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Published on August 30th, 2012 | by John I.

What does Ultra HD mean?

High definition has revolutionized the world of video, and some are wondering what the next step will be. While 1080p televisions are great, what comes next? The answer may be ultra-high definition. Currently only a proposal, the ultra HD standard may come to dominate the video in the future.

Currently, the 1080p video standard is the state-of-the-art standard available to consumers. With a 1920×1080 resolution, these screens make it impossible to see individual pixels on 1080p broadcasts and videos at normal viewing distances. 1080p is sometimes referred to as ultra HD, but this terminology is simply a marketing term to differentiate it from 480p and 720p video; 1080p is a standard HDTV format.

Real ultra HD has a total resolution of 7680×4320 pixels, and it contains over 33 million pixels. Compared to the best HDTV video, ultra HD has over 16 times more pixels. There are additional upgrades; unlike modern HDTV stands, ultra HD also encompasses sound. Modern sound systems commonly paired with HDTV video are generally 5.1 or 6.1 audio. Ultra HD allows up to 22.2 channels of surround sound. With these 24 channels, television and movies will be able to achieve better surround sound than modern movie theaters feature. Furthermore, these audio channels are separated over three vertical layers, which give a degree of vertical freedom unmatched by current surround systems.

NHK Science and Technical Research Laboratories, more commonly known as NHK, developed the ultra HD proposal. Their stated mission was to deliver a level of realism so high that viewers feel as if they are part of the action; improvements would be most noticeable on large televisions, and this may explain why one demonstration screen was approximately 400 inches across. With such large screens, viewers at a typical distance will have 100° of video. By comparison, modern televisions are design to give views 30° of video. This upgrade revolutionizes the experience of watching television, as the extended visual range makes the brain feel as if the screen is reality. Some viewers of this demonstration experienced sensations of vertigo.

This new technology, however, is not practical with current consumer technology. Without compression, the video takes up an enormous amount of space. Thirty minutes of ultra HD video takes over 5.8 terabytes of storage space. A hard drive that could to hold this much information would weight over a half of a ton. The screen used in demonstrations uses a month’s worth of average home electrical power, and an appropriate camera would be estimated at over 100 pounds. Future upgrades will help, but most expect that ultra HD will first make progress with museums and commercial venues before consumer products are even considered.

It is important to realize that ultra HD is still in planning stages; NHK’s earliest estimates project that ultra HD will be in use by 2025, which seems to be a reasonable estimate based on the format’s demands. However, 1080p provides stunning pictures, and many viewers would be unable to tell the difference between modern HD and ultra HD, and few are expecting modern television to be replaced in the near future. Those considering a new television purchase are encouraged to visit the Richer Sounds smart TVs webpage to buy a brand new smart TV.

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