Is 4K Video Ready For Prime Time?

Marketers and consumers of HD video are being inundated with waves of messaging telling them to trade in their outdated HD video streaming equipment for the latest in 4K Ultra HD (UHD) technology. This newer technology boasts four times the resolution of current HD along with eye-popping clarity and unmatched color richness.

A recent article appearing on CNNMoney, for example, talks about French broadcaster TDF transmitting programming in UHD for its leading video music channel, a decision it made after its successful live 4K broadcast of the French Open tennis tournament in France.

An article in the July/August 2014 issue of Streaming Media magazine, “Educators, Adopt 4K Video Now and Get Ahead of the Curve,” makes the case to educators to be pioneers in video capture by investing in 4K now and getting a head start on this trending video standard.



Adding to the buzz was a recent announcement made by Cisco predicting that by 2018 more than 20% of all worldwide connected flat panel TVs will be 4K. While the promises of 4K technology sound great, there are a couple of good reasons most marketers -- especially those interested in live video/streaming media -- should avoid making 4K investments anytime soon:

1.     4K networks are not readily available. The common consensus is that 4K will demand downstream throughput of around 20 megabits per second – which, despite being realistic within the four walls of many enterprises, is rare for remote workers and businesses located in rural areas. If the last mile isn’t yet ready for the majority of your audience, it doesn’t make good business sense to pay 2x to 4x in 4K display and other hardware costs just to reach a small portion of your target audience.

2.     Mainstream 4K use still too far away. Companies that prefer to be technology pioneers rather than laggards may opt to replace legacy displays with 4K displays in the hopes of avoiding a massive 4K investment all at once in the future. A look at the research, however, suggests it’s still too early to make such a move. The Cisco report mentioned earlier, for example, predicts that UHD traffic will comprise only 11% of IP traffic by 2018, while HD will account for 52% (up from 36% in 2014) and SD will still account for the remaining 37% (down from 64%  in 2014). Although 4K technology is admittedly trending upwards, the reality is that even four years from now, nearly 90% of all IP traffic will still not be 4K. Marketers that purchase 4K displays now will find that these same displays will be close to end of life by the time 4K video streaming/conferencing is ready for prime time.

3 comments about "Is 4K Video Ready For Prime Time?".
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  1. John Willkie from EtherGuide Systems, September 22, 2014 at 3:53 p.m.

    4K-ing A! it's not ready for prime time.

  2. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media, September 22, 2014 at 4:18 p.m.

    Your first sentence says it all:

    "Marketers and consumers of HD video are being inundated with waves of messaging telling them to trade in their outdated HD video streaming equipment for the latest in 4K Ultra HD (UHD) technology. "

    It's all marketing by manufacturers to sell product, nothing more. When they found out they could do that with HDTV they found a new way to sell product when TV sales went flat. Now they are facing flat TV sales again and think they can do it again. They can't.

  3. Dan Euritt from Ocean Street Video, September 24, 2014 at 6:56 p.m.

    4k streaming isn't viable, but 4k acquisition is a good idea, because if it's downsampled to 1080p properly, it can have more resolution that 1080p cameras can deliver.

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