Whenever a new technology is released, reaction falls to essentially three groups: the early adopters who buy and use it right away — typically at a financial premium — before the kinks are discovered and removed; those in the middle who jump on board for the second generation after the price comes down a bit and there are some examples of success; and those who hope the new technology will just go away.
When it comes to 4K, there seem to be an inordinate amount of skeptics who are still either waiting for the price of the displays to decrease and the amount of native 4K content to increase, or just expecting 4K to go the way of 3D essentially to the technological graveyard.
But Steven Brawner, founder and president of Pro Audio GA, isn’t one of the 4K doubters. His company “took the full leap” into the 4K pool in January 2014 and says he doesn’t regret the decision one bit. Most of the installations, he says, have come in boardrooms and what he calls “war rooms” in schools and other vertical markets.
Video walls seem to be the primary application for 4K to this point, Brawner says, although he expects the retail market to be one poised for tremendous growth in 2015.
“The most powerful thing about 4K is clients are used to seeing 1080p and they love that clarity, but when you break apart that video wall, the sub-screens aren’t in 1080p. With a 4K installation, all of the sub-screens are in 1080p, so they’re getting that clarity they want,” says Brawner.
For Brawner and others who are all-in on 4K, installing these ultra high-definition (UHD) displays is about future-proofing and quality. He says he hasn’t run into any clients who have experienced sticker shock, even as 4K displays continue to be among the most expensive pieces of equipment they sell today.
“The clients who are using these products are depending on us to give them the best products for their budgets,” says Brawner. “Educating your client is the key. For the most part, clients don’t know what these things cost and they count on us to tell them. An educated client is really the most powerful tool you can have.”
Scratching the Surface
Crestron is among the manufacturers that’s been sending “a broad range of [4K] products” to the market, ranging from a 10 x 1 switcher with a built-in 4K scaler and a Crestron control system on the touchscreen display to a 128 x 128 switcher in which all inputs and outputs can be 4K.
The company is also now shipping what it calls the world’s first 4K 60Hz scaler and HDBaseT receiver.
Expect more 4K/UHD introductions at this month’s Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) show where, for just one example, AV distribution manufacturer Atlona launched a new series of extenders, switchers and matrixes for the format.
“The expectation when you get to a meeting and plug in your laptop, [is] you’ll see on the screen what you see on your laptop,” says Tom Barnett, Crestron’s director of marketing communications. “Having that scaler in between can convert the image on your laptop up or down, depending on what you need.”
Barnett expects the use and acceptance of 4K to increase as the year goes on. “This is the first time there’s been a convergence between what you see in a movie theater and what you can get for your home theater or boardroom,” he says. “That’s the crux of the matter.”
Barnett points to digital signage and retail markets as those that have been most welcoming to 4K applications but sees emerging markets such as medical imaging (X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans), engineering and visualization. Security is another emerging market where clarity in displays can make a difference, along with “anywhere where there are touchscreens.”