Briefing / Global
High-definition is going stratospheric – discover the technology giving your telly some welly.
What a picture
Global — TECHNOLOGY
If you’ve just got used to high-definition television, do keep up. That successful development was followed by 3D (a damp squib), Smart TV (ditto) and now two new innovations. The first is 4K, or Ultra HD, which boasts hugely improved image resolution that’s four times the number of pixels of HD. That measures about 4,000 pixels along the horizontal, hence the 4K name.
The problem with 4K has been a lack of stuff to watch, although in August the UK’s satellite broadcaster, Sky, launched so much 4K content that it hugely increased what’s available. Sky offers films, TV shows and, crucially for sales, live football with almost blades-of-grass detail.
The second innovation is High Dynamic Range (HDR), which manipulates a picture on-screen so that shadows and bright skies can display enormous detail in both simultaneously, something not possible before. It makes for super-accurate colours and dramatic results.
For both 4K and HDR you’ll need the latest TV set; HDR requires a screen with greater brightness levels, for instance. Standout models include the Panasonic DX902, which has a breathtakingly good picture and solid, understated design, and the Samsung SUHD series with exceptional colour fidelity and a curved screen designed to reduce distortion. Think we’re done with innovation? Think again: some manufacturers are already developing 8K, which many experts believe is at the limit of visible difference to the human eye.
TV technology to watch out for:
Backlight Master Drive
This is a Sony speciality: instead of one backlight for the whole TV, Sony’s latest ZD9 screen has literally hundreds, all individually controllable for outstanding contrast and deep-black hues.
Quantum dots are tiny particles that some new TVs use to make screens brighter (for HDR); they offer greater colour saturation and improved colour accuracy.
Organic Light Emitting Diode is a premium technology finding its feet. Each dot on the screen is lit separately, for the most precise and detailed images yet. LG is the pioneer.
4K UHD Blu-ray
There’s so much data in a 4K signal that not everyone’s broadband can carry it (at least 15mbps is needed) but the latest Blu-ray disc players are 4K-compatible. Just when you thought you wouldn’t be littering your living room with disc boxes any more.
The sound that high-end cinema boasts, where jets scream overhead courtesy of roof-mounted speakers, is coming to your home. Dolby Atmos-capable speakers have drivers that point upwards to bounce the sound off the ceiling so you can hear it behind you.
Japan — AUDIO
Developed from Sony’s Sountina speaker system, this LSPX-S1 glass speaker is a portable beauty. Sony’s unique “advanced vertical drive” technology means the glass tube vibrates to produce high-quality sounds through 360 degrees. The cable-free and minimal aluminium body blends in with your study or bedroom and the tube-amplifier-like LED illuminates within the glass, creating a warm ambience. To connect simply pair your smartphone with the speaker to get the Bluetooth started.
London — GAME
Well, we needed a game to tie in with this TV-themed culture section. London’s Laurence King Publishing has left its design books at home and kept its heritage intact with this witty and well-drawn card game. So, name that show: a matchbook from Bada Bing!, a pistol and a duck. Next: a breast (human, female), a scalpel and a waiting-room sofa. Finally: a pack of Lucky Strike, a framed tin of Heinz beans on an easel and a bottle of scotch.
While you ponder, let us fill you in on the artist: Cajsa Holgersson is a Swedish-born, London-based illustrator with an encyclopaedic and tangential knowledge of TV. The card’s backsides are a mini Top Trumps of best scenes, memorable quotes and a sex, violence and profanity counter. Oh, and those answers: The Sopranos, Nip/Tuck and Mad Men. Nerd heaven.
Founder, Thinking Violets
While at UK broadcaster ITV, Blumenfeld oversaw international hits including Come Dine With Me and I’m a Celebrity – and his production company smacked the world around the chops with transsexual dating show There’s Something About Miriam.
What makes a show?
You have to ask yourself if it’s gettable, fresh and relatable – as in, “I wish that was me,” or, “Thank God that’s not me.” And can you say what it is in one line?
How well does TV travel?
Our shows The Chase and Four Weddings travelled very well because they were relatable. Come Dine With Me was surprising: in the UK that show is a Noah’s ark of class, elsewhere less so.
Do you think that the business is being squeezed?
The UK has a basic premise: the broadcaster pays and the producer owns the rights, which is healthy. But shows are squeezed. Shows about stuff – cars, cooking – now have to be about people – on mainstream channels, at least.
What’s the secret?
People want to be able to watch people win and watch people lose.