As 4K hardware and content become more ubiquitous, integrators encounter more opportunities to provide customers with excellent entertainment experiences, says Jared Ross, CTO, AHT Global.
“The 4K Apple TV and other streaming boxes are the game-changers that have made 4K content accessible to consumers,” he explains. “At the dawn of 4K hardware technology there was a shortage of content to enjoy on these amazing displays. Some hardware manufacturers even went as far as developing proprietary boxes and communication protocols in order to take full advantage of the pixels that they were able to pack into the displays. I remember hearing, ‘What content is that?’ on tradeshow floors as more and more manufacturers exhibited their 4K displays. The hardware was there, but there was a content shortage leaving integrators and consumers hungry for more.”
4K streaming boxes like the Apple TV allow consumers to immerse themselves in the world of 4K without waiting for content providers to upgrade their infrastructure, and Crestron hardware allows integrators to seamlessly transport and deliver this content in any scenario, he adds.
More streaming content services and stores, in addition to streaming channel events, UltraHD disc sales, and the wider availability of 4K TVs are heading the charge full of 4K content, notes Cody Crossland, national accounts manager, BlackWire Designs and Technology. “We are seeing Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon FireTV devices as the top choices for streaming [4K content].”
Aside from bandwidth caps, the cost for 4K has gone down substantially, he notes. “I’m hopeful for a more comparable street price on 4K UHD disc content that’s in-line with HD,” he says. “The biggest challenge is in ensuring that you have a high-quality 4K distribution system, 4K content, and players, along with ensuring that the customer is aware of any bandwidth data caps they may hit when streaming. Netflix advises 25 MB just for one stream, so keep in mind that that is in addition to any other internet traffic going on at the same time.”
There are Increased opportunities with greater acceptance of 4K, agrees Albert Mizrahi, CEO, DealerShop. “We’re seeing a much higher rate than when HD first became available,” he says. “This is due to the growing level of 4K content. Products such as Just Add Power (J+P) give us a great range of video solutions we can provide to our clients.”
The impact of 4K Apple TV and other offerings is a positive one, creating increased technology awareness, he notes, although more 4K content is needed, the only factor holding customers back. “The Apple TV and other services are now easy to distribute through the home with J+P 4K extenders without the need to have a dedicated streamer in each TV. 4K is now available through the whole house at affordable costs.”
Although, Mizrahi explains, cost is less important to his customers when investing in new homes as they look for top technology. “They understand that technology is moving very quickly,” he says, “but there also are products that help lower overall costs, such as J+P 4K vídeo extenders, which allow us to concentrate all sources in a central rack without having to do many local installations in every TV.”
4K: Do Your Clients Get It?
Many consumers really do understand the impact and promise of 4K and they are eager to upgrade or add new hardware to take full advantage of the ultra high definition content available to them, Ross says. “Even consumers who wouldn’t describe themselves as tech-savvy are recognizing the terms 4K and UHD when talking about displays and sources.
“When educating clients about 4K technology, one of the most important things to understand is that Crestron is the only manufacturer that can support 4K HDR 4:4:4 over a Gigabit network regardless of how many sources or displays are involved,” he continues. “Streaming boxes will get the 4K content into the client’s home, but Crestron’s NVX hardware delivers the 4K content where the user needs it, at the display regardless of the equipment location.”
Even though Crestron’s infrastructure technology allows the transport of 4K content anywhere and everywhere that it’s needed, there are still challenges that integrators must consider when selling, designing, and implementing distributed video systems.
“It’s critical that integrators understand that in order to utilize an Apple TV at full 4K HDR resolution, all displays that will receive the signal must be capable of handling 4K HDR,” Ross says. “Even utilizing nearly all scalers on the market today does not allow a 4K HDR signal to be delivered to a display that’s not up to par. Integrators often get tripped up on this detail when trying to play an Apple TV signal on a touchscreen or a smaller ancillary display. It’s important to consider the system in its entirety in order to deliver a smooth user experience.
“When it comes to 4K, we are lucky to have a manufacturer like Crestron in the industry,” he says. “They were the first and remain the best at 4K content transport and delivery. Crestron’s Pixel Perfect NVX technology helps put the Advanced in Advanced Home Theater Global.”
And before designing/installing a 4K system, it’s essential to verify that all TVs in the project are capable of 4K, and which inputs should be used, Crossland cautions. “If they are not, distribution platforms like Just Add Power are vital in providing the client with the best possible experience. The built-in video scalers allow 4K to be distributed where needed while ensuring older or smaller non-4K capable TVs continue to work.”
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