The Integration Guide to 4K Video

July 15, 2015

Epson’s Pro Cinema LS10000 combines 3LCD Reflective laser projection and a Cinema Laser Light Engine as well as a range of features that include 1,500 lumens of both color and white brightness along with proprietary innovations like its 4K Enhancement Technology.
This Integration Guide was sponsored by Atlona, Hall Research, and JVC Professional as a supplement to Residential Systems, July 2015

In April 2015 more than three million 4K LCD TV panels were shipped worldwide, exceeding past monthly shipment numbers and comprising 14 percent of all LCD TV panel shipments for April, according to IHS Inc., a global tracking firm, who also notes that of all TV panels forecast to ship in 2016, one in five is forecast to be a 4K TV panel due in large part “to the trend toward higher resolution panels in the high-end TV segment and improved production efficiency of panel makers.”

UltraHD, more commonly referred to as 4K, has been on a gradual home entertainment integration course for a couple of years, with 2015 pivoting the resolution closer to ubiquity. Challenges remain, however, especially in the custom integration segment where the interplay of electronic components is often met with cable, transmission, and compatibility obstacles when it comes to distributing high-resolution content.

“From the point of view of distribution of 4K content, signal integrity is a major issue,” noted Sandra Welfeld, HDBaseT’s communications manager. “Because of the high bandwidth requirements, increased distances and noise interference can critically damage signal quality to the point of no actual signal transmission. In a setup where the infrastructure does not support the increased bandwidth necessary to transmit 4K, image jitter will significantly degrade the system, until signal loss is too significant to produce any image at all. Jitter is caused by the corruption of signal or because of electromagnetic interference, and it will only get worse as the distance the signal travels increase.”

The relatively new HDCP 2.2 standard hasn’t helped matters either. Much ink has been spilled on how this version of High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, created to deter media piracy, has wreaked havoc on the interplay of 4K components, meaning that older TVs operating with HDCP 2.1 might not be able to transmit signals from newer devices like the much touted Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

“I believe the main challenge is for our custom integration 4K VIDEO THE INTEGRATION GUIDE TO SPONSORED BY A SUPPLEMENT TO MAGAZINE Epson’s Pro Cinema LS10000 combines 3LCD Reflective laser projection and a Cinema Laser Light Engine as well as a range of features that include 1,500 lumens of both color and white brightness along with proprietary innovations like its 4K Enhancement Technology. [A3] 4K VIDEO channel to be properly informed on all the standards and formats to properly advise their customers when designing their solutions,” said Tim Sinnaeve, market director of general projection for Barco. “This includes HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 and the new Ultra HD Blu-ray standard. Even though the final specifications have now been released, there is still confusion in the market around exact requirements, and new features like the digital bridge included in this new standard are not yet fully understood by custom integrators and consumers. And with all of this, let’s not forget image quality is not just about resolution. Color accuracy, uniformity, brightness, and contrast are at least as important, and everything needs to be in balance to experience content as the creator intended it.”

Christie Digital currently offers three projector platforms—Boxer, CP 4220, and D4K2560—that provide for 4K native resolution, as well as two 84-inch flat panels.
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Of primary concern for custom integrators is the accurate and clean distribution of high-quality HD audio and video content in their projects, of course. The HDBaseT Alliance, which was founded in 2010 to promote the use of a single LAN cable to distribution uncompressed HD multimedia content and that now has more 145 members, believes that this is the way to go to avoid problems inherent in long cable runs. The Alliance’s 5Play technology offers a feature set that fulfills that goal.

“HDBaseT is a simple technology that enables not only the distribution of 4K video, but also audio, controls, Ethernet, USB, and power, over one simple cable over long distances—328ft./100m over LAN cable and hundreds of meters over fiber,” Welfeld said. “The long distances, the simple, only cable, and the convergence of features being distributed are major differentiators for HDBaseT, including when handling 4K content.”

Integrators might also take note of Marshall Electronics’ recently introduced TITAN V-SG4K-HDI test signal generator, which offers the ability to fully test the signal path and resolutions of your projects.

“It is a perfect product for home theater integrators to use while installing systems,” said Devan Cress, director of sales, broadcast AV division, Marshall Electronics. “The most important difference is that it allows HDCP testing, and the ability to turn on and off HDCP, read EDID, and produce 4K resolutions.”

Matrices and switchers have always been dependable tools for integrators to use in video distribution, and with the signal challenges already encountered with the delivery of 4K content, manufacturers have been on the ball with providing solutions. For example, all of Hall Research’s HDBaseT products support 4K, including the company’s UHBX-3S HDMI on HDBaseT 1x3 splitter (which can send 1080p to 500 feet to long-reach-capable receivers) and the UHBX-8X HDMI Multi-Port Sender with HDBaseT that converts eight separate HDMI inputs to corresponding HDBaseT outputs for extension to 500 feet on single UTP.

Virtually all of Atlona’s product development is based on support of 4K signals, with products geared for the residential market focused on supporting HDCP 2.2 and 4k at 60Hz with 4:2:0 color.

“The AT-UHD-PRO3-88M, an 8x8 HDMI to HDCP matrix switcher, is targeted at the residential market,” said Bill Schripsema, Atlona’s senior product manager, “providing forward-thinking compatibility with HDCP 2.2 to insure signals from 4K/UHD sources pass through the matrix to the displays, even though those sources and in some cases, the displays haven’t fully delivered on the promise of 4K/UHD.”

In May, Control4 released no less than five signal distribution products—Control4 Leaf 4K Ultra HD 10x10 AV Matrix Switch (LU1082), Control4 Leaf 4K Ultra HD 8x8 AV Matrix Switch (LU862), Control4 Leaf 4K Ultra HD 6x6 AV Matrix Switch (LU642), Control4 Leaf 4K Ultra HD 6X6 Matrix Kit (LU642L-KIT), Control4 Leaf 4K Ultra HD HDBaseT Receiver (Class A) (LU1E)—all of which are fully HDCP 2.2 compliant with a rich feature set that includes advanced device management for faster and more responsive switching between video sources, integrated audio matrix switch extracts stereo audio from the HDMI inputs and delivers audio to up to eight zones throughout the home, and the ability to distribute content at greater distances.

Marshall Electronics’ TITAN V-SG4KHDI test signal generator allows HDCP testing, and the ability to turn on and off HDCP, read EDID, and produce 4K resolutions.”
Crestron has presented its dealers with published detail specs of its 4K products to combat confusion over source and display compatibility issues as well as establishing a 4K Certification program with leading manufacturers—including Sony, LG, and Toshiba—to test products in a matrix environment, posting the results to its website.

“We developed our own 4K/60 scaler chip and now offer the only 4K/60 scaler,” noted Jeff Singer, director of Crestron’s global marketing campaigns. “This solves the compatibility challenge. Many 4K displays have scalers built in, but they only upscale to 4K. What about downscaling 4K to 1080p? Or what about scaling a 4K/24 signal to 4K/30 or 4K/60? With the Crestron scaler, any product, with any resolution or frame rate, can work together seamlessly. We also offer our DM Ultra Cable, which is uniquely engineered to transmit 4K signals 330 feet, meeting the HDMI specification.”

On the front end of home entertainment integration, projector manufacturers are slowly implementing 4K delivery into their newer models. Epson’s Pro Cinema LS10000, for example, combines 3LCD Reflective laser projection and a Cinema Laser Light Engine as well as a range of features that include 1,500 lumens of both color and white brightness along with proprietary innovations like its 4K Enhancement Technology.

Jason Palmer, Epson’s marketing manager, explained how his company’s 4K Enhancement Technology shifts each pixel diagonally by 0.5 pixels to double the resolution and surpass Full HD image quality without visible stairstepping or pixel gaps.

The Prometheus 4K projector is Barco’s current flagship projector for ultra-high end custom home theaters and features the latest 4K DLP chipsets from Texas Instruments along with Barco’s Alchemy DCI Media Server.

Christie Digital currently offers three projector platforms—Boxer, CP 4220, and D4K2560—that provide for 4K native resolution, as well as two 84-inch flat panels. Their 4K solutions offer cinema quality color standards (DCI) and 60Hz vertical refresh at a full 4K resolution.

“The bandwidth required for quality 4K/60Hz material is four times the current 1080p,” noted George Walter, director of home entertainment, Christie Digital Systems. “Cable length and integrity will be challenged. Existing 1080p infrastructure, including distribution will not be adequate. Christie’s approach to this challenge with the Boxer platform is to offer a variety of 4K interfaces, along with an open slot that could accommodate future 4K standards. (HDMI 2.0, Display Port, Dual Link DVI, 3G-HDSDI).”

Crestron developed its own 4K/60 scaler chip and now offer the only 4K/60 scaler.
Audio distribution manufacturers are also making meaningful advances in HD sound delivery, including Yamaha and the Denon/Marantz clan. For Yamaha the entire flagship AVENTAGE RX-A 50 Series (4K) of AV receivers and the 2015 AVENTAGE and RX-V Series (4K Ultra HD) AV receivers underscore this push.

Similarly, all-new AVRs and pre pros from Denon and Marantz feature full bandwidth HDMI 2.0a with 18gbps, 4K60Hz, 4:4:4 pure color, HDR (high dynamic range) and rec.2020 pass through on every HDMI input.

Consumers are probably more aware of 4K via their new television than with any other component in their home. Sony has one of the widest varieties of 4K Ultra HD displays in the market today, along with several audio solutions to match. With display sizes starting at 42 inches going up to 4K short-throw laser projectors, Sony’s manager of product technology Phil Jones remarked, “There is a screen size for everyone.”

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As the 4K rollout continues at a steady pace, those in the consumer electronics community continue to make every effort to smooth the path to full integration. Still, challenges present themselves, including bandwidth availability and the most common complaint: a lack of content to get the most out of the new resolution.

“We think the standard is really on its way for adoption across most manufacturers’ 4K equipment, if not all,” said Brad Hintze, Control4’s director of product marketing. “Right now there is nothing lacking in the standard that is preventing consumers’ comfort in purchasing, rather it is the lack of ubiquity in 4K content that leaves consumers apprehensive towards adoption. We think once there is a steady stream of content from all major avenues, then the consumers will adopt with confidence in their purchases.”

For now, Barco’s Sinnaeve outlines what custom integrators should focus on when he noted that “the custom integration channel needs continuing education by vendors and industry associations like CEDIA to keep abreast of these developments and have a full understanding of how these new specifications can contribute to better image quality versus just looking good on paper, as that should be the ultimate goal.

“I believe consumers’ best bet is to rely on reputable custom integrators working with leading vendors to design and install systems that deliver the best possible image quality for their budget, with access to the widest range of content sources. They shouldn’t have to worry about standards, but about getting the best possible experience.”

Llanor Alleyne is a contributing editor for Residential Systems.

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