brain to subconsciously notice more detail (and quality) on the image than the acuity of the eye may see.
UHDTV is gradually implementing more colors than the Rec. 709 color space of HDTV, with the concept of Wide Color Gamut (WCG), one such is DCI/P3, the color space of Digital Cinema, implemented on several UHDTV 2016 models, another is the even larger Rec.2020 color space, seen on certain laser based projectors, although some tolerances maybe needed so many UHDTVs would be able to meet the Rec.2020 standard.
More detailed contrast between extreme whites and extreme blacks, High Dynamic Range (HDR), is being implemented by four standards, HDR10 Open standard with 10-bit color depth, Dolby Vision proprietary standard with 12-bit color depth, BBC, and Technicolor/Phillips (they joined recently, otherwise there may have been 5 competing HDR standards).
In summary, our present and future 4K video world is a moving train since 2012 when the first 4K displays were introduced, regardless which station you board the train (which year) the scenery will keep changing making first generations of UHDTVs more and more limited in dealing with new growing standards and features that will make them relatively obsolete in short order.
However, consumers have no choice than to accept that the industry "may" find methods of make them perform still in a useful manner when more advanced signals are fed to them.
For example 10-bit HDR content would not be recognized by the (non-2.0a version) HDMI chip that is installed on a non-HDR TV, and it will display within the limitations of the legacy UHDTV, or should I say, will do its best to show something acceptable, whatever than means for your favorite manufacturer of source device/display regarding converting 10-bit/12-bit HDR to an 8-bit image and panel capabilities.
Should we mention at this point that ATSC 3.0, the near future over-the-air broadcast standard that would implement UHDTV, hopefully in 2017, with many other features for over-the-air television consumers, is not compatible with current ATSC 1.0 over-the-air tuners (installed by mandate of the FCC on all televisions as part of the Digital Transition, about 300+ millions of TVs).
So there we go, how do we solve that? Millions of more tuning set-top-boxes, to allow existing technology to still been able to show "some version of the" new video/audio signals, giving consumers, again, the comfortable feeling of permanent obsolesce no matter what they buy or when.
Stay tuned to the next article on this series about connectivity.
Posted by Rodolfo La Maestra, February 15, 2016 7:00 AM
About Rodolfo La Maestra
Rodolfo La Maestra is the Senior Technical Director of UHDTV Magazine and HDTV Magazine and participated in the HDTV vision since the late 1980's. In the late 1990's, he began tracking and reviewing HDTV consumer equipment, and authored the annual HDTV Technology Review report, tutorials, and educative articles for HDTV Magazine, DVDetc and HDTVetc magazines, Veritas et Visus Newsletter, Display Search, and served as technical consultant/editor for the "Reference Guide" and the "HDTV Glossary of Terms" for HDTVetc and HDTV Magazines. In 2004, he began recording a weekly HDTV technology program for MD Cable television, which by 2006 reached the rating of second most viewed.
Rodolfo's background encompasses Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, and Audio and Video Electronics, with over 4,700 hours of professional training, a BS in Computer and Information Systems, and thirty+ professional and post-graduate certifications, some from MIT, American, and George Washington Universities. Rodolfo was also Computer Science professor in five institutions between 1966-1973 in Argentina, regarding IBM, Burroughs, and Honeywell mainframe computers. After 38 years of computer systems career, Rodolfo retired in 2003 as Chief of Systems Development from the Inter-American Development Bank directing sixty+ software-development computer professionals, supporting member countries in north/central/south America.