Unravelling 4K: Does Color Trump Resolution?

Video expert Joel Silver explains why 4K is a piece of the puzzle, but not the next-generation standard bearer for high-performance video.

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Joining manufacturers that include Digital Projection (DPI) and Sony in their enthusiasm for laser-based projectors, Silver says these products along with LED solutions will be able to deliver the color gamut capabilities that are a part of the next-generation formats.

“The Ultra HD format will bring us all of that,” he notes. “It will deliver a much better image because dynamic range is more important.”

Quality Begins With Basics

The impending video formats may offer wider color gamuts and more resolution, but just like current industry standards, their respective performance is based on the same fundamentals as current-generation formats.

Both HD and Ultra HD/4K require proper black level and contrast setups before moving onto color and resolution calibrations

“Contrast is the most important parameter,” emphasizes Silver. “If you don’t have good blacks and whites, you won’t have a good image. Some of the great engineering minds from Philips, Dolby, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and Technicolor look closely at contrast.”

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Explaining further, Silver says those in the video industry, including the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), are examining ways to develop “smart” dimming where the content “directs” displays to dim.

“The question is, can they monetize the technology to include it in video displays?” he says. “Contrast remains the single most important feature in evaluating a TV.”

Backing up his statements on contrast ratio, Silver says dealers need to examine the CEA/CEDIA-CEB23-A: Home Theater Video Design specification that was updated back in 2012, which defines criteria for home theater setup and performance. It’s a good place to start when thinking about commercial installations, too.

Silver, who was a part of the expert panel that created the jointly developed the guidelines, points out the 150:1 contrast ratio checker-board pattern in CEB-23-A is unattainable for most systems, including commercial systems.

“What I aspire to when I work with home theater builders is that 150:1 contrast ratio. It is only really possible with a well-engineered room and system,” he says. “If a room has white walls, it doesn’t matter how good the screen and projector are [it won’t perform to the guidelines].”

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Summing up what dealers should concentrate on as the market continues to evolve, Silver is succinct. His advice applies to designing and setting up virtually any type of flat-panel or projection system.

“Contrast is number one, secondly color saturation, and the third thing is color accuracy. The fourth thing is resolution, but it is nowhere as important as the other three items,” Silver emphasizes. “The first thing dealers should do with when presenting to clients is talk about good TVs before getting to 4K.”

“Dealers need to consider performance parameters and ask themselves when evaluating TVs, are the blacks and whites really good? Does the TV’s dynamic range give you the punch you are looking for? Can it deliver the [brightness] spec for theaters [14.4-foot lamberts (fL)]? TVs like Sharp’s Elite put out more than 20fLs. So dealers need to ask the clients if they want a good TV before they talk about 4K … I don’t worry about the market at all. The market speaks for itself, and that is why the $1,000 4K TVs aren’t doing well in the market.”