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Let's Cut to the Chase
Also commonly known as 4K, Ultra HD TVs offer four times the resolution of 1080p HDTVs (twice as many pixels in each direction, horizontally and vertically). The decreased pixel size of Ultra HD TVs dramatically improves picture clarity. Meanwhile, Ultra HD's deeper, broader color palette makes everything you watch more vibrant and lifelike, giving you a phenomenal viewing experience.
If you're interested in an amazing home theater experience, keep reading to find out what you need to know about Ultra HD.
The Technical Stuff
The technology for Ultra HD had to be developed from scratch. So not only did manufacturers need to build a video device capable of displaying the higher resolution, they also needed cameras that were able to record the content. A camera manufacturer called RED built a camera that can shoot video with the higher bit rate required to capture Ultra HD's finer resolution and broader color gamut. Resolution is made up of tiny picture elements called pixels. The pixel count for Ultra HD is 3840 x 2160, compared to 1080p HD at 1920 x 1080. (The "4K" that Ultra HD is sometimes paired with represents an approximation of the horizontal pixel count.)
How can they fit all those pixels into one screen? Special cameras, like the one developed by RED, are used to record a movie or TV show in Ultra HD. The content is then electronically compressed to allow the large amount of data to be transmitted more efficiently. An advanced processor within the TV receives the compressed data and restores it to its original Ultra HD format for display. Even with lower-resolution signals like 1080p HD, your Ultra HD TV can upconvert the resolution, intelligently filling in the missing pixels to create the Ultra HD experience.
Every Seat is the Best Seat in the House
With Ultra HD, the pixels are so small that you can still experience a seamless picture at a closer viewing distance. For example, you can sit closer to an 84" Ultra HD TV than to a 46" 1080p HDTV. With double the resolution and deeper, richer colors, Ultra HD gives you the ultimate, smooth picture.
What Does OLED Mean?
Ultra HD TVs are already available with LCD and LED displays. Eventually, we'll see OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays with Ultra HD capability as well. The OLED option will arguably provide the best possible picture. OLED technology is lightweight, superthin and gives you crisp, vivid color from wider viewing angles than either LED or LCD displays.
How 3D Works with Ultra HD
Most Ultra HD TVs include support for 3D that looks better than ever. Passive 3D technology is widely used by Ultra HD TV manufacturers because each eye will see a full 1080p image. With a full 1080p picture for each eye, you experience greater detail and less eye fatigue. In addition, passive 3D glasses are lightweight and cost much less than active glasses.
Finding the Right Cables
The primary factors affecting an HDMI cable's ability to provide a picture are the amount of data being sent and the length of the cable. Ultra HD takes up much more bandwidth — four times as much, to be exact. This means the cable needs to handle four times more data, and your picture quality will diminish with the length of your cable. HDMI cables still play a vital role in your Ultra HD home theater, which is why choosing high quality will make a difference.
Industry recommendations provided by AudioQuest and Atlona.
What Does the Future of Ultra HD hold?
The amount of content available now may seem limited, but that will change. The advancement of Ultra HD cameras provides the opportunity to record and edit in Ultra HD. Starting in May, 2013, a select number of Sony Pictures Blu-ray discs optimized for Ultra HDTVs (labeled "Mastered in 4K") will be available, with more to follow later in the year. Even with un-optimized HD content, your Ultra HD TV will be able to upconvert the picture and fill in the remaining pixels to give you a phenomenal experience. And if you have a camera that shoots 8 megapixels or more, you're already recording Ultra HD content.
Because Ultra HD uses more bandwidth, it will take some time for broadcasters to catch up. A few networks around the world are starting the trend, such as a network in Europe called EUTELSAT that is broadcasting via satellite in Ultra HD. And DIRECTV has already trademarked five different Ultra HD channels; 4K, 4KN, 4KNet, 4K Network, and 4KNetwork.
There is so much to look forward to with more and more manufacturers working toward perfecting Ultra HD. It won't be long before you're enjoying Ultra HD in your own home.