Press Release

Baby steps towards the big picture

26 February 2015

We experience the first 4K offerings by Tata Sky
If we were to look at the time passed since 4K resolution was first introduced in the television space, in calendar years, it hasn’t been that far back. But in technology years, it’s been quite a while.
So you can imagine how concerned we were about the fate of 4K televisions, because though the manufacturers had and have been introducing a slew of 4K TVs, there still isn’t much 4K content available. You can get 4K copies of a handful of movies, but what about cable or DTH content – the main reason for a TVs existence?
Luckily, it is catching on in India. Tata Sky is one of the first service provides to offer 4K content in its DTH (Direct-to-Home) package. After watching some ICC World Cup matches in what is currently the highest commercially available resolution, here’s what we think about the service.
What is it?
For getting access to Tata Sky’s 4K services, one would have to buy a new 4K set-top box, which costs ?6,400. Existing users can buy it for ?5,900. This set-top box offers UHD (Ultra-High-Definition) content, which is essentially 3840x2160 pixels, or 8.3 MP. It is coupled with Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound encoding. The same set-top box also provides standard definition and high definition (1920x1080 pixels) services.
At Technophile, we watched the India vs. South Africa match in 4K resolution (Star Sports 4K was the only UHD channel on offer at the time), on a Sony 4K UHD TV. Despite expecting it, we were still smitten by the superior picture quality.
The point of watching anything in that high a resolution is to watch out for details, and we weren’t disappointed. Close-ups of players and fans showed extremely fine details and the colours were bright and vibrant. Another part of the experience was to watch out for the extreme slow-mo sequences, of run-outs or a brilliant bit of fielding.
To get an idea of how stark the difference was, we kept switching between the SD and HD feeds of the same match as well. Watching a match on 4K is so awesome that you wouldn’t even want to look at HD any more. The densely packed pixels, the good contrast ratio, and the slow-motion captures from the high-speed cameras just pamper one’s eyes. There was no pixilation of content or glitches of any kind, except for the occasional transmission blip.
Dearth of content
Keeping picture quality aside, the problem of content still persists. And there are a lot of explanations behind this. To begin with, content makers (channel and movie producers) have just started using 4K cameras.
You’re bound to find 4K copies of only the big budget movies, such as Iron Man, Hobbit or Smurfs, because the production costs can include 4K photography.
So it is understandable that many TV channels and their shows still offer 1080p as the maximum resolution – unless they offer BluRay discs of UHD content separately, after a while and with a ‘Ultra’ price tag.
That being said, we did find Tata Sky showcasing Discovery Channel in 4K on the one UHD showcase channel it offered, when the matches weren’t being rerun. As of now, there’s only one UHD channel on Tata Sky, and there hasn’t been any announcement about further additions or pricing for 4K channels as well. Nonetheless, this is a small beginning to the biggest picture a telly can screen at present.
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