In the first part of a three-part article, Ian McMurray looks at some of the factors driving demand for 4K technology.
As exciting as a new technology may be, it really needs the supporting infrastructure to make it successful. 4K resolution is as exciting as any recent new AV technology – but is it, as the Americans say, “ready for prime time”? For sure, there is demand for 4K technology – although exactly why is not always easy to determine.
"In many cases,” notes Brian Davies (pictured), European technology director at AMX, “there is a lack of clear understanding of what 4K really is. In most cases where 4K is requested, it is because the end users believe they will need 4K at some point and want to invest in a solution that will leave their options open in the future.”
His experience is mirrored by that of Keith Watts, technical director at Cabletime. “We are receiving enquiries about this, but most real business is definitely still 1080p-based,” he says. “Most users want to know that our solutions have a roadmap that will provide 4K capabilities for them in the future.”
“Customers have seen what 4K can be,” adds Andy Fliss, director of marketing at TV One, “and it’s hard for them to imagine not using it. Demand for 4K is being driven by its potential rather than a current application.”
That’s not to say, of course, that there are no real live applications that can’t benefit from 4K today.
“As with all new technologies you have sceptics and early adopters,” says Matthew Buck, commercial account manager at Crestron. “The demand is currently coming from companies that work with and require the best quality images – medical imaging, visualisation, oil and gas, security, high-end digital signage. What we are seeing at the moment is a demand for 4K training and a desire from integrators to know that 4K works now. With our Certification Programme and 4K training course, we can provide that knowledge base and reassurance.”
Franck Facon, marketing and communications director at Analog Way, sees similar demand. “4K makes sense in applications in which resolution improvement increases visual comfort and efficiency such as cartography, medicine, CAO and photography,” he believes. For those applications where image detail could be said to be mission critical, Analog Way showed off an addition to its LiveCore series of AV switchers in the shape of the new Ascender 48-4K at InfoComm 2014.
And as Jed Deame, VP of marketing at RGB Spectrum – who also showcased the 4K-capable Galileo Display Processor at InfoComm – points out: 4K isn’t just about delivering a single 4K image. “We are definitely seeing an uptick in the number of customers who require 4K capabilities in the products that they choose in their installations,” he says. “4K-capable solutions are not just for displaying 4K content – they can also display multiple HD signals without downscaling them.”
But Kamran Ahmed, CEO and co-founder of AptoVision, a provider of chipsets for AV signal distribution, is bullish. “Demand for 4K capable solutions has been increasing at a much faster rate than demand for 2K solutions ever did,” he claims. “The rapid decrease in 4K display prices has been one of the main contributors. The speed at which 4K has come to the market has further fuelled the fear of obsolescence, increasing the desire for future-proofing.”
Companies like his will have a significant impact on the uptake of 4K resolution – not least because it is not yet straightforward to deploy in all its glory.