F1, Sky success with UHD TV at Singapore…what the heck is that?

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My industry (day job) is always a bit goofy. It’s been that way since its inception and we can’t help it, it’s the moving target and “art” of the industry that continually keeps consumers on their toes in order to perpetuate the growth arc and retain jobs. Fact.

When HD TV became a reality, the industry was fluctuating between 720p, 1080i and 1080p. The “I” meaning “interlaced resolution refresh and the “P” meaning “progressive”. For quite a while there was no standard and products would be sold to meet all three formats. Then, consumer demand defined a leader and 1080p was the winner—all for very good reasons I might add.

While riding the wave of 1080p resolution displays, the industry tried to re-heat the 3D TV trend and then curved screens, again…we were doing that in the early 90’s, and then the natural evolution of a technology decided to simply increase the resolution to 4k.

Just to keep consumers confused, we decided to base 1080p nomenclature on image height but then threw you a curve ball and now refer to Ultra HD as 4k which is nomenclature based on image width. How’s that for keeping things confusing?

4K what?

Ultra HD was put to the test in Singapore as Sky is trying to move toward a full Ultra HD broadcast in 2017. The test, according to reports, was successful and that’s great news. What is 4k? It’s 3840 x 2160 or 2160p if you were using the old width jargon of 1080p. How does that stack up to our 1080p displays? Well, it’s more pixels. If you consider the image of our 1080p HD displays are 1920x1080p and now with the new 4k displays we are seeing 3840x2160p, then we are seeing a lot better resolution.

A 4k or Ultra HD image doubles the number of lines and columns of your display resolution which gives you approximately four times as many pixels as HD 1080p. This means you could cram every single pixel of your 1080p display into one quarter of a Ultra HD display.

It’s all in the pixels

Are pixels important? Short answer is yes because they deliver more information which usually means a sharper image. Now, to be perfectly fair, your local theater is showing true 4k digital movies in a cinema standard but the consumer version of 4k is slightly less resolution. The local theater is showing 4096×2160 and you’ll be looking at 3840×2160. Just didn’t want to nerds out there to send me hate mail because I missed this nugget. Technically it’s not quite true Ultra HD in its purest form.

A lot of the benefit of this new resolution comes down to the display and size of display you have as to whether you will see a huge difference or not. Then there is the technology behind the actual display itself as OLED vs LED LCD is a marked difference in image quality and if you are watching standard HD signals on your 4k display, they may look better than your old display but they are not 4k resolution so you aren’t seeing a big difference.

The challenge for digital display has always been how to create black light. Black should be truly black and that’s tough to do with light, right? So this is the true art of display manufacturer technology in setting standards of brightness and darkness of the pixels and that’s a huge issue.

4k? That’s so 2016!

Before you get too excited that we’ve reached the end of display technology, 8k is already here and again, it doubles the lines of resolution and delivers a pixel count of 32 million and that’s a bunch considering that 4k added nearly 8.3 million more pixels than your current 1080p display has.


The problem with Ultra HD—both 4k and 8k fit in this category—is that there is precious few broadcast sources delivering this level of quality. In my world, we call that a FLOB which stands for Eff’ing lot of bandwidth.

There’s also a real push to enhance current resolutions with better backlight, Quantum Dot systems, HDR, UHD and OLED in order to increase color depth and brightness so it’s not just about resolution but the higher the resolution, the more you have to work with.

In the end, you can have a 4k display but there is very little to watch. F1 and Sky, it seems, are trying to push their content to a higher level of performance and that should be applauded. One thing I will caution you on is the cable you use to connect your box to the display. Make sure you are using an HDMI 2.0 or cable type that handles 4k resolution as well as 60fps which is frames-per-second. That’s very important.

In the end, it is the bandwidth and backbone of F1’s broadcast system that will have to be bullet proof and massive and Tata Communications is working on that with the Singapore Grand Prix as a test. If they envision delivering more content and data such as timing, scoring, multiple camera angles, VR or other features, this will be essential—and it’s a serious FLOB.


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Tom Firth

BT Sport has a ‘UHD’ channel now so Sky has to have one, that happens to show F1. As you say isn’t much content for either yet, or that many people have 4K TV’s and by the time they do, will be 8K, but its the thing at the moment in UK sports broadcasting.. Whatever BT Sports have, Sky Sports can have better, or the other way around. Which is why rights costs are now worth an utter fortune in the UK. If they can’t beat them on rights costs.. its on technology and everything else. Its crazy to be… Read more »


Well Said.

Qarbon Nubia

Thanks Negative Camber for a very enlightening article. It is very well expressed and clear. No idea what sort of hardware is required to drive 8K displays as even PC’s with 4K monitors need fairly high-end graphics cards to play video or games at reasonable Fresh Rates.

Jack Flash (Australia)

Here here… Second that. Side Commentary: One dissappointing thing in this Consumer Audio-Visual Electronics sector to me as a Professional Electrical/Electronic Systems Engineer is that for the longest time, the “standards” and “nomenclature” used in the sector is seemingly driven by the Commercial Manufacturers rather than a independent international standards committee. This is why the definitions of product specification and formats get thrown around into confusing disjoints. Whereas an IEC/ITU or ISO/EN or ANSI standard governed by a committee of impartial Standards Experts would make a clear and consistent defintion of Screen Resolution and align to Intenational Digital TV Broadcast… Read more »

Negative Camber

That’s baked-in differentiation that costs nothing to deliver…differentiation through standards ambiguity and creating nomenclature all your own. :)

Negative Camber

Agreed. To a large part, that’s been the case for quite a while and with the reverse flow of innovation, it really is now.

Paul KieferJr

Two questions:
1. What would be the ultimate in pixel density (for lack of a better term)?
2. Is it really worth the trip for the average “Joe Six-Pack” (guys like me)?

Jack Flash (Australia)

You sport a six pack Paul?
Woah. Who-da thunk?

Max Johnson

If you have a OnePlus phone it can shoot in 4K DCI mode, I don’t know why more phones don’t do this as they’re capable. Secondly, I regret buying my 4K monitor, my laptop can’t output 4K @ 60hz, so I’m pretty much using it at 1440p, or buy a new laptop, which I don’t have a need to. For computer use, I think I’m happy at 1440p, anything bigger than that and you have to use zoom for your desktop, and Windows sucks at scaling. Also my 2014 Samsung have higher resolution and pixel density than the iPhone 7… Read more »

Qarbon Nubia

You nailed it with the 4K monitor. The number of laptops capable is rather few and they are rather expensive. I wonder if going for the retina style monitors would not be a better approach. The Apple iMacs 4K and 5K are not true reflections of the resolutions normally associated.

Paul KieferJr

So, really, 4K/5K is overkill and nobody’s ready for it. Liberty’s not gonna get much of an ROI on UHD at this point.


Way back last century when I was taught the difference between PAL and NTSC, I was also taught that the optimum viewing distance for a 625 line TV was twelve times the screen height. Any closer and you would be able to resolve the individual lines, further away and you wouldn’t get the benefit of the available resolution. While the transmission may have moved from analogue to digital, and the display technology moved from cathode ray tube to assorted flat panels, the acuity of the human eye hasn’t changed. So if we are to have TV screens of ever increasing… Read more »

Negative Camber

The old rule of thumb was twice the distance of the diagonal width of the screen back. Now I see some folks saying much closer with higher res displays and bigger diagonal widths and presumably that’s for a more immersive experience.

The Captain

Reading this made me really appreciate my last gen plasma. Great black levels. Wish I could have gotten a Kuro when they where out. The real problem with 4k implantation is broadcasters are still paying off their 1080p upgrades. They’re not in a rush to spend another chunk of change on 4k equipment before the predicted end of life on their relatively new 1080p stuff. A lot of people on the consumer end don;t realize how much equipment is actually needed for a broadcaster to get from production to air. Monitor, camera and sensor tech is moving much faster than… Read more »

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