UHDTV and you

BitDepth#952 for September 02

Samsung’s U9000 UHD series curved television displays on show at the company’s T&T launch at Queen’s Hall on Thursday evening. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.
Samsung’s U9000 UHD series curved television displays on show at the company’s T&T launch at Queen’s Hall on Thursday evening. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

On August 28, Samsung introduced its newest line of curved televisions to Trinidad and Tobago, the U9000 UHD series, available in two sizes, 65 inch and 55 inch.

These are undeniably handsome video display devices, with crisp rendition and brilliant colour.

They aren’t Samsung’s first curved televisions or their first large screen UHDTV devices either. A year ago at IFA in Berlin, the company revealed their first curved televisions and a line of large screen televisions.

The show stealers at that event were the company’s 85 inch and 105 inch UHDTV screens, which ran 4K content designed to make them look not just good, but commanding.

In addition, Samsung has loaded the displays with a range of software tricks that are designed to make the picture look even more impressive.

Enhancements like Auto Depth Enhancer which, according to the company’s press release, ” automatically adjusts the contrast for greater depth perception,” and PurColor™, are designed to make the screens vivid and more lifelike.

In reality, the screen images are hyper-real; a bit too saturated, too sharp and too startling to be mistaken for reality, but that only makes them more clearly suited for the latest cinematic masterpiece from Michael Bay.

Samsung might save us all a bit of trouble by creating three simpler settings for these displays, “Action Movie,” “Nature Special” and “Sports,” because those are the genres that will absolutely sing on these screens.

But customers of UHDTV displays are going to run into another problem long before those enhancements come along, and that’s finding content that’s capable of filling these curvy displays with the pixels they hunger for.

Standard definition TV, better known as “the stuff we’ve been watching for years,” tops out at around 704 pixels per inch on the longest side.

Translating that into something you might be more familiar with, that’s roughly .4 of a megapixel in camera parlance.

DVD’s improve on that negligibly, though the compression applied to the signal is far less aggressive, so picture quality improves.

Blu-Ray at its best bumps that to 1920 pixels, giving us an image equivalent to two megapixels.

That isn’t something to underestimate. Most video is encoded at 30 frames per second, so every minute of Blu-Ray video pushes 124 megapixels worth of data to a high-definition screen.

Now the film industry, which already is struggling to upgrade the typical user from DVDs to Blu-Ray, is being confronted with a format capable of delivering 8 megapixels per frame, with its successor, 8K on the horizon, which delivers 33 megapixels per frame, within shouting distance of IMAX quality.

These are big numbers, particularly when multiplied by the video standard of 30 frames per second and it’s unlikely that a new disc format will emerge in time to capitalise on the demand for UHDTV displays.

Nor are television manufacturers hesitating to push the new technology. They need a selling point to get owners to upgrade, and 3D television turned out to be a humiliating bust.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective and/or religious beliefs, there is an online video market sector that has pounced aggressively on the potential of UHDTV.

The purveyors of naughty movies have been adding 4K options to their downloadable files since the end of last year. Expect mainstream video sites like iTunes and NetFlix to begin gearing up to follow suit soon.

Until then, UHDTV users will have to depend on the upscaling capabilities built into these sets. Samsung introduced its Quadmatic Picture Engine at IFA in 2013, but upscaling from a traditional television signal or a DVD isn’t going to feed these pixel hungry beasts.

And the curved screen? You need to be within 13 feet of the screen for that to make a difference as this video explains, so if that doesn’t make sense for your room setup, you’ll probably be happier with a flatscreen.

UHDTV is still a bleeding edge, content starved technology and the value of curved displays is yet to be tested in the market, but there’s no denying that the screens, particularly with high definition content, are just plain awesome.