4K: Sony's Bravia Ultra HD TV
4K: Sony's Bravia Ultra HD TV
A view from Karl Woolley

The 4K revolution is closer than you think

4K - the ultra hi-resolution that makes HD look like child's play - is coming to a screen near you soon. Karl Woolley, creative technologist...

4K screens reached critical mass at this year’s CES, Netflix has joined the club by streaming new programming like the second series of House of Cards in 4K and we’re on the verge of a 4K camera phone onslaught.

Sony has just released the Xperia Z2 with a "unique super sharp HD screen and 4K Ultra HD video camera"; and LG, trailblazer of the 4K TV, is very likely to follow suit.

4K lends a whole lot more ‘real estate’ with which to tell a story. Anyone looking at 4K content on the right screen will see lavish – and more emotive – details that would previously have been hidden.

4K has arrived at time when lo-res UGC is breeding at an exponential rate. So cynics may think 4K is a lot of hot air in an age when the majority of content is viewed on YouTube, now the world’s second largest search engine.

It may seem ironic that YouTube – spiritual home of the lo-fi DIY video – is now hosting 4K content (eagle-eyed users will have noticed a cog in the lower right hand corner that enables preferred viewing resolution), but this is indicative of 4K’s imminent broad reach.

For anyone still not convinced that the 4K revolution is around the corner, another persuasive consideration comes in the form its affordable cost.

4K will be upon us faster than HD

Although 4K’s poor relation, HD, took years to penetrate the market, 4K uptake will be swift.

Five years ago, when HD was launched as a consumer product, it was priced so prohibitively that replacing an existing TV set with an HD TV was a big deal. But 4K is now becoming incredibly accessible. Android’s 4K 49" TV, for example, comes with full interactive features and retails at a mere $640.

Mark my words, 4K TVs will be the big purchase of Xmas 2014.

But what does this mean for the marketing industry?

The most obvious answer is richer storytelling potential. Filmmakers already agree that 4K finally offers the right level of picture quality with which to show their movies. And the same applies to branded content.

In short, 4K lends a whole lot more ‘real estate’ with which to tell a story. Anyone looking at 4K content on the right screen will see lavish – and more emotive – details that would previously have been hidden. Sony Bravia’s sumptuous petal volcano provides an excellent case in point.

The real 4K pay-off, however, will come into play when used in immersive marketing experiences. Thanks to the extensive column inches generated by the Facebook Oculus megadeal, the industry is in thrall to VR (virtual reality). As VR technology mirrors 4K’s trajectory by becoming increasingly accessible yet sophisticated, we are likely to see a lot more emphasis on immersive marketing campaigns.

Virtual reality becomes hyper-realistic

And when 4K meets VR, magic can happen. This is because – thanks to 4K’s increased resolution – authenticity makes a quantum leap.  VR experiences that combine 4K will no longer feel like being inside a video game.

Instead, they will feel like reality itself… which has long been the holy grail. In fact, we’re not far off achieving this holy grail, as proven by the awesome authenticity of VR projects like Felix and Paul’s ‘Strangers – A Moment with Patrick Watson’.

4K devices are developing at an incredible rate. Just 18-months ago, we created the Bond title sequence for Skyfall. Full of intricate detail, the sequence was created at 2.8K… a resolution so advanced for its time that we didn’t even have a monitor, outside of a cinema screen, that we could view it on. Less than two years later, Joes Bloggs is able to buy a 4K phone.

The pace of innovation is almost shocking and marketers need to keep up. We can use 4K’s unparalleled resolution to make things look and feel better, more immersive and more authentic. This, in turn, creates deeper and more powerful touchpoints between brand and consumer… another holy grail ticked off the list.