The annual International Broadcasting Conference (IBC), held in Amsterdam this month, shifted focus from 3D production equipment and tools to the Ultra HD 4K as defined by the consumer industry. Not an unexpected event, given that the consumer distribution channels for 3D content are evaporating. But a look under the covers reveals that consumer electronics companies have good reason to pursue Ultra HD, if not the obvious one.
Consumer manufacturers are stepping up with large 4K displays for the home, and surprisingly, not from the brands everyone knows. Technology shifts present an opportune time to enter a market, paving the way for heretofore-unknown brands such as Seiki and TCL. Major brands, having just been burned for their ill-conceived attempt to bring 3D to the home, are being a little more cautious with Ultra HD. That’s probably because studios are being cautious, too. At least with 3D, manufacturers could see a pipeline of movie content. But studios aren’t so eager to fund a massive effort to up-convert existing HD content to Ultra HD. An industry research group was recently hired by several studios to conduct a study on consumer demand for Ultra HD.
Manufacturers could be bullish on Ultra HD for other reasons, however. While glasses-based 3D was not successful in the home, auto-stereoscopic 3D is considered the holy grail. Auto-stereoscopic technologies require the simultaneous display of multiple views, and a large number of pixels are needed to do this. A major drawback for auto-stereoscopic displays with HD technology is the limited number of pixels available, resulting in multiple low-resolution views. The development of production lines capable of such displays requires substantial investment, and Ultra HD provides a path to monetize those investments as high pixel count production lines are polished. Those writing off 3D should hedge their bet.