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The Big Picture Story

January 28, 2013

Years ago, I was part of the team that first took TV streams and figured out how to get them to play on a PC.  The first commercail digital video was only 25 years ago, and the first viable digital video was probably about 20.  I can remember the arguments of using analog video or digital video for the first high-definition systems, since the feeling was that over-the-air was the only way the most people would get video.

Fast forward to today, and nearly every signal to the home in a developed country is via a digital box.  The bandwidth of digital delivery has gone up significantly, and the jump to HDTV has been relatively seamless for most people.  So what could be better?  How about higher resolution?

Japanese telly addicts will get to see the 2014 FIFA World Cup in glorious Ultra HD. As a result, they’ll get 4K x 2K broadcast content beamed into their homes two years earlier than expected.

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said the move had been prompted by a desire to stimulate demand for the 3840 × 2160 pixel format, which delivers a picture resolution four times that of a 1080p Full HD image.

The transmissions will initially be made via satellite rather than terrestrial, the Japanese-language Asahi Shimbun reported today. That’s no doubt to give the broadcasts accessible the greatest possible geographical coverage. No doubt the footie will be transmitted by NHK, Japan’s public service broadcaster.
I have to say, this is cool.  When we started doing digital video, most people scoffed that we could ever take a compressed video signal and make it look as good as a TV.  Now we’re saying that the best-defined HDTV signals are pikers comparing to where visual quality could go.  I’m all for the potential here, though I have to admit that I’m typically not on the cutting edge of consumer electronics buying.  My 1080P TV is probably it for quite a while, at least until it dies on me.  I picked a decent quality set, and I know it’ll last.  The people around me with apparently more choice in disposable income, however, will likely eat this stuff up.
So I’m predicting that we’ll have a pretty big arms race for new TV resolutions and delivery mechanisms, which should keep us busy in terms of figuring out how to transmit signals to all the various viewing devices.  Let’s not forget that mobile devices will become an even bigger viewing device even as TVs in the home grow to higher resolutions.  The technology is both exciting and daunting, and I’ll get to be one of the guys that saw it from the very beginning.
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