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It is live and shining

28 october 2014

In some cases, the best is not the enemy of good, but only a stop on the way to perfection. To this effect, ultra high definition television, about which experts talked so long, began to come true. The new standard Ultra HD, at least four times exceeding by its characteristics HDTV which became usual, has already come to Russia. It exists, «it is live and shining» as the character of the story by Dragunsky used to say.

First experiments with UHDTV began exactly 20 years ago, in 1994. The new standard developed by the Japanese State TV Company NHK and adopted in 2012 by International Telecommunication Union as international, from the very beginning seemed some unrealizable fantasy. Many critics thought then and seem to think even now that this is an excess: one should come to know Full HD first. But no, the obstinate Japanese kept having their own ultra high way, not fearing anything or anybody. The interest in UHDTV in Japan and South Korea is easily understandable, Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, LG Electronics, Samsung... Certainly, producers of TV sets which specialize in wide-screen panels are interested in development of Ultra HD most of all. It is logical that Japan was the first to announce transfer to telecasting in the format of ultrahigh resolution: government plans to engage satellite broadcasting first and then to equip terrestrial stations — for transmission of 4K air signal.

But what is the benefit for Russia? Do we need ultra high definition television at all or is it just PR, games of mind, entertainment for the rich, for those who have several hundreds of thousands Roubles for the TV set supporting Ultra HD? The first thing which should be noted, is that in XX century the Soviet Union, besides Japan, was a trendsetter in the television market. It is with active participation of Soviet specialists, that the first European standard of color television SECAM was developed, it is in the Soviet Union that the first prototypes of high definition television appeared. Unfortunately, all this was somehow forgotten and lost in the fuss of 1990s. And the fact that now we work at the same level with the leading technological powers, is the evidence that Russia regained the status of a big and really talented country.

Secondly: I think that Ultra HD will develop faster than Full HD. One learns by one’s own mistakes. Thee are no such difficulties now which arose at introduction of Full HD, when producers of TV sets could not agree among themselves on using a single marketing code, and TV channels could not decide what HD to consider real: 720p or 1080i. Now producers have agreed on joint use of the trade marker. And «technicians» have created an excellent HEVCH.265 codec which allows to compress a digital 4K stream twice (Full HD — four times).

All conditions have been created for implementation of the 4K revolution: there are necessary technologies, in particular, 4K cameras, which are used by film studios. Yes, TV sets supporting Ultra HD are now quite expensive, however, undoubtedly, further development of the format will result in gradual price-cutting. It was like this with Full HD, and it will be like this with Ultra HD.

But the main condition of Ultra HD growth is the fact that HDTV standard has already been fully mastered by TV operators, including the Russian ones. Tricolor TV, one of the first, began to develop HD TV viewing. By the way, results of one of the last studies J’son and Partners Consulting on the audience of linear HD broadcasting show that there will be 24.5 mio HD households in Russia by 2018. And the only really worthwhile and commercially more interesting offer for such rapidly filled in market is television of already ultra high definition.

Ultra HD already exists, and you can see the pilot 4K TV channel. And this is not a joke, not an optical illusion — it is reality given to us in sensations. The fantasy became a reality, the impossible became possible. Today. Now.

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