4K Streaming

As most of you have seen lately, more and more TV’s are now coming with 4K Ultra HD capabilities. Many of the newest high-end TVs can even play 4K content at 60 frames per second. While these new TVs are fantastic and have the ability to offer beautiful pictures at amazing resolutions, there is a lack of 4K content currently.

To put this into perspective, TV manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, LG, and Vizio are in a constant battle to put out new TVs with new features. This is great for the market and for people to buy brand new TVs with tons of features.

The only problem with TV manufacturers pumping out TVs with 4K Ultra HD capabilities is that there is very little 4K content available to watch. So while the TV industry is pushing out TV’s with the latest 4K resolutions, many content providers are scrambling to film video content in this Ultra HD format. But even at this point in 2015, the majority of video content is still filmed in 1080P at 30-60 FPS.

Streaming and 4K Ultra High Definition Video Content

Video streaming and 4K HD content are both in their infancy. While streaming has taken off in the past few years and there is tons of video and music content, there is not very much content on any platform for streaming. Besides a few shows that are being recorded and broadcast on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video there is really no 4K content.

Besides the fact that not many shows and movies are being created using 4K Ultra High Definition, there are a few other things that need to improve before streaming 4K content will be the norm.

Server costs and server bandwidth are two of the major limitations for streaming 4K content. Without video compression a 4K movie file is about four times the size of a 1080P movie file. So to stream one 4K movie is roughly the same as streaming four 1080P movies at the same time. The sheer size of the video files and the bandwidth needed to stream 4K content are two of the biggest hurdles to overcome before streaming 4K content is an everyday thing.

One of the ways developers are using to combat the sheer size of 4K files is called compression. Most file formats use some type of compression to make the files smaller without losing very much of the quality. The latest compression format which was developed specifically for 4K content is H.265. Other variations of the H.265 compression codec are called x265 and HEVC. With any of these video compression codecs you can expect it to cut the size of a 4K video file to about half of its original size, but still twice the size as a 1080P video file. While streaming a file twice as big as a 1080P file is no problem for a good server and someone with a good Internet connection, when you scale that up to thousands and millions of people you run into problems. These problems are mainly on the server end. Servers can only give out a certain amount of data at a time. If you have thousands of people pulling data for 4K video files you run into the same bottlenecks and lots of buffering.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Looks like 4K Streaming is never going to happen.” Don’t fret fellow streamer! Here are few glimmers of hope for you on streaming Ultra HD content to your brand new 4K TV. Here are 4 reasons that 4K Streaming may be closer then you think.

  • Servers are only getting bigger, faster, and more efficient every day. As servers get faster and are able to give out more data efficiently the reality of streaming 4K content gets closer and closer.
  • Video Compression Codecs such as H.265, x265 and HEVC are getting more efficient at compressing these 4K video files. As we stated earlier these codecs are in their infancy stages and are also getting better and more efficient all the time.
  • Internet speeds across the world are getting faster as a whole day by day. A few years ago the fastest internet speed you could get was 30 Mbps download. Now, with Google Fiber and a few other providers you are able to get 1,000 Mbps download speed. Quite a jump in speed in only a few years. As Internet speeds get higher and higher, 4K Streaming will become more of a reality to millions more people.
  • As more and more movies, TV shows, and sporting events are recorded in 4K HD resolution there will more of a demand for it on the streaming side. This will force companies like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video to push for more efficient video compression codecs. Once these codecs are created many services will be able to use them in order to stream these large video files in a much more efficient manner.

We hope this article helped you understand why streaming 4K video content is not commonplace at this time and also helped you see that it could be a reality in the next few years. We fully believe that as streaming becomes more popular the limitations on being able to stream Ultra HD video files will be solved and we will all be watching everything in crystal clear, glorious 4K Ultra HD.

Hopefully my next article will be titled “The 4K Streaming Revolution”


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