There were a lot of things that I would have liked to see at CES 2014 that I didn't see. The absence of a meaningful presence for OLED was a big one, but perhaps just as glaring an absence was the lack of news of a broadcast standard for Ultra HD or 4K. The big video companies showed streaming options like Netflix and touted, for the second year in a row, how streaming is the solution to 4K content woes. Let's be clear, it isn't - unless you've got silly-fast Internet, which most people don't. The compression needed to stream native 4K content over the Internet, even for those of us with fast connections like FiOS or other fiber-optic solutions, makes 4K look, well, less 4K.
However, it turns out that all is not lost in the creation of an Ultra HD broadcast standard, thanks to the ATSC 3.0 standard that's currently in development. The Advanced Television Systems Committee created the set of standards for our current HDTV system, and ATSC 3.0 represents a whole new, not easily backwards-compatible format that will have an increased data rate to get Ultra HD through cable, satellite, and over-the-air applications. The industry insiders who are talking about ATSC 3.0 note a few of its advantages, including first and foremost the fact that it would be a global standard. Gone will be the days of PAL and SECAM, which makes for a more integrated platform across the globe. There are three roll-outs designed for ATSE 3.0 that will deliver increasing levels of performance over the next five to six years, ranging from 4:2:2 and then ultimately 4:4:4 video, as well as 10-bit and possibly 12-bit color somewhere down the road. For the first time in decades, the frame-per-second rate will increase to 100 or 120, which will help with motion issues.
The big video companies are selling Ultra HD on resolution, but that's not really the story. Resolution is nice on large sets, but Ultra HD's potential for better color and improved motion resolution is what enthusiasts should be most excited about. Skeptics say that 1080p is "good enough for most people," which is just what they said about DVD nearly 10 years ago. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now, as we are within 18 to 24 months of being able to resolve colors like a Ferrari Rosa Forte or a deep jungle emerald green that today's HDTV system can only dream of resolving.
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