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Big Screen 4K: The Challenge vs. The Reward

A few years ago, it was the shift toward high definition. Now 4K is the big ‘it’ in display technology.

Mark Stross
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At Safeco Field in Seattle, we are driving a 1080p x 3840p video screen for the Seattle Mariners, at times dissolving content into content, which effectively plays back two 1080p HD files at once. If we were to run 100 percent uncompressed content across our specially developed server platform running at 4.6 megahertz, we would yield 20 Gigs of data per 60 seconds of content. Those file sizes are not conducive to live events, which feature the presentation and frequent interchanging between copious varied content from live video to animations. 

Related: Safeco Field HD Scoreboard Now Largest in MLB

Despite facing enormous file sizes, which could max out the control room computers, we refused to significantly compress the content. Our solution in Seattle was to use a lossless compression format that down converts from 4.4.4 to 4.2.2 color space. This codec yields a 10 ~ 2 Gig file size for 60 seconds which is a vast improvement in content size. While retaining pixel-for-pixel crispness, this codec minimally reduces color depths while still enabling the Mariners’ display to perform above all broadcast codecs in the U.S. today. 

What’s Coming Next

We are only at the beginning of moving content at these resolutions to display systems of this magnitude. The industry is facing many challenges, including working with third party content providers to develop content at such resolutions, pushing the content to the displays, identifying the control room platforms necessary to maintain and back up file sizes which we have only imagined in the past.

How the different parties work together to develop solutions will determine how quickly large format displays begin featuring 4K and screen operators can begin to monetize the features of the technology. 

Author Mark Stross, Chief Technology Officer, ANC Sports Enterprises will be presenting “Maximize Bigger, Better, Brighter Screens to Increase Engagement” at Digital Signage Expo 2014 4:00-5:00pm on Feb. 12 in Las Vegas. For more information about DSE or to register for this or any other educational seminar or workshop and learn about digital signage, go to


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