It’s astonishing how quickly technology changes these days. I’m only in my early/mid 30’s and the difference between the home entertainment I had as a child compared to what is out there now is staggering. Some new tech comes and goes very quickly (laserdisc, mini-discs) and some firmly cements itself as the norm in households across the globe (VHS, DVD, HDTV). Whenever we think we’ve reached the pinnacle of technology in a given field, something else is just around the corner though. So, as happy as we all are watching Blu-Rays and Netflix in 1080p High Definition, the entertainment industry thinks we can do better. That ‘better’ is 4K.
I can be quite cynical and old fashioned when it comes to new technology. Some ‘advancements’ smack of corporations just coming up with new ways of getting us to part with our cash and I still watch VHS’ from time to time so I’m hardly keeping ‘ahead of the curve’. However, as pained as I am to witness yet another reason why my huge DVD collection is getting woefully out of date, I can’t deny that the 4K demos I’ve seen look astonishing.
The technology has been in high end cinemas for a few years, but it’s starting to reach homes now. TV’s like the Panasonic TX-L65WT600B are leading the way at the moment, with all the bells and whistles you’d want from a TV. It’s going to cost you a fair amount of money, but if you want quality you’ve got to pay for it.
My only worry with 4K is that it almost looks too real – hyper real if you like. I’m not sure I want all of my films to look pin sharp and ultra clear. There’s something about the smoke and mirrors haze of old fashioned filmmaking that pulls me in and I worry that new technology like this will result in a bland sheen to everything. The Hobbit films for instance were revolutionary in bringing 48fps to cinema screens, but although the added clarity made the CGI look fantastic, it made the live action aspects look like a TV soap opera.
Saying that, I saw the 4K restored version of Lawrence of Arabia on its premiere screening at the Cannes Film Festival and it looked magnificent. I guess when restoring an old film, you’re not reshooting it digitally, you’re just keeping it looking as close to originally intended as possible, so having such a high resolution would help achieve that. I just hope that future films don’t lose the mysterious beauty which can be found in cinema’s past.
It looks like 4K will be the way forward, with more companies adopting the format (Netflix being on board will be a big boost). So many films are already shot at that resolution it’s only natural to stop downgrading the end products. It’ll take a big price drop for it to become the norm in households, but early adopters have always had to fork out extra to get there first.
This handy infographic presents a lot of facts and figures about the format in a clear and digestible way. Give it a look and write your thoughts on 4K in the comments section. Let us know whether or not you think it will be or deserves to be here to stay.