Written by Stephen J. Kerr & Sarah Nean Bruce
We wrote this Q&A article for film distributors and producers who may be experiencing a fall-off in revenue from their newest films, documentaries and series (due to lower sales from the foreign markets, lower DVD/Blu-Ray sales, and slow but growing SVOD/VOD revenues).
We believe many film distributors are not taking advantage of a potentially huge new market for their content – 4K / UltraHD.
Stephen J. Kerr (SJK): To deny the onrush of 4K/UHD as the new standard in motion picture, online and television delivery makes about as much sense as denying climate change. You can ignore it all you want, but to your own peril… Both are coming anyway.
SNB: How come 4K is in your forecast?
SJK: For several years now, virtually every major motion picture and most television shows have been shot on film, or on 4K, 6K, and even 8K - digital cameras. Almost every significant post production house around the world has already upgraded their editing equipment and software to the new 4K standard. According to an April 2016 article in Home Media Magazine,
“With television manufacturers incorporating 4K Ultra HD resolution in new units, sales have responded — up 160% in 2015, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting. That percentage accounts for 32 million units sold, or 14% of all TVs sold. Worldwide Ultra HD TV sales are projected to reach 140 million units by 2020, by which time 4K UHD will represent 52% of the market.”
SNB: With so many new 4K Ultra HD televisions, computers and handheld devices being sold, where can consumers access 4K movies and television shows?
SJK: Sony, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, Fox, Disney and Lionsgate all have major 4K initiatives in place. 0The technological problems of encoding, storing, transferring and displaying 4K content have mostly been resolved. Nearly every one of the OTT streaming devices – including Google Chromecast, Apple TV, ROKU Premiere+, Amazon Fire, Dragon Box, and about a dozen others – are “4K Ready.”
In addition, most 4K Ultra HD televisions being delivered by manufacturers today have 4K pre-loaded apps that allow viewers to stream and download movies and other UltraHD programming.
SNB: Can you explain why there isn’t a lot of 4K content available even though there are so many 4K content delivery devices (including new smartphones and game consoles)?
SJK: We estimate that only about 1% of the movies, games and other programs are currently available to consumers in 4K.
While the big movie studios, and a few major independents – like Shout! Factory – are gearing up for this new platform, many of the independent distributors and producers are still lagging behind.
If they continue to do so, they will most likely lose out on this huge emerging market opportunity.
SNB: Why aren’t more of the independent distributors capitalizing on the growing demand for 4K content?
SJK: Other than technology leaders like Dean Devlin at Electric Entertainment, who says that he has been “mastering in 4K for years,” I think most sales agents and distributors have not recognized that 4K is the de facto heir apparent to HD.
More importantly, I think most independent distribution companies do not yet know how to monetize their existing content in 4K / UHD, that is presently in 2K or 1080p / HD. Nor do they know how to make the new crop of 4K films and television shows available to the growing number of 4K-ready platforms.
The home consumer installation of 4K televisions, computer screens, and handheld devices had been relatively small up to 2016, but it has grown rapidly in the past year. Just go to any Best Buy or Costco and watch the stream of 4K Ultra HD devices rolling out the front door. 2014, or 2015, was probably not the time to jump on the 4K bandwagon – but 2016 was, and 2017 is most definitely the year to go 4K.
4K/Ultra HD, is the undisputed darling of the over-the-top (OTT) streaming video community. Amazon Studios is shooting all of its original content in 4K; Netflix is out with their $11.99-per-month 4K streaming package for Ultra HD content. YouTube, UltraFlix, Sony and M-Go, among others, are all trying to fill the 4K void. And where the OTT providers go, the cable companies cannot and will not be far behind.
SNB: How can producers and distributors monetize their newest films, documentaries and serial programs in the emerging 4K/UHD space?
- Step 1: Require all new content be shot, edited, mastered, and delivered in 4K/UHD. Ultra HD content can always be down-converted beautifully into HD (2K or 1080p) for those deliverables.
- Step 2: Reach out to your domestic and foreign broadcast/content delivery partners and ask them what their 4K delivery standards are, and what their protocols are to transfer 4K files.
- Step 3: Re-release, in 4K, films that debuted last year (or even a year or two ago) that were probably shot in 4K.
- Step 4: Scan in or transfer (cross-conversion) 35mm and 65mm film to brilliant 4K. And finally, perhaps up-convert the very best of your older, most popular content, originally shot on 2K/HD digital cameras, to 4K/UHD.
Just like any other release strategy, costs should be weighed against the potential economic benefit. (Older 2K or 1080p content can be up-converted to 4K for about $50.00 per minute.)
SNB: What kind of films and documentaries work best for 4K/UHD?
SJK: It’s true that not all content benefits from 4K viewing. That’s why early adopters are looking for movies with great visual effects - like sci-fi, historical dramas or animation; plus heart-thumping action, or eye-popping landscapes/cityscapes; also creature features.
Visually exciting films/docs, with bold or beautiful imagery, benefit the most in 4K/UltraHD. Romantic comedies, home-town dramas, or contained thrillers may, or may not, benefit from being viewed in 4K.
It’s all about the visceral - ‘theater-like’ - experience.
We recommend distributors do a low-cost 4K conversion test of a select scene to evaluate whether the content would be demonstratively better in 4K/UHD, or not.
SNB: To me, some 4K programming looks too stark, and more like video than cinema. And we have read that 8K televisions are already being tested by the manufacturers! What can you say about this?
SJK: There are “cinema” settings on most of the newer smart televisions that smooth out the image and give viewers a more “movie theater” look and experience. These in-TV adjustments help make images look less like video, and more like 35mm film.
The industry is just catching up to the new 4K / Ultra HD standard. The positive aspect of 4K resolution is that it approximates the clarity and richness of 35mm film that we have come to know and love over the past 100 years.
As to 8K, television manufacturers tell us that format is not in their current plans and is probably be more than a decade away. A move to 8K by the electronics manufacturers would neither benefit the industry, nor the consumer.
SNB: Can you tell us if movie theaters exhibit films and documentaries in 4K as well?
SJK: Unfortunately, not many – yet – and we are trying to change that.
Most movie theater chains have made such a huge investment in Barco® and/or Christie® projection equipment, they are locked in at the aging 2K level.
We know of some independent theaters, and some more progressive theater owners, who have upgraded their projectors to 4K, but none - that we know of - are getting their DCPs (Digital Cinema Prints) yet in 4K, and all are paying Virtual Print Fees for 2K.
This means many of consumers’ home entertainment theaters are now ahead of movie theater chains in display quality, although not in display size.
We are aligned with new technology companies that allow highly-encrypted 2K and 4K films to be transferred directly to secure servers in theaters from an internet connection, but this process is still in the beta testing stage.
Our new 4K/Ultra HD theatrical initiative may be the subject of a future talk and industry article.
Our firm, Bel Âge Médias (B.Â.M.}, continues to align itself with high-end, entertainment technology providers. We are exploring low-cost alternatives for theatrically distributing 2K and 4K films to independent and art house theaters, without having to pay Virtual Print Fees or requiring DCPs. In addition, there are several systems that can up-convert 2K/HD content to gorgeous 4K/UHD for theatrical and/or e-digital distribution.
Talk to us about how to get the best of your movies, documentaries and television programs into 4K and distributed globally.
Bel Âge Médias • Santa Monica, California
Call Us - or Visit Us Online - or Email Us:
+1 310 666-6474
Stephen(@)BelAgeMedias.com • Sarah(@)BelAgeMedias.com
LinkedIn-Stephen J. Kerr – https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenjkerr
LinkedIn Sarah Nean Bruce – https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahneanbruce
1 - Futuresource: 4K UHD TV Sales Skyrocketed 160% in 2015 | Home Media Magazine - 18 Apr, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel – http://www.homemediamagazine.com/high-def/futuresource-4k-uhd-tv-sales-skyrocketed-160-2015-37920
2 - Amazon Launches 4K UHD Streaming Service | Digital Trends - December 9, 2014 By: Ryan Waniata –
3 - 4K: A New Format Unwraps for the Holidays | Home Media Magazine - 31 Oct, 2016, By: Stephanie Prange – http://www.homemediamagazine.com/high-def/4k-new-format-unwraps-holidays-39050
4 - What Is 4K (Ultra HD)? | PCMAG - November 21, 2016, By: Will Greenwald, Jamie Lendino – http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2412174,00.asp
5 - Digital Delivery Dipping Into 4K | Home Media Magazine - 31 Oct, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel –
6 - Roku Revamps Streaming Video Player Line | Home Media Magazine - 26 Sep, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel – http://www.homemediamagazine.com/consumer-electronics/roku-revamps-streaming-video-player-line-38867
7 - Virtual print fees: unfair to indies? | Variety - October 2, 2010 By: Diana Lodderhose –
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