For months now, nearly everyone in the digital signage industry (myself included) has been cheering the eagerly anticipated arrival of 4K. To say that our industry is poised for the transition to 4K is an understatement — we are ready, our customers are ready, but is the technology itself ready for mass adoption? The answer is yes, but with a few caveats.
All along I've cautioned that "true 4K" is only achievable under a set of very particular circumstances. More specifically, H.265-encoded 4K content at a pixel resolution of 3840-by-2160 must be output to a display at the full frame rate of 60p.
It's not as easy as you might think to achieve the true 4K workflow described above. In particular, there are a few links in the 4K chain that are proving difficult to navigate at this early stage of 4K's path to mainstream adoption.
First and foremost, you need to find a 4K display with an HDMI 2.0 input. While these displays are readily available in the consumer market (Panasonic and Samsung were among the first to ship consumer 4K displays with HDMI 2.0), commercial displays with HDMI 2.0 are harder to come by. This will likely change in the months ahead as more manufacturers bring HDMI 2.0-enabled 4K displays to market.
H.265 encoding is another challenge. Elemental Technologies offers a robust solution, however it's best suited for commercial broadcast applications. I was excited to learn that Main Concept, a leader in the compression space, is offering a sub-$500 encoding solution that has the potential to become the de facto standard for H.265 encoding for all non-broadcast 4K applications.
To be clear, 4K is here and will gain steady momentum in the months ahead. But as always, I suggest caution as customers, installers and integrators invest in 4K digital signage. Wise, informed choices now help ensure a deployment that’s future-proofed for years to come.