The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Sep/12

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Disappointing 3DTV sales makes 4K the Next Big Thing.

Disappointing 3DTV sales makes 4K the Next Big Thing http://t.co/N0xVEBfk

The problem is that these “big things” are not driven by consumer demand, but by the tool makers who need to keep selling more production gear, and – perhaps more importantly – more consumer equipment to get the hardware turnover faster. Given that the average TV sits in the corner for 10 years or so, something has to be “created” to induce consumers to want to buy the next “big thing”.

I was never enthusiastic about 3D: it certainly can be a creative tool, but most of the 3D I saw was just plain badly done. The dark images, the framing of the screen with the outline of the glasses (something I was always aware of) and that moment “out of the story” at every cut, while you work out where in space you now are, all pushed me in the direction of 3D being a fad. That about 30% of people could not see the effect, or it made them ill, did not help. Even for 3D in the cinema.

3D in the home? For that tiny, tiny percentage of people who dedicate time to just watch TV, who can sit wearing the glasses, it might work. For the majority who might we looking at two screens – one not 3D – or working in the kitchen, etc it wasn’t a good look.

But 3D isn’t going away. For remote viewing of live sports I imagine (not being a sports person) that it could be pretty amazing. I also tend to think that 3D gaming is going to be huge, once we have GPU power to drive two high resolution, high speed screens. Coming soon for sure.

So, if 3D has been the predicted failure in the marketplace, is 4K going to be the next “big thing”? Unlikely. Something like 45% of people with an HD set do not have any HD service or means of getting an HD signal. Even fewer have screens big enough, close enough to benefit from the resolution even of 1080: a 60″ screen at 15-18 ft would be needed. (And I definitely see viewing combinations around this apartment complex that would fit that criteria.)

Right now we have few people enjoying the benefit of the HD we now have. I do not think there’s a consumer push for anything higher resolution. Time will tell. In the meantime, for production there is – perhaps – an argument made for shooting 4K now even if distribution is only HD. If the project is likely to have life beyond 10 years, perhaps that’s wise. I don’t think the majority of corporate, educational and retail production has a life that long and won’t have a need for a long time.

Put more time and effort into the story, not the technology. That would be easy if it were the same people: the push to the next “big thing” comes from the Consumer Electronics equipment side – sell more stuff. The push for better stories comes from the consumer who is constantly thwarted by the lack of imagination in big, slow-moving organizations, who would prefer that no technology ever changed. “Hollywood” constantly fights any and all technology innovations.

I fortel a headline of a couple of years down the track: “Disappointing 4K sales makes the new super-duper-color sets the next big thing”. Or whatever – they’ll probably cycle back to 3D again!

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4 comments

  • AndrewK · September 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I agree that with 3D’s inability, so far, to overcome some hurdles that TV and camera makers are targeting 4K as the next reason to get people to upgrade. It will probably take 5-10 years but I think 4K will replace HD if for no other reason then companies will stop making HD products (just like ceasing production of SD products helped quicken the transition to HD).

    Consumers will buy into the 4K bigger-is-better hype even if they can’t actually tell a difference (just like many did for HD) and if expanding broadband plus more efficient codecs can deliver 4K over IP then there is your delivery method (and possibly still Blu-ray if those 100gig discs actually pan out).

  • Marcus R. Moore · September 18, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    That’s really the defining factor- longevity. Corporate and commercial both have a near-term expiry. So a 1080 finish is absolutely sufficient. I think the BlackMagic Cinema camera is a great compromise in that regard for corporate/commercial production. A healthy 2.5k neg to give you some room, and RAW colorspace for more involved Color Correction. DSLR footage can look great, but if you screw up your exposure you don’t have a lot of latitude to bring things back.

    But if you’re producing anything that you want to have a life in the future, thinking about a 4K future should definitely be on your mind. We’re still reaping better and better presentation results from films shot 50, 60, 70 years ago in 35mm. In the case of movies shot in VistaVision, 70mm, or IMAX… those films will probably survive several more technical generations before we reach the limits of their filmic detail.

    I’m currently planning a feature to shoot later next year, and I’m going to be helping a friend upgrade his epic to the new Dragon sensor. I want that 6.5K digital negative. Even if I post in 4K, it’s good to know that there’s more meat to go back to if I ever needed to remaster down the road.

  • Tim Johnston · September 28, 2012 at 5:01 am

    It’s worth noting this article that describes specifically why a 4K TV for a home consumer is stupid and unnecessary:
    http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-33199_7-57366319-221/why-4k-tvs-are-stupid/

    • AndrewK · September 28, 2012 at 11:35 am

      The article also lays out why 1080p for a home TV is only slightly less stupid and unnecessary but how many people buy 1080p TVs because it says ‘TrueHD’ on the box and 1080 is a bigger number than 720?

      Rationality has never factored in when it comes to keeping up with the Joneses.

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