PS4 will offer Sony 4K movie service via 100 GB+ digital movie files

sony-ps4The Verge reports that Sony’s 4K content delivery service will be available via the PS4, citing Sony Electronics President and COO Phil Molyneux, who said “I promise you will not be disappointed” when asked if the 4K service would support his company’s new console.

Sony is apparently aiming for a summer launch for the service, which would offer 4K movies as files of “100 gigabytes and plus” depending on length. Molyneux admits that the large file sizes as well as limited broadband speeds are a hindrance but asserts that Sony has ideas that will mitigate these issues. While not discounting a 4K compatible blu-ray drive (there have been reports that Sony has been working with Panasonic to explore the possiblity of higher capacity blu-ray discs ad players), Sony has indicated that digital distribution of 4K content is the most likely outcome even if downloads initially take many hours or even days to complete.

The primary conclusion I draw from the forthcoming arrival of 4K content (and 8K soon after) is that internet bandwidth (in the United States at least) needs to increase drastically. Google Fiber, which offers a 1 gigabit per second connection (about 100 times faster than the connection most Americans have) would enable 4K delivery in a timely fashion, but the current cable company monopolies are willfully holding back technological progress. I hope Google’s rollout of Fiber continues to be successful and that the cable companies change their anti-consumer outlook.  For evidence of the cable companies’ complete lack of respect for their customers, see Time Warner Cable’s recent statement that they “don’t see the need of delivering [gigabit internet] to consumers.”

By the beginning of the 2020′s 8K content delivered at frame rates of 60 fps or higher (and in 3D) will be the norm.  I can’t wait to walk right up to a huge 8K TV or “life wall” and feel as if I’m gazing into an another reality.  But to get to this point some major changes to the status quo need to happen…the cable companies must adapt, or deservedly perish.

PS4 supports 4K video and photos but not 4K games…may output up to 240 fps

ps4-new-playstation-logo-contact-sheet_croppedDuring a roundtable interview Sony Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida stated that the PS4 will output 4K videos and photos, but not 4K games. Via IGN:

“The PS4 supports 4K output, but only for photos and videos — not games. PS4 games do not work on 4K.”

ArsTechnica interpreted Yoshida’s comments as meaning that 4K resolutions for games wouldn’t become available until the generation after the PlayStation 4. IGN reports that “Yoshida says a single console cannot natively run games in the high-resolution format.”

So there you have it: PS4 may play 4K video from upgraded blu-rays or connected media storage devices, and will be able to display 4K photos, but 4K games are seemingly not in the cards.

The question of whether the PS4 will be capable of outputting games at frame rates higher than 60 fps remains to be answered, although Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter thinks it will be capable of rendering games at up to 240 fps.

Sony PlayStation 4 announcement live blog – PS4 reveal

Only 10 minutes until Sony announces the Playstation 4.  I’m watching the livestream of the Playstation Meeting and will be updating this live blog throughout with all the big news about the PS4, with a special focus on its potential HFR and 4K capabilities.

Will it indeed be called the PS4?  Maybe the PS4k?  Will The Last Guardian make a triumphant return?  What have Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica, Guerilla Games, Sucker Punch, Insomniac, Media Molecule and others been preparing for Sony’s nextgen console?

4 Minutes to go!

Conference has started! (most recent updates on top) (edit: conference is over)

Coming Holiday 2013! Very cool hype video with clips from all the footage we’ve seen. And the presentation is over! No talk about HFR or, more of a surprise, no talk of 4K (which Sony has been pushing harder than anyone).  But there’ll be much more to be announced between now and E3, and I still think PS4 will have some form of 4K support.

Activision Publishing CEO takes stage. Launch window games promised.  More games will be announced in the coming months.  Bungie’s Destiny is officially coming to PS4! Persistent online world. Co-op play. “First shared world shooter.”  PS3 and PS4 version simultaneous launch. Exclusive PlayStation content.

Blizzard Entertainment rep takes stage.  Sony  / Blizzard partnership announced. Diablo 3 announced for PS4 as well as PS3.

Ubisoft’s Yves Guillermot takes stage. Watch Dogs trailer being shown. Looks great.  Very noir. Nice character lighting and clothing physics. Particle effects, puddle reflections, drifting debris. Some screen tearing, but it might just be the live feed.

Square Enix / Final Fantasy brand manager takes stage. Announces new Final Fantasy title for PS4 this year!

Square Enix’ CTO Yoshihisa Hashimoto takes stage. Agni’s Philosophy demo being shown.  Characters especially look amazing.

Talking about 3rd parties now. Yoshinori Ono from Capcom takes stage. Codename : Phantom Rhei engine for PS4. shows trailer/footage from new IP, Deep Down; takes place underground.  Character models, lighting, cave geometry is stunning. New Street Fighter tease at the end featuring Blanka.

Media Molecule developer takes stage. Talking about using the Move controller to sculpt 3D models, avoiding the “Tyranny of the Polygon”.  Collaborative game where players and their friends create worlds and objects. Showing a video of two people controlling dancing sculpted characters with he Move.

Now, a glimpse of the future: David Cage of Quantic Dream takes the stage. Emotion is his goal. Talking about polygon count increases over time: Heavy Rain to Kara to to Beyond, which uses 30,000. Now showing very advanced “old man” human head model using tons polygons and advanced graphical techniques. Extremely impressive; Hollywood quality. “Now we are only limited by our imagination”

Braid creator Jonathan Blow taking stage.  Introducing The Witness, a “game about epiphany”  Exploration and puzzle solving. Open world. 25 hours of gameplay; compact gameplay; timed exclusive. Trailer shows beautiful world with detailed, pastel foliage, incredible lighting and details. Tesselation I believe.

Sucker Punch’s next game being introduced. Now being shown! Infamous: Second Son! Character models look completely real; a huge leap.

Talking about a game called DriveClub.  Some footage shown, not clear if gameplay.  Painstakingly detailed cars, every microscopic detail modeled. Gameplay footage now being shown.

Games! Guerrilla Games showing Killzone: Shadow Fall gameplay.  Absolutely amazing and beautiful graphics and animation; particle effects, textures, fabrics look nextgen and the scope and scale of the city is incredible.  Better than anything i’ve seen, highend PC games included.

Michael Denny (Worldwide Studios) on stage.

Developers speaking (via pre-made video) about collaboration with Sony for PS4. Taking about Sony’s emphasis on Immediacy: No boot times, no download times. “window” into your PS4 games will be available from your smartphone, tablet, etc.

Sony’s Cloud Services will be released in phases; can’t announce everything today.

Sony’s goal: to put PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, etc games on any device.  ”Everything, everywhere.” That’s the vision behind the Playstation Cloud Network.

Remote Play: built into architecture of PS4; PS Vita can play PS4 games! Logn term goal is to make every PS4 title instantly playable on PS Vita. PS4 uses Gaikai to stream games to Vita “client”.

Can schedule set time to broadcast your game via uStream.

Spectating experience: “Share” button on PS4 controller can realtime broadcast your game to your friends. Friends can post comments to your game screen. Your friends can take over control of your game midgame.

Partnered with Facebook and Ustream.

“Fastest Gaming Network in World”; gets to know your preferences; immediately jump into any game on Playstation Store for free.

Dave Perry, co-founder and CEO of Gakai (cloud gaming) takes the stage.

Personalization: system can get to know you. System learns your likes and dislikes, places content they predict you’ll like right in front of you.  Their goal is to  predict the net game you purchase and have that game downloaded and ready to go before you even press the play button.

Real names and profile pictures will be emphasized for online multiplayer, sourced from social networks.

Dedicated, “always-on” video compression and decompression.  Sharing video is possible while playing a game simultaneously.  Can observe other players’ games.

Digital titles playable even as they are being downloaded.

Power saving “Sleep Mode” – gameplay saved in RAM.

Trailer for new game being shown, designed by Cerny, called Knack.

Havok physics demo shown..lots of falling debris cascading over structures.

8 CPU cores, almost 2 teraflops, GDDR5 memory[!] 176 Gb/sec bandwidth which further boosts GPU performance. Modified GPU to be useable as general purpose  computation device.

UE4 demo shown

Dualshock 4 being shown.  Touchpad screen on top. Share button.  Headphone jack.  ”Light bar” to identify players.  Designed in tandem with stereo camera that tracks controller and identifies player depth.

Live demos coming up

Cerny: PS4 is a powerfull, accessible system.  Architecture is like a PC in many ways, but supercharged.  X86 CPU. Highly enhanced PC GPU. Memory: 8 GB of high speed memory[!] . “Massive” local harddrive storage.

Cerny: Spoke to dozens of best developers in world.

Cerny: “for PS4, we wanted nothing to come between platform and joy and play.”

Mark Cerny: “The need to radically customize technology can interfere with game creation.”

Lead PS4 system architect Mark Cerny: “[My] role on [PS4] started about 5 years ago.”

“Experiences [of PS4] will surpass gamers’ wildest expectations.”

It’s officially called Playstation 4

“A glimpse into the future of Play, “the most personalized experience” following their pedigree, “most powerful platform ever.”

“Connectivity between devices has been essential”

(paraphrase) “The living room in no longer the center. The gamer is the focal point for our efforts”

Retrospective highlight reel running: “fighting the war against reality”

RED taking preorders for 4K REDRAY Cinema Player

redray_978x513_01Thanks to JL for giving me the heads up on this 4K media player by RED: The REDRAY 4K Cinema Player. The REDRAY player is capable of high frame rate (HFR) 3D at up to 60 fps per eye.

From RED’s site:

There is nothing like a true 4K 3D experience and REDRAY delivers with playback of 3D media at up to 60 fps per eye in 4K. Whether in a home theater or at the office, REDRAY’s flexible HDMI 1.4 connectors let you leverage the latest 3D and 4K LCD flat panel and projection display technologies.

RED describes REDRAY as “the first 4K Cinema Player to bring ultra high-definition content to your home, business or local theater using internet file based distribution.” It utilizes a 1TB internal drive and “advanced networking and low data rates” which allow for content distribution via FTP transfer or solid-state media.

In addition to providing content for Ultra HD flat panel displays and 4K projectors, REDRAY can also be used for “digital signage applications to drive up to four 1080P displays.”

RED’s site doesn’t specify a release date, saying that it’s “coming soon.”  You can preorder it for $1,450.

The only other 4K content delivery platform I’ve heard about so far is Sony’s server that comes preloaded with 10 4K-mastered titles, offered alongside the Sony Ultra HD TV.  But from what I’ve read it seems like Sony’s server is a closed platform: you can’t freely move files to and from it without someone from Sony doing it for you.  Sony is currently working on a 4K content download service, but whether it will offer non-Sony content remains to be seen.

JL also notes: “3D HFR 4K Projector to follow soon…”  From RED I assume. Once we have such a projector only a few small hurdles remain on the path to 3D HFR 4K content, primarily involving content distribution, digital file security, and date routing (although all of these could feasibly be overcome by operating entirely within RED’s ecosystem).  However it would be quite a sea change for the movie exhibition community to move to RED projection solutions when they currently use Christie, Sony, Barco, or NEC projectors / integrated media blocks.  I’m sure these companies won’t let RED be the only way to get 4K 60 fps 3D content to the screen.

A question for anyone who may know the answer: does HDMI 1.4 actually have the necessary bandwidth to deliver 4K content at 60 frames per second, in 3D? Wikipedia says that 4K at 24 fps in 2D is the maximum that HDMI 1.4 can handle, while RED’s site says that the REDRAY player can indeed deliver 3D content at 4K 60 fps per eye using “flexible HDMI 1.4 connectors.”

Is there anyone out there who can help clarify this?

Sony will unveil PlayStation 4 at February 20th event: might be HFR and 4K-capable

playstation-logoSony just announced a special PlayStation Meeting to be held at 6:00 PM EST on February 20 in NYC. Past PlayStation Meetings have meant new Sony hardware unveils, so it looks extremely likely that this event, to be attended by media and investors, will be the debut of the PS4. Check out the teaser video for the event below:

The debut of the PS4 will be quite significant as far as the world of visual fidelity is concerned. As one of the primary forces behind the Blu-ray standard as well as the first company to offer 4K digital projector solutions back when digital projection was first arriving on the scene (around 2005-ish), it will be interesting to see how the PS4(k?) fits into Sony’s “raise the bar of image quality” MO.  4K support of some kind seems like a pretty safe bet.

05095872-photo-logo-4k.jpgThe Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) in late 2012 established a task force to discuss the feasibility of 4K blu-ray discs.  I could see Sony very much wanting to come out and announce that the PS4 will be the first 4K capable Blu-ray drive, just as the PS3 was a successful trojan horse for getting Blu-ray players into millions of homes worldwide.

And if the PS4 has the optical drive capacity & bandwidth, internals, and HDMI spec necessary to process and output 4K images from disc, it may very likely be capable of handling high frame rate (HFR) or even HFR 3D output of movies from its disc drive as well.

Andy Parsons, President of the BDA, mentions HFR as one of the technologies that his “format extension study task force” will investigate:

The BDA recently decided to form a new task force to study just this sort of possibility. It’s called the format extension study task force, and it will do exactly what its name suggests: to study new technologies such as 4K, high frame rate, color enhancements, etc. Each technology that will be studied needs to be evaluated to determine technical feasibility, market demand, and potential impact on the installed base of Blu-ray players already in the marketplace, projected to be in excess of 50 million in the U.S. alone by the end of 2012.”

05609748-photo-logo-hfr-3d.jpgSo Sony might deliver two bombs on Feb. 20: 1), that the PS4 will be able to play 4K movies from disc or from the HDD, and 2), that the PS4 will support playback of 3D HFR-mastered content at frame rates of up to 60 fps per eye.

What I find unlikely, however, is that the PS4 would be capable of showing 3D (HFR or otherwise) at 4K resolution per eye.  But we shall see: Sony is known for going above and beyond current technical standards in its hardware.

And of course I can’t wait to see next-gen games from the likes of Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica, and Quantic Dream (hopefully QD’s PS4 game will be based on that amazing KARA demo).  This console generation has gone on far too long!  So I’ll have my eyes peeled to this PS4(k) event at 6:00 pm EST on Feb. 20th.

Warner Bros. explains semi-limited HFR 3D release for ‘The Hobbit’

The LA Times has confirmed that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will release in the HFR 3D, 48 fps format in 450 theaters throughout the United States and Canada.  By comparison, most huge blockbuster movies open in around 4,000 cinemas.

Warner Bros. Distribution Chief Dan Fellman explains the reasoning to go semi-limited, showing the 48 fps version in or near most major and mid-sized cities:

“450 is a very manageable number [of theaters] for us to make sure the installations are proper and can be checked before the movie plays,” Fellman said. “If the success is what we think it will be, by the second ‘Hobbit’ we’ll be much wider.”

Via The Hollywood Reporter, Fellman adds that the most important thing for Warner Bros. is to ensure the quality of the 48 fps presentations:

“We want to make sure we do it properly and make sure the public sees it in its best form. We are very committed to this. [High frame rates are] the most important change in exhibition, probably since the introduction of sound.”

It doesn’t surprise me that WB’s initial desire to release the 48 fps version on “tens of thousands” of screens worldwide turned out to be unrealistic.  I don’t think the so-called mixed reaction to the unfinished CinemaCon footage is the reason for the semi-limited release, either:  I think it was simply a matter of getting the software and integrated media block upgrades ready in time, and working out the kinks in the hardware and software.

THR reports that right now equipment manufacturers and exhibitors are working overtime to get equipment ready, tested and installed in preparation for the world’s first HFR 3D movie.  Converting theaters to be HFR 3D ready is a complex process that requires much tweaking and testing.  THR explains some of the specific difficulties that have come up:

More specific items that surfaced during testing were cited by a number of sources: Some configurations could play HFRs but then couldn’t easily switch back to 24fps for projecting other items like trailers. There have also been some issues with how individual technologies worked in combination with other newly developed products. Additionally, theater personnel require training on the new technologies.

One downside to the fewer number of planned HFR theaters is that some companies who have invested in the coming HFR revolution will see lesser initial revenue.  According to MKPE Consulting president Michael Karagosian, “Several manufacturers set aside profitable projects to switch resources to supporting HFRs for Hobbit.”

“We put the money into it,” admitted Gary Johns, senior vp of digital cinema solutions at Sony Electronics. “The opportunity for sales is diminished, though we think we will get there. I’m sure it will be back. We think HFRs is great thing.”

I’m sure the opportunity for earnings will skyrocket once audiences and the filmmaking community lay eyes on 48 fps 3D this December.  Although some of their earnings may be delayed, it will be for the good of the format in the long run to ensure that the viewer experience is flawless and spectacular.

THR also confirmed that most digital camera manufacturers and a “growing number” of post-production services already support HFR.  Paul Chapman, senior vp of technology at Burbank-based postproduction facility Fotokem, acknowledged to THR that his company is working on a HFR project.

Sources also told THR that a number of the studios are planning to make HFR movies, which they expect will be released in 2013 or 2014.  I expect announcements to be made soon after The Hobbit’s release.

4K dubbed ‘Ultra HD’ by the CEA, but Sony sticks with 4K

The Consumer Electronics Association has decided on a name for the successor to 1080P: Ultra High Definition, or Ultra HD.  This refers to an image that is 3840 by 2160, or 4 times the pixel count of 1080P.  This resolution has been commonly referred to as 4K by imaging professionals and enthusiasts , although technically the 4K found in digital cinemas is a bit longer at 4096 by 2160.

Sony, however, is having none if it: they’ve decided to continue referring to 3840 by 2160 as well as 4096 by 2160 content as 4K. Here’s what a Sony spokesperson had to say:

Sony lauds the CEA’s efforts to come up with a common language to describe the next generation high-definition technology.  However, to ensure clarity for consumers and delineate between today’s and tomorrow’s technology, Sony will continue to use the 4K moniker for its products and will market its future products as 4K ultra high-definition (4K UHD).

I think this approach makes sense for Sony, which has put a lot of capital into the 4K designation through the marketing of its 4K projectors and, more recently, 4K cameras.  It would be regressive to do away with the 4K moniker for the vagueness of “Ultra HD.”  After all, what will 8K be called? Super Ultra HD?  You can see the potential for an infinite accumulation of superlatives. Therefore I think it’s likely that other companies will follow Sony’s lead and keep the “4K” alongside the “Ultra HD.”

Sony has a 4K TV (the $25,000 XBR-84X900) coming out in about a month.  Expect many more 4K, or “Ultra High Definition” TVs to be shown at CES 2013.  Likewise, stay tuned for what I foresee to be a minor format war between 4K and 8K, as many enthusiasts and  certain companies (NHK, for example) see 8K as the endgame, and 4K as a stopgap.  Given the existence of 8K TV screens and the inevitability of 8K cameras, I predict we’ll be seeing a push for 8K within the next 4 years.

Sony shows off 84 inch XBR 4K TV that will cost you $25,000!

Sony has spruced up their site with a new section showcasing their bleeding-edge 4k LED 3D TV.  The screen–dubbed the XBR-84X900–is an impressive 84 inches, uses passive 3D glasses, and will set you back $25,000. It’s expected to be available for purchase in December.

By comparison, LG‘s 84 inch 4K TV (dubbed the UD 84LM960) has recently been announced to cost $20,0000, and is scheduled to release this month.  Head on over to LG’s site to sign up to be notified when it arrives in the United States

As we previously reported, Toshiba is also expected to release a 4K TV soon. And then the floodgates will open and economies of scale will start to kick in, reducing prices drastically. But it may take another year or two for a 60+ inch 4K screen to be within the realm of affordability for most people.

And what about higher frame rates?  Well, that will depend on upgrades to the blu-ray and hdmi specs, as well as possible future formats.  Although most TVs refresh at 120, 240, or even higher rates, blu-ray doesn’t currently have the disc capacity and read-speed to store and transmit 1080P images from the disc at 60 fps, let alone a 4K source at 60 fps.  And HDMI will also need an upgrade to handle the massive amount of data required to transfer 4K 3D at 60 fps to the TV.

But rest assured that the tech guys at SMPTE and the consumer electronics companies are all working feverishly create new standards that will deliver to us our much-coveted 48 & 60 fps 4K 3D movies, both at home and in the theater.

Sony planning on selling 84 inch 4K TV this fall

This fall Sony will release the 4K (3840 x 2160 resolution), 84-inch XBR-84X900 TV.  This set may be the first 4K TV to be sold in the United States: Toshiba and LG are also likely to offer 4K TVs in the US this fall.  Toshiba were the first to sell a 55-inch 4K set this past December in Japan for 77,000 yen, or around $8939 US dollars.

Sony’s set will feature passive 3D, enabling 3D viewing with cheap polarized glasses as opposed to the far more expensive shutter-based specs.  It will be priced at around 25,000 Euros, or about $31,000 dollars.

Although 4K content is virtually nonexistent in a format consumable in the home, 4K-enabled blu-ray drives are on their way and Sony’s set will upscale regular content to 4K. This isn’t as good as native 4K, but I’m sure it’ll look amazing nonetheless.

Digital projectors in movie theaters don’t yet have the bandwidth to deliver 3D movies in 4K resolution at 48 frames per second, but I predict that they’ll become available within the next few years.  And 4K 3D at 48/60 fps isn’t even the endgame: NHK has been developing 8K (4 times the pixels of 4K) “Super Hi-Vision” TVs and cameras since 2002. This is retina-display level resolution at any distance but extremely close (just a few inches from the screen) for average sized (40 – 80 inch) sets.  NHK demonstrated a Sharp-built 8K prototype at CES this year: the video below made my jaw drop the first time I saw it:

For a detailed look at NHK’s 8K efforts, check out their informational PDF.

We’re barrelling towards a “retina-everything” and “high frame rate everything” world in regards to display devices.  I predict that within the next 8 years 8K TVs and projectors that can display images in 3D at 60+ frames per second will begin filtering into movie theaters and our homes.  At that point, where is there to go but full-on virtual reality, or perhaps “entertainment spheres” that you sit inside, watching the world of the movie unfold around you?

Good news: Hobbit 48 fps version will be available in “all major markets in North America”

Well that’s a relief.  Only one day after the news that The Hobbit’s 48 fps release would be very limited–perhaps not even going out to all major cities–comes reassurance from Warner Bros president of domestric distribution Dan Fellman (via THR) that the 48 frames per second version will in fact play in “all major markets in North America,” although not in “thousands of theaters.”

Calling the release strategy a “prudent” approach, Fellman goes on to say that WB will follow a similar plan in international markets, and that it will meet with Peter Jackson at the end of the month to nail down the specifics of the 48 fps platform release.  He also confirms that there will be a number of IMAX theaters playing the 3D 48 fps version of the movie.

Furthermore, Fellman defends against allegation that WB is backing away from their support of higher frame rates: “We want to make sure we do it properly and make sure the public sees it in its best form,” Fellman said. “We are very committed to this. [High Frame Rates] is the most important change in exhibition, probably since the introduction of sound.”  This statement goes along with idea that WB wants to “protect the format” by creating an air of rarity and specialness around the 48 fps version, thereby simultaneously adding to the hype and limiting the downside.

I’m glad The Hollywood Reporter did this additional reporting to follow-up Variety’s story. It’s some well-needed clarification and should put the minds of people who thought they would miss out on the 48 fps Hobbit at ease.

Check out The Hollywood Reporter article for more, including projections from Christie and Sony on the number of projectors that will be ready for 48 fps by the end of the year.