Everyone who’s anyone in AV knows that 4K provides four times the resolution of 1080p. 1920×1080, commonly referred to as ‘Full HD’ was the industry’s high-resolution display platform for over a decade and has recently been usurped by 4K — which in ProAV-land is known as UHD, or 3840×2160 (or in DCI-world, 4096×2160) is, in actuality, four times the resolution of 1080p. So, four times the pixels. Thus, four times the image clarity.
But, in reality, for nearly every ProAV system out there — especially those using screens that are 130” diagonally or smaller — the real advantage of 4K isn’t the resolution — it’s pixel density. That’s right — the density of pixels on the screen is truly the killer-app of 4K.
Think about it this way: If you’ve taken the AVIXA basic CTS course, you’ll recall learning the standards for room design. Those covered things like screen placement, height and width based on where the least-favored viewer (those sitting in the back left and back right corners of a classroom, for example) was as well as where (or, how close) to seat people to the screen. This is important as seating someone too close means that he or she will start to see the pixels (or picture-elements) that make up an image. In DLP, these are round and in LCD, these are mostly square.
But now with 4K, thanks to its pixel-density (not necessarily its resolution) if all things are equal in a room and all you do is replace a projector that’s 1080p with one that’s 4K (or replace a 65” LCD monitor that’s Full HD with one that’s 4K UHD), you’re actually increasing the pixel-density of the display to four times what it was. So, in the same square inch, you get four times the pixels filling the same area.
A light bulb should have just popped-on on your head. Yep, you got it. Since you’ve increased the pixel density, that person — or that entire front row, actually, can now be moved much closer to the screen because they won’t see the pixels any longer!
This changes everything. Everything that we once thought about or used for standards in room design is now different. In fact, in many cases, we can move the front row to right up against the screen — like IMAX movie-style. Think “full immersion.”
Thus, as an industry, we need to start to rethink the design of all our rooms. 4K didn’t just bring us higher resolution imaging, it brings pixel density like we’ve never seen before. And, this isn’t just relegated to large rooms and giant imaging either. In fact, the principles of room design need to change for even the smallest of meetings rooms too — rooms like huddle spaces, conference rooms, ad-hoc meeting spaces. In all of those cases where you might have a 55”, 65” or even 75” display hanging on the wall, you can actually seat attendees right up against the screen. Check it out for yourself. You’ll see the difference. If you’ve got a 65″ 1080p display installed, notice that if you’re closer than about 6’ away from the screen, you can see the pixels from the LCD structure that make up the monitor. But, switch that same monitor out for one that’s 4K and you can seat someone as close as 2’ away and you still can’t see pixels.
This changes everything. And, not just front row placement. This should force a change in presentation design, camera placement and field-of-view, furniture placement and layout and even lighting.
Yes, of course 4K gives us better quality images. But, with a higher pixel density, 4K gives us a better room, too.
Illustration using images via flick user AndyG.