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Update on 4K UHD Consumer Products

This blog provides a brief update on new 4K Ultra-High Definition (UHD) products.  Some of these were announced this week at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual trade show being held in Las Vegas.

News for 4K UHD Video Sources

Sony representatives announced back in January, at the Consumer Electronics Show, plans for a 4K UHD video distribution service to become available in mid-2013.  Sony has now released information, at the NAB show, indicating that the launch date has slipped a few months.  Sony has also announced information and pricing for the 4K Media Player that will be sold for use with their 4K distribution service.  The $699 model FMP-X1 will be available this summer and will come per-loaded with 10 movies in 4K UHD format.  Once the 4K video distribution services goes online a few months later, owners of the FMP-X1 will be able purchase additional 4K video material (movies, etc.).  Below is a photo of the FMP-X1 followed by an excerpt from the Sony press release:

Sony FMP-X1 4K UHD Media Player

"This summer, consumers of Sony's 4K UHD TVs can purchase the FMP-X1 4K Media Player bundled with 10 feature films and video shorts in true 4K resolution for $699. In the fall of 2013, users of the same 4K Media Player will be given access to a fee-based video distribution service offering a library of 4K titles from Sony Pictures Entertainment and other notable production houses. The feature films included with purchase of the 4K Media Player are Bad Teacher, Battle: Los Angeles, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Karate Kid (2010), Salt, Taxi Driver, That's My Boy, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Other Guys and Total Recall (2012)."

"With a variety of options already available for the home theater, only Sony can bring true 4K content to consumers. Last November, in another first, Sony gave native 4K movies and video to consumers who purchased the XBR-84X900, Sony's first and biggest 4K Ultra HD TV. Making good on its promise to periodically update and add content to the system, Sony recently began delivering new 4K content to 84-inch XBR owners with the home server. Along with a slew of new 4K video shorts, the classic film Lawrence of Arabia has been added to their libraries, which was recently remastered in 4K resolution by Sony Pictures Colorworks. Owners of the first generation video server will be able to exchange that device for the FMP-X1 4K Media Player, once the distribution service launches in the fall."

Also in late February there were some tidbits of news from a Sony official indicating that the upcoming PlayStation 4 (PS4), that is due to be released in the fourth quarter of 2013, will support 4K video output for playback of UHD video, but will not support video games at native 4K resolution.  Although it has not be confirmed by Sony, it is widely assumed that the PS4 will be capable of being used as player for 4K video delivered by the Sony’s 4K distribution service.  The $699 price for the standalone FM-X1 media player, as compared to an expected sub-$400 starting price for the PS4, may be justified since the FM-X1 comes pre-loaded with 10 movies plus several short subjects in 4K resolutions.  Assuming PS4 is capable of serving as a client (media player) on Sony’s 4K distribution service, it is probably a good assumption that it will not come with any pre-loaded 4K UHD movies while the FM-X1’s pre-loaded programming would have a value of several hundred dollars if purchased separately. Red Digital Cinema has an exhibit at the NAB show where they are expected to be displaying their latest digital video cameras (4K, 5K and a new 6K model), for the digital cinema and broadcast industry, along with prototypes of their RedrayTM 4K UHD player (previous seen at CES 2013) and their laser-based 4K video projector (an early engineering model was shown at last year’s NAB show).  Red is expected to provide more information on the availability of these products and perhaps also more information about one (or more) third party supplier for 4K video download service that they have partnered with to supply the programming for the Redray player.

4K UHD Displays

Sony remains the only manufacturer currently shipping a consumer video projector with native 4K resolution (model VPL-VW1000ES reviewed HERE).  Perhaps Red Digital Services will provide more information at the NAB show about their plans for their previously announced, but not yet released, 4K projector. While there is little to report on the availability of consumer 4K UHD projectors, there is some news about lower priced 4K UHD flat panel TVs.  Sony has released pricing and availability information for their planned 55 inch and 65 inch 4K UHD LCD/LED TVs (introduced at CES in January, but with no pricing info).  In their new press release from the NAB show they announced that (the following is extracted from the Sony press release):

"Sony Electronics is announcing prices and availability for its new 4K Ultra High Definition TV sets unveiled at CES in January. The new XBR-55X900A (55-inch) and XBR-65X900A (65-inch) 4K Ultra HD LED TVs will cost $4,999 and $6,999 respectively and are available for order online and at retail beginning April 21, 2013."

While $4,999 is a lot less than the $20,000+ price for the Sony 84 inch 4K UHD LCD/LED that was released a few months ago, this is still beyond the price range for many consumers.  To address that market segment, lesser known consumer electronics manufacturers are in the process of releasing much lower priced 4K UHD models.  The first of these is from Seiki. Seiki has released their first 4K UHD LCD/LED TV, model SE50UY04.  This is a 50 inch LCD UHD TV with LED edge back lighting and with native 3840 x 2160 resolution.  I have recently seen it being offered online for under $1300.  This establishes a new low price point for a true 4K UHD TV. As shown in the information presented in my previous blog (HERE), the viewer would have to sit really close (e.g., ~3 feet) to a 50 inch screen in order to see the full benefits of the 4K resolution and perhaps within 6 feet to even notice any improvement in resolution over an otherwise equivalent 50 inch 1080p display.  4K UHD can really make a noticeable improvement, in terms of visible image detail, when paired with a native 4K video source, but only if viewed from a closer distance than typically used with 1080p displays.  As a result, 4K UHD really makes a lot more sense when large screens are used, such as are typical for a projector-based home theater.  Even so, acceptance of 4K UHD across a broad consumer market will be necessary to ensure the success of the format, including availability of movies and TV programming in 4K UHD format.  Therefore, the availability of smaller and much lower priced 4K UHD displays is a positive sign for the future of the 4K UHD format. __________________________________________________

UPDATE #1 (8 April)

SONY - Alec Shariro (President, PSA Sony Electronics Inc.) stated during the Sony press conference “4K is now a reality for motion picture and episodic TV production and it’s the future of home TV viewing.”  He Also indicated that Sony is producing professional 4K products supporting the entire video path including “camera, workflow technologies and for viewing.”  Some other interesting information and statements by Sony representatives during the Sony press conference at NAB included:

Sony has about 15,000 4K digital cinema projectors installed in theaters worldwide.

Sony Pictures Television is now shooting some American TV shows in 4K as a means of looking forward to a future 4K broadcast TV service.  The first TV show shot by Sony in 4K was a half hour TV series for NBC that began in the fall of 2012.  There have been additional shows for NBC, Showtime and others shot in 4K this year.

The home is the last leg of Sony’s the 4K “lens to living room story.”

Phil Molyneux, president of Sony Electronics talked about Sony 4K UHD TVs.  He introduced the 55 inch and the 65 inch 4K UHD TVs and announced the prices for both models (i.e., $4,999 and $6,999).  He discussed the Sony 4K Media Player and distribution service.  He stated that the 4K media player will be available this summer than later this year the player will be updated to support the 4K distribution service.

NHK - During a panel discussion at the NAB Show, Takayuki Yamashita from the Japanese TV network NHK indicated that NHK intents to begin testing 4K broadcasting in Japan next year, and then in 2016 they plan to begin offering a 4K broadcast service to the public.  Also in 2016, NHK plans to begin testing an 8K UHD broadcast service with the goal of offering the 8K broadcast service to public by 2020. __________________________________________________

UPDATE #2 (9 April)

Ted Schilowitz from Red Digital Cinema said that the Redray 4K media player will ship to Beta customers shortly after the end of the NAB show (i.e., probably meaning within the next couple of weeks) and then after the  beta test cycle they will begin shipping production units to the rest of their customers that have placed on-line orders.  Red was demo'ing the Redray Player using Samsung and Sony 4K UHD flat panel TVs in their exhibit at NAB.   The only programming source announced to date for supplying the Redray player with 4K video content is Odemax and they had a small booth within the Red exhibit.  Their representative was saying they would be going into a test phase within the next couple of weeks and I assume this implies it will be in coordination with the Redray beta testing program.  There was no word from Odemax as to what 4K programming they will be offering (i.e., have they lined up any of the major movie studios in order to offer popular movies?). __________________________________________________

Since the NAB Show is primarily for professional video production and distribution products/services, the above report covers those few products presented at the show that are consumer oriented.

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