Most new TVs above 50 inch, come in Ultra High Definition -- 4 times sharper than HD, but where is the 4K video content to match it? Simple, shoot your own!
By Anand Parthasarathy
June 24 2014: The great Canada-born media guru, Marshall McLuhan, used to say: "If it works, it's obsolete!" Buyers in India who might have invested in a jumbo-sized television set last year -- that is 50 inch or bigger -- will ruefully empathize. They were told that LED TVs with high definition (HD) -- capable of viewing all those Blu-ray DVDs was in the 'in' thing.
Now, all that is history. UHD or Ultra High Definition effectively quadruples the number of pixels or coloured dots in a HD picture of the same size. This is also confusingly referred to as 4K. In the strict sense, UHD is the standard for displays, while 4K is the standard that video producers use to create UHD content. There is a small difference in the actual number of pixels that define UHD and 4K but it is too small to bother about: both are around 8 million pixels, compared to 2 million you get with HD.
So much for the numbers. In reality, there is virtually no content in 4K / UHD out there. Last week at the CommunicAsia show in Singapore, visitors could see an experimental transmission of a football match beamed from London in 4K -- to large screen TVs from Sony, Samsung and LG. These makers will tell you that even with HD content, a UHD display will auto sharpen the image -- but that is like saying, you can upscale flat video into feeling like 3-D.
This situation will change -- fast -- in two ways. One: the ridiculous asking prices for UHD TVs -- upward of Rs 2 lakhs, will fall sharply with demand. Two: With 4K TV transmissions some years away, you will find content providers 'upscaling' all those old movies and TV shows to UHD standards, for a price. Meanwhile there is a way out for UHD TV owners anxious to get their hands on matching content -- Do It Yourself!
I recently got to try out the Sony XPeria Z2 smartphone one of the earliest in India, with the ability to shoot video in full 4K ( 3840 x 2160 pixels). When coupled with its 20.7 megapixel camera, and a suite of cool editing tools -- like "Background defocus", the ability to blur the background like the pros; and "Timeshift" which lets you shoot a one-minute burst at high speed and then select the ones you want to create slow motion effect -- this is the closest I've ever come to a phone which thinks it's a handycam!
Why would I spend another Rs 30,000 or more on a bulky handycam when my phone lets me shoot at higher resolutions than 95% of the handycams out there? And in these monsoon months, it makes sense that the Z2 is waterproof -- in fact they encourage you to shoot while swimming! I'm not saying the Z2 is the only phone today to capture video in 4K. But its combo of features including things like NFC or Near Field Communication, helps you exploit a host of cool accessories including a Rs 5000-value Smart Band for the wrist that they are bundling for free in the asking price of just under Rs 50,000.