Vizio “Reference” 4K TV’s will display at native 48 fps

Vizio Reference HFR

Good news from CES 2014:  Vizio’s forthcoming line of 4K TV‘s, dubbed the “Reference Series”, will be the first with the ability to show 48 fps content without 3:2 pulldown or any other type of meddling.

From Vizio’s press release:

For consumers who are passionate about content, the performance of the Reference Series also makes available two unique viewing modes: High Velocity Mode which enables the TV to display an ultra-fast 120 frames per second over HDMI, ideal for fast action video or gaming content, and Pure Cinema Engine for a true film-watching experience. With Pure Cinema Engine, the Reference Series presents films in their native 24 or 48 fps for the most authentic cinematic experience

This is very cool, even despite the strong possibility that 48 fps may not have much longer to live as a common format, since the Avatar sequels will likely be at 60, or perhaps even 72 fps.

As for HFR 4K sources, the only currently available solution as far as I know is RED’s REDRAY Cinema Player, which is listed at $1750 and is capable of 4K 3D at up to 60 fps.

The Blu-Ray Association began working on a 4K spec and associated disc/player technology about three months ago, but there’s no word yet on HFR capability.  They stated earlier this month that they predict consumer 4K blu-ray players and discs by the end of 2014.

Why 8K isn’t the endpoint for resolution

OculusRift1

I’ve been greatly enjoying following the progress of visual fidelity over the past 15 years.  For such a long time TVs were just TVs, and most people never really thought about them changing.  But, of course, ever since 720P/1080i HDTVs hit store showfloors in the late 90s advancements have been happening at a staggering rate.

For a while now it seemed that 8K would be the resolution endpoint for the popular television sizes (mainly due to the fact that NHK and others set 8K as the goal as far back as 2003).  And for tablet sized devices on down it seemed that 8K would be more than sufficient to reach “retina” status.

But when we’re talking about virtual reality, even an 8K-by-8K screen isn’t enough pixel density to create true verisimilitude.

Oculus VR founder and CEO Palmer Lucky recently explained why this is so in an interview with Ars Technica. In short, the reason is thin diagonal lines:

“There is a point where you can no longer distinguish individual pixels, but that does not mean that you cannot distinguish greater detail.  You can still see aliasing on lines on a retina display. You can’t pick out the pixels, but you can still see the aliasing. Let’s say you want to have an image of a piece of hair on the screen. You can’t make it real-size… it would still look jaggy and terrible. There’s a difference between where you can’t see pixels and where you can’t make improvements.”

Since 16K+ resolution would be necessary for perfect VR, it follows that a perfect “life wall” (a screen that doubles as a wall in a room that can display any desired scenery) would need to be made out of thousands of 16K-by16K head-mounted display sized screens tiled together. That’s an obscene amount of K’s.

Luckey also explains why 8K resolution in screens of the small size required for a head-mounted display will be possible 10 years from now:

“To get to the point where you can’t see pixels, I think some of the speculation is you need about 8K per eye in our current field of view [for the Rift],” he said. “And to get to the point where you couldn’t see any more improvements, you’d need several times that. It sounds ridiculous, but HDTVs have been out there for maybe a decade in the consumer space, and now we’re having phones and tablets that are past the resolution of those TVs. So if you go 10 years from now, 8K in a [head-mounted display] does not seem ridiculous at all.”

The article’s top comment calculates that “perfect” VR for someone with 20/10 eyesight would require a display with 108,000 horizontal pixels, or 108K per eye, which is significantly higher than most estimates I’ve read (most calculations fall somewhere between 8K and 32K).

There’s also an in-depth discussion about resolution over at the Oculus VR developer forums.  And, for a slightly more pessimistic take, Valve’s Michael Abrash has a blog entry arguing that 8K screens aren’t just around the corner.

You can read more about some of the various criteria that scientists/engineers have come up with to figure out the limits of the human eye at this page over at 100fps.com.

And it’s always good to get a reminder of how amazing “mere” 8K resolution is (and keep in mind that this video shows an 85-inch screen!):

Here’s some recent HFR Movies coverage of the march towards an 8K world:

• 8K, 60 fps, 3D documentary: To Space And Back

• NHK Shows Off Compact 8K Camera

• Major Transformers 4 sequences will shoot with new 8K+ 3D IMAX cameras

• Japan plans 8K broadcasts in 2016 – 2 years ahead of schedule

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

 

NHK Shows Off Compact 8K Camera

NHK has taken another step towards ultra-crisp 8K resolution, partnering with ASTRODESIGN to create a compact 8K camera head.  Here are its basics specs:

8K CAMERA HEAD
AH-4800

[Image sensor] : 2.5inch 33million pixels single plate CMOS
(SENSOR Developed by NHK Engineering System,Inc.)
[Active resolution] : 7680×4320
[Lens mount] : PL mount
[Output] : 12-channel parallel optical-fiber
[Dimensions] : 125(W) x 125(H) x 150(D)mm
[Weight] : 2kg

NHK has created 8K sensors and displays for its prototype 8K ecosystem.  Although the current ecosystem encodes/decodes 8K content at 60Hz, a 120Hz version, which would allow stereoscopic TV at 60 fps per eye, is under active development and is the target for their forthcoming Super Hi-Vision broadcast standard.

The prominence of 4K TV sets at CES 2013 indicate that the days of 1080P will soon be over.  But 4K won’t be the standard for long, if it becomes a standard at all: NHK and others have been pushing for an 8K+ future for years, with many believing that 4K is merely a stopgap on the road to true “retina” levels of resolution.

I’m always happy to see the fidelity bar raised. Rapidly increasing display/sensor resolution, computing power and signal processing will soon enable graphics that surpass the limits of what the human eye can perceive. And the ultra-high-quality virtual and augmented reality that so many of us want will require this.

HFR and 4K to be discussed at “Dimension 3″ conferences

Dimension3logoHigh frame rates will be a major point of discussion at the upcoming Dimension 3 expo in Paris from June 18-21.

Dimension 3 founder Stephan Faudeux says, “4K technology is enjoying the same buzz that existed around 3D technology three years ago. There is a synergy between 3D and 4K technologies as well as HFR film-making.”

Here are the conferences relating to HFR or 4K:

HFR – a gimmick or a technological advance?
ROOM 2
Wednesday 19 June
From 11:30 to 12:30

Following Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, new films are produced using HFR (high frame-rate), but this is a source of some controversy, and the debate is technical as much as esthetic. Objectively speaking, what are the advantages of HFR? Can this technology become widespread in theaters?

What cameras for what uses, tomorrow and in the future?
ROOM 1
Tuesday 18 June
From 10:00 to 11:00

In terms of innovation, digital cameras constantly improve their resolution, but other technological advances are planned in the short, medium and long term. What will tomorrow’s cameras be like? They will be able to meet new esthetic and technological requirements (HFR, high resolution, 3D), but also allow for more creativity and leeway during postproduction: HDR cameras, integral imaging.

There will also be a few sessions dedicated to 4K / Ultra HD:

4K – filming and workflow
ROOM 2
Tuesday 18 June
From 11:30 to 12:30

4K cameras have been in use for several months now, and early feedback can now be offered in terms of filming, as well as post-production. With the outstanding resolution of 4K and the generalization of digital processes, we can wonder whether film is still relevant as a filming media… still, producing beautiful images requires that one follow a number of criteria dealing with the consistency of 4K workflows.

Ultra HD, soon on a TV near you
ROOM 1
Tuesday 18 June
From 11:30 to 13:00

The progressive standardization of the HEVC codec will enable the broadcast of audio-visual contents in private homes, at a higher resolution than HD.
- What processes are involved in distributing, broadcasting and displaying these images?
- When will UHD displays become widespread enough to launch a new mass consumer market
An overview of the state of UHD, including the first broadcast tests and feedback from manufacturers

Immersion: what to choose between 4K, stereoscopic 3D and 3D audio?
ROOM 2
Tuesday 18 June
From 10:00 to 11:00

The increase in images’ resolution to 4K and beyond allows for the creation of new immersive spaces that can be enhanced by applying 3D technologies to video and audio. This talk will present technologies such as 3D mapping, large format projection, and 3D audio, destined to be used in museums, art installations, industrial applications or cinema theaters.

Check out the conference schedule page for a full list of conferences.

Attendees will also get the chance to experiment with HFR and 4K production and post:

“The Forum’s 2013 edition inaugurates the Big Shoot, a life-size filming set with a unique environment allowing visitors to test new generations of cameras, 3D, 4K, high frame rate filming, DSLR, etc., and view, assemble and analyze the images on a post-production workstation.”

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 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.