Don't get me wrong. I love my HDTV. A 50" 1080p display? Yes please! And I love my Blu-ray player, and how beautiful the discs it plays look on my television. But recent announcements have brought news that a new format is on the horizon... Is everybody ready for Ultra HD Blu-ray featuring stunning 4K resolution?
But the real question I take away from this is... do we need this?
Now I am no Luddite. As stated, it isn't like I am still watching some 9" fuzzy black and white screen, relying only on whatever my antenna can receive magically through the air. (Not that that would be much of anything anymore, anyway, since the switch to digital terrestrial television.) I like my new technology.
My question is this: is there actually a noticeable benefit to Ultra HD? Or is it just the technology makers saying, "Hey, all of that expensive stuff you own? Yeah. We need to make more money off you, so here's some all new expensive stuff you'll be needing to replace that which you already have."
Back in the day when I switched from VHS to DVD, there was definitely a noticeable difference. The image was a lot less fuzzy. And no longer was there any danger of the machine eating the tape!
Then came the switch to Blu-ray, and around that time I also finally got myself an HDTV. Again, the difference was, while more subtle, definitely noticeable. One of the first titles I owned on Blu-ray was Blade Runner, which I happened to already have on DVD. (And it was the most recent DVD release, not the earlier one known for being a somewhat shoddy release.) And comparing the two, I saw a difference and I was pleased!
But now... I look at a Blu-ray image on my 50" screen, and it looks perfectly clear. Looking at a movie shot digitally, it looks little different to me than looking at real life. (I specify a digitally shot movie, as obviously something shot on film would include artifacts such as the film grain, and I wouldn't have it any other way.) Is there more to be seen?
Now, why should I be bothered by this? If I am happy with my 1080p television and regular Blu-ray player, it isn't as if the tech companies are going to come to my house and force me at gunpoint to buy the latest equipment! But my concerns are more related to the resulting media format, and the necessity to produce products in multiple different formats.
We're already seeing a large push towards digital distribution. It won't happen overnight, but physical media is on the way out... or at the least, on its way to being a niche market only for enthusiasts.
So what happens when what is already turning into a niche market already suddenly has multiple formats to cater to within that niche? One or the other, if not both, will suffer for it, I am sure. So is it necessary?
To my eye, at least, 1080p on a 50" screen already looks crystal clear. I know there are bigger screens out there, but unless your name is Frank and you have a 2000" TV, do you really need more resolution? Is there an actual advantage? Or is it just the companies that make the TVs and the disc players wanting to tempt us with the newest model, regardless of whether or not there is an actual benefit to us?