4K resolution

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16:9 resolutions in comparison

4K resolution refers to a display device or content having horizontal resolution on the order of 4,000 pixels.[1] Several 4K resolutions exist in the fields of digital television and digital cinematography. In the movie projection industry, Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) is the dominant 4K standard.

4K has become the common consumer-friendly name for ultra high definition television (UHDTV), although its resolution is only 3840 x 2160 (at a 16:9, or 1.78:1 aspect ratio), which is lower than the 4K industry standard of 4096 x 2160 (at a 19:10 or 1.9:1 aspect ratio).[2]

The use of width to characterize the overall resolution marks a switch from the previous generation, high definition television, which categorized media according to the vertical dimension instead, such as 720p or 1080p. Under the previous convention, a 4K UHDTV would be equivalent to 2160p.[3]

The television industry has adopted UHDTV as its 4K standard. As of 2013, some UHDTV models were available to general consumers for under US$1000.[4][5] As of 2014, due to lack of available content, 4K television has yet to achieve mass market appeal.[citation needed]


The first commercially available 4K camera for cinematographic purposes was the Dalsa Origin, released in 2003.[6] YouTube began supporting 4K for video uploads in 2010.[7] Users could view 4K video by selecting "Original" from the quality settings until December 2013, when the 2160p option appeared in the quality menu.[8] In November 2013, YouTube started to use the VP9 video compression standard, saying that it was more suitable for 4K than High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC); VP9 is being developed by Google, which owns YouTube.[7]

The projection of films at 4K resolution at cinemas began in 2011.[9] Sony was offering 4K projectors as early as 2004.[10] The first 4K home theater projector was released by Sony in 2012.[11]

Sony is one of the leading studios promoting UHDTV content, as of 2013 offering a little over 70 movie and television titles via digital download to a specialized player that stores and decodes the video. The large files (~40GB), distributed through consumer broadband connections, raise concerns about data caps.[12]

In 2014, Netflix began streaming House of Cards, Breaking Bad[13] and "some nature documentaries" at 4K to compatible televisions with an HEVC decoder. Most 4K televisions sold in 2013 did not natively support HEVC, with most major manufacturers announcing support in 2014.[14] Amazon Studios began shooting their full-length original series and new pilots with 4K resolution in 2014.[15]

In early 2014, adult sites started offering 4K video content.[16][17]


FormatResolutionDisplay aspect ratioPixels
Ultra high definition television3840 × 21601.78:1 (16:9)8,294,400
Ultra wide television5120 × 21602.37:1 (21:9)11,059,200
WHXGA5120 × 32001.60:1 (16:10, 8:5)16,384,000
DCI 4K (native resolution)4096 × 21601.90:1 (19:10)8,847,360
DCI 4K (CinemaScope cropped)4096 × 17162.39:17,028,736
DCI 4K (flat cropped)3996 × 21601.85:18,631,360

Ultra HD[edit]

UHD is a resolution of 3840 pixels × 2160 lines (8.3 megapixels, aspect ratio 16:9) and is one of the two resolutions of ultra high definition television targeted towards consumer television, the other being FUHD which is 7680 pixels × 4320 lines (33.2 megapixels). UHD has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of the 1080p HDTV format, with four times as many pixels overall.[1][18]

Televisions capable of displaying 4K resolutions are seen by consumer electronics companies as the next trigger for an upgrade cycle due to a lack of consumer interest in 3D television.[19]

Digital cinema[edit]

The Digital Cinema Initiatives consortium established a standard resolution of 4096 pixels × 2160 lines (8.8 megapixels, aspect ratio ~17:9) for 4K film projection. This is the native resolution for DCI-compliant 4K digital projectors and monitors; pixels are cropped from the top or sides depending on the aspect ratio of the content being projected. The DCI 4K standard has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of DCI 2K, with four times as many pixels overall. DCI 4K does not conform to the standard 1080p Full HD aspect ratio (16:9), so it is not a multiple of the 1080p display.

4K digital films may be produced, scanned, or stored in a number of other resolutions depending on what storage aspect ratio is used.[20][21] In the digital film production chain, a resolution of 4096x3112 is often used for acquiring "open gate" or anamorphic input material, a resolution based on the historical resolution of scanned super 35mm film.[22]

Streaming video[edit]

YouTube and Vimeo allow a maximum upload resolution of 4096 × 3072 pixels (12.6 megapixels, aspect ratio 4:3).[23][24][25] High Efficiency Video Coding should allow the streaming of content with a 4K resolution with a bandwidth of between 20 to 30 Mbps.[26]


Sony Handycam FDR-AX1

The main advantage of recording video at the 4K standard is that fine spatial detail is resolved well.[27] This contrasts with 2K resolutions in which fine detail in hair is displayed poorly.[citation needed] If the final video quality is reduced to 2K from a 4K recording more detail is apparent than would have been achieved from a 2K recording.[27] Increased fineness and contrast is then possible with output to DVD and Blu-ray.[28] Some cinematographers choose to record at 4K when using the Super 35 film format to offset any resolution loss which may occur during video processing.[29]

With the Axiom there is open source hardware available that uses a 4K image sensor.[30][31][32]

List of 4K monitors, TVs and projectors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Ultimate Guide to 4K Ultra HD", Ultra HDTV Magazine, retrieved 2013-10-27 .
  2. ^ Denison, Caleb (15 Jan 2014). "Your 1080p TV is old already: Everything you need to know about Ultra HD 4K". Digital Trends. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Anthony, Sebastian (2014-01-07). "No, TV makers, 4K and UHD are not the same thing". ExtremeTech. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Cox, Joe (27 June 2013). "Seiki launches 39in 4K TV for $699". What Hi-Fi (Haymarket). Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Greenwald, Will (28 June 2013). "Seiki SE39UY04". PC Mag (Ziff Davis). Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Frost, Jacqueline B (2009). Cinematography for Directors: A Guide for Creative Collaboration. Michael Wiese Productions. p. 199. ISBN 1-61593019-1. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Teoh, Vincent (25 December 2013). "YouTube Adds "2160p 4K" Option To Video Quality Settings". HDTVTest. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "Youtube puts in new 2160p 4K option for video-settings". Neo win. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  9. ^ Truong, Alice (August 6, 2013). "4K is already playing at a theater near you, but you probably didn’t even notice". Digital Trends. Designtechnica. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "Sony Unveils New "4k" Digital Cinema Projector" (press release). Projector Central. June 3, 2004. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  11. ^ Quick, Darren (May 31, 2012). "Sony releases world's first 4K home theater projector". Gizmag. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  12. ^ Denison, Caleb (September 4, 2013). "Sony feeds starving 4K early adopters with over 70 titles of 4K movies and TV shows". Digital Trends. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "Breaking Bad is now streaming in 4K on Netflix", Gizmodo .
  14. ^ Katzmaier, David (8 April 2014). "Netflix begins 4K streams". CNET (CBS Interactive). Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  15. ^ Kerr, Dara (17 December 2013). "Amazon Studios to begin shooting original series in 4K". CNET (CBS). Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  16. ^ "Naughty America: 4K porn is coming, trailer released", Pocket lint .
  17. ^ "Payserve Launches 4k Ultra-HD Site, Sindrive", Business (AVN) .
  18. ^ "Ultra High Definition Television: Threshold of a new age". ITU. 2012-05-24. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  19. ^ David S. Cohen (1 August 2013). "4K Ultra-HD TV Faces Bandwidth Challenge to Get Into Homes". variety.com (Variety Media). Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  20. ^ "Resolution Table". Resolution Table. Pixar. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  21. ^ "4K resolution Definition from PC Magazine Encyclopedia". PC Magazine. 1994-12-01. Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  22. ^ James, Jack (2006). Digital Intermediates for Film and Video. Taylor & Francis. p. 125. ISBN 0240807022. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  23. ^ Ramesh Sarukkai (2010-07-09). "What's bigger than 1080p? 4K video comes to YouTube". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  24. ^ "Advanced encoding settings". Google. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "Videos tagged "4k"". Vimeo, LLC. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  26. ^ Ryan Lawler (25 January 2013). "Next-Gen Video Format H.265 Is Approved, Paving The Way For High-Quality Video On Low-Bandwidth Networks". Tech Crunch (AOL). Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  27. ^ a b Wootton, Cliff (2005). A Practical Guide to Video and Audio Compression: From Sprockets and Rasters to Macroblocks. Taylor & Francis. p. 47. ISBN 0-24080630-1. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  28. ^ Braverman, Barry (2013). Video Shooter: Storytelling with HD Cameras. CRC Press. pp. 4–18. ISBN 1-13605885-0. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  29. ^ Sawicki, Mark (2007). Filming the Fantastic: A Guide to Visual Effects Cinematography. CRC Press. p. 114. ISBN 1-13606662-4. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  30. ^ "Axiom Alpha". 
  31. ^ "Zynq-based Axiom Alpha open 4K cine camera proto debuts in Vienna hackerspace". 2014-03-20. 
  32. ^ "Axiom Alpha: Die Open-Hardware-Kamera" [Axiom α: the open hardware camera]. Heise (in German). 2014-05-22. 

External links[edit]


Official sites of NHK[edit]