4K – What You Need To Know

There’s this “new” technology out there right now called 4K. The resolution itself has actually been out for quite a while, it simply hadn’t made it’s way into the public’s hands until very recently.

In an earlier post we talked a little bit about camera quality, and how while many monitors and DVRs are capable of displaying things like license plates and faces, unless you have cameras capable of capturing those images…. well, you get it.

4K is an interesting creature. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, it has been around a loooong time. You have heard of it before. It wasn’t called 4K then.

In the naming convention 4K uses, your 1080P HDMI TV would actually be called 2K. You may know 4K better as 3840. Just to look smart, 1080P is actually what they call 1920 lines wide x 1080 lines high. 4K is 3840 lines wide by 2160 lines high. If you’ve ever seen an actual made-for-4k TV, they are wide beasts that aren’t all THAT much taller than your standard TV. Proportionally they look alot like a movie screen.

So basically, 4K has twice the display capability of 2K. What does that mean to you?

Nothing. Absolutely squat. Unless you’re buying a TV the size of your house, your eye can’t tell the difference between 1080P an 4K. Yes, you can 100% tell the difference between Low Res, 420 and 1080P. You can perceive the difference in clarity, if not necessarily the range of colors, those TVs are capable of. But that is the limit of 99.999999999% of the human population. Anything over 1080P is basically lost on us.

What 4K DOES do is allow us to display higher quality images on a larger screen without getting the pixelation we have all come to know and… love? But. To get the true full use out of that quality of resolution, you would need a TV about the size of… well… an elephant. Or two. Or you would need to sit within 5 feet of your 65″ television. Which I’m hoping you don’t do. And even then, a 65″ television from 5 feet away won’t be different enough to for you to tell the difference.

Truthfully, most people can’t even tell the difference between 720 and 1080P from more than 7 feet away.

Anyways, I’m getting off track. Point is, 4K technology is not and was never meant for your home entertainment system… unless your home entertainment system is a backyard movie theater. There is only one reason we would need images that have 4x the resolution of the previous generation. More pixels.

One of the last remaining hurdles for residential and commercial security camera systems is the inability to “blow up” or reliably zoom in on an image. Moving objects show up clearer, lighting effects are easier to filter, and you can zoom in 4x as much without your image becoming a muddy mess.

Remember that 1080 high means that your television has 1080 “lines” from the bottom of the screen to the top. A 1080 television has 1920 lines from left to right. Each of those lines intersects, making your TV image up of minuscule squares. So. Your HD, 1080P TV is actually more like 2,073,600 tiny little televisons all displaying a different image at the same time. When you zoom in on a certain portion of those pixels, let’s say a 2x zoom, you are decreasing the number of pixels allowed on the screen at the same time, and thus reducing your resolution. Most 1080P cameras can only zoom in to MAYBE 4x before the image is totally useless, and even then only if the image is a non-moving target. People and license plates? No chance.

The 4K technology, for a surveillance system, makes total sense.

It also makes sense for video editing, video games, digital imaging, and all the other 100s of applications that need to move and manipulate images displayed on a screen. Your cell phone is not capable of displaying 4k, but if it could you could get a small-screen image to show up, blown up, non-pixelated, on a screen a full 32x it’s screen size. Or so.

There are a couple of issues with 4K, however.

A full HD, 1 hr data transmission is approximately 1.4 gigs of data. A full size, uncompressed hour of 1080P video is between 624MB and 3.65 gig. That is a lot of space to consume. You’ll need to be housing the surveillance operating system on a machine with a much larger hard drive for on site storage. Alternatively, you’ll need some pretty powerful upload speeds to have that amount of data, even compressed, hosted off site.

4K 1 hr data is, yes, 17.65 gigs… per hour. Holy moly. Remember that uploading also causes packet loss and compressing costs you some image quality.

Keep if mind that most internet providers in Canada offer some kind of unlimited package for data, so it’s not the amount of information you’re sending that matters. Bogging down your office connection with a data transmission that requires well over your upload limit? Yeah. That’s a problem.

In a nutshell, what this means is that a 4k system, stored locally, will maintain it’s extreme image quality and allow you all kinds of options when reviewing video. Stored through an upload, however, you’re likely only storing somewhere between 420 and 1080p. Not bad, but certainly not ideal. Keeping an onsite storage spot is simply a good idea.

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