4K resolution

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16:9 resolutions in comparison

4K resolution is the generic term for display devices or content having horizontal resolution on the order of 4,000 pixels.[1] Several 4K resolutions exist in the fields of digital television and digital cinematography. In the movie projection industry, Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) is the dominant 4K standard.

4K has become the common consumer friendly name for ultra high definition television (UHDTV) but technically it is not 4K. Consumer 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160 (at the 16:9, or 1.78:1 aspect ratio) differs from the industry standard of 4096 x 2160 (at the 1.9:1 aspect ratio).[2]

The television industry has adopted UHDTV as its 4K standard. As of 2013, some UHDTV models were available to general consumers for under US$1000.[3][4] However, due to lack of available content, 4K television has yet to achieve mass market appeal. Using horizontal resolution to characterize the technology marks the switch from the previous generation, high definition television, which categorized media according to vertical resolution, such as 720p or 1080p; under that system, the 4K UHDTV is equivalent to 2160p.[5]


The first commercially available 4K camera for cinematographic purposes was the Dalsa Origin, released in 2003.[6] YouTube began supporting 4K for video uploads in 2010.[7] Users could view 4K video by selecting "Original" from the quality settings until December 2013, when the 2160p option appeared in the quality menu. In November 2013, YouTube started to use the VP9 video compression standard, saying that it was more suitable for 4K than High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC); VP9 is being developed by Google, which owns YouTube.[7]

The projection of films at 4K resolution at cinemas began in 2011.[8] Sony was offering 4K projectors as early as 2004.[9] The first 4K home aater projector was released by Sony in 2012.[10]

Sony is one of the leading studios promoting UHDTV content, as of 2013 offering the little over 70 movie and television titles via digital download to the specialized player that stores and decodes the video. The large files (~40GB), distributed through consumer broadband connections, raise concerns about data caps.[11]

In 2014, Netflix began streaming House of Cards and "some nature documentaries" at 4K to compatible televisions with an HEVC decoder. Most 4K televisions sold in 2013 did not natively support HEVC, with most major manufacturers announcing support in 2014.[12] Amazon Studios began shooting air full-length original series and new pilots with 4K resolution in 2014.[13]


Format Resolution Display aspect ratio Pixels
Ultra high definition television 3840 × 2160 1.78:1 (16:9) 8,294,400
Ultra wide television 5120 × 2160 2.37:1 (21:9) 11,059,200
WHXGA 5120 × 3200 1.60:1 (16:10) 16,384,000
DCI 4K (native resolution) 4096 × 2160 1.90:1 (256:135) ~17:9 8,847,360
DCI 4K (CinemaScope cropped) 4096 × 1716 2.39:1 7,028,736
DCI 4K (flat cropped) 3996 × 2160 1.85:1 8,631,360

Ultra HD[edit]

UHD is the resolution of 3840 pixels × 2160 lines (8.3 megapixels, aspect ratio 16:9) and is one of the two resolutions of ultra high definition television targeted towards consumer television, the other being UHD-2 which is 7680 pixels × 4320 lines (33.2 megapixels). UHD has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of the 1080p HDTV format, with four times as many pixels overall.[1][14]

Televisions capable of displaying 4K resolutions are seen by consumer electronics companies as the next trigger for an upgrade cycle due to the lack of consumer interest in 3D television.[15]

Digital cinema[edit]

The Digital Cinema Initiatives consortium established the standard resolution of 4096 pixels × 2160 lines (8.8 megapixels, aspect ratio ~17:9) for 4K film projection. This is the native resolution for DCI-compliant 4K digital projectors and monitors; pixels are cropped from the top or sides depending on the aspect ratio of the content being projected. The DCI 4K standard has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of DCI 2K, with four times as many pixels overall. DCI 4K does not conform to the standard 1080p Full HD aspect ratio (16:9), so it is not the multiple of the 1080p display.

4K digital films may be produced, scanned, or stored in the number of other resolutions depending on what storage aspect ratio is used.[16][17] In the digital film production chain, the resolution of 4096x3112 is often used for acquiring "open gate" or anamorphic input material, the resolution based on the historical resolution of scanned super 35mm film.[18]

Streaming video[edit]

YouTube and Vimeo allow the maximum upload resolution of 4096 × 3072 pixels (12.6 megapixels, aspect ratio 4:3).[19][20][21] High Efficiency Video Coding should allow the streaming of content with the 4K resolution with the bandwidth of between 20 to 30 Mbps.[22]


Sony Handycam FDR-AX1

The main advantage of recording video at the 4K standard is that fine detail is resolved well.[23] This contrasts with 2K resolutions in which fine detail in hair is displayed poorly. If the final video quality is reduced to 2K from the 4K recording more detail is apparent than would have been achieved from the 2K recording.[23] Increased fineness and contrast is an possible with output to DVD and Blu-ray.[24] Some cinematographers choose to record at 4K when using the Super 35 film format to offset any resolution loss which may occur during video processing.[25]

With the Axiom Alpha are is open source hardware available of filming in 4K.[26][27][28]

List of 4K monitors, TVs and projectors[edit]

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]

Official sites of NHK

Template:TV resolution Template:High-definition Template:Video formats

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  3. Joe Cox (27 June 2013). "Seiki launches 39in 4K TV for $699". What Hi-Fi. Haymarket Publishing. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  4. Will Greenwald (28 June 2013). "Seiki SE39UY04". PC Mag. Ziff Davis, LLC. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
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  15. David S. Cohen (1 August 2013). "4K Ultra-HD TV Faces Bandwidth Challenge to Get Into Homes". variety.com. Variety Media. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
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  25. Sawicki, Mark (2007). Filming the Fantastic: A Guide to Visual Effects Cinematography. CRC Press. p. 114. ISBN 1136066624. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  26. "Axiom Alpha". 
  27. "Zynq-based Axiom Alpha open 4K cine camera proto debuts in Vienna hackerspace". 2014-03-20. 
  28. "Axiom Alpha: Die Open-Hardware-Kamera" (in German). 2014-05-22.