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Termination: A Little Something About the Next Big Thing

A Little Something About the next Big Thing.


21 February 2014

Text:/ Graeme Hague

I’m not impressed. I can’t even muster up a half-hearted Homer Simpson-like ‘woo-hoo’. I’m supposed to be blown away by bigger and better pictures, louder and clearer audio – the next big things for sale in Hardly Normals and Retroversions that I simply must have, if I want the latest audiovisual experience, but it’s all a bit underwhelming. 

The problem is, I can’t see or hear what I’m supposed to be impressed about anymore. Okay, that’s not entirely true (I’m not about to shoot myself in the professional foot), because I can hear the difference afforded by higher-quality audio recordings – given the right monitoring equipment – and I can see the improvement in a higher-definition picture, again, given the right gear to watch it on. But lately it’s like the benefits offered by the newest, über-definition home entertainment systems are negligible at best, maybe only to be really appreciated by audiophiles and… umm, videophiles… and it should be remembered it’s too often dependent on the skills of the production team behind the source material, rather than the media it’s delivered on anyway – which isn’t guaranteed either. Does your average TV buyer know just how few programs are actually broadcast in HD?


Wander into any showroom and the televisions are (yawn) a little bigger than last month, the picture a little more sharp and colourful. The surround audio (lazy armpit scratch) is now available in 18.1 with dozens of satellite speakers the size of a matchbox – promising to perform like the Rolling Stone’s touring PA rig – but where the hell are you going to put them all? Besides, is it really worth the money and effort?

The switch from vinyl and cassette tape to compact disc — now that was impressive. Vinyl records have been enjoying a renaissance, but as someone who invested… oh, about a million dollars on all manner of record-cleaning gadgets, anti-static guns and sprays, and one of those little brushes that sit in front of the stylus head (it seemed like a good idea at the time) all in the name of eradicating that infuriating pop and crackle of playing records… you know what I reckon you can do with your precious vinyl? Listening to a compact disc for the first time was a revelation. I probably even said ‘woo-hoo’, even though Homer Simpson wasn’t even a glint in Matt Groening’s eye, which is unthinkable for an entire generation.

The first time I saw Blu-ray played on a large, digital screen was mind-blowingly impressive, too. The clarity was gob-smacking.


Then the wheels fell off the industry. The next big thing that should have made us wet our collective pants with excitement was 3D television, but it’s turned out the only really impressive thing here is how spectacularly 3D has failed. Some time back, at a tradeshow, I practically watched all of James Cameron’s Avatar in 3D simply by walking laps of the exhibition floor over two days (as you do), because it was the only 3D movie available. At least in 2014 you can now watch… ah, Avatar. What else? Okay, and a remake of Titanic (spoiler alert, the ship still sinks). All right, to be fair quite a lot of 3D content has been produced, but it hasn’t helped. We’re over it. Watching 3D television is hard work. You’ve got to wear nerdy glasses, never move your head and be prepared to vomit regularly. At the last CES show TV giant Vizio announced it won’t be releasing any new 3D televisions in 2014. That’s 3D game over, folks.

But wait, don’t despair. Now 4K televisions are available, which allow you to watch your favourite shows in four times the resolution of the current 1080p (Full) HD standard, much more fun than crappy 3D anyway. Even better, if you have a super-large 84-inch screen (coincidentally, four times larger than a 42-inch, which is considered the bog-standard of HD TV sizes) you don’t need to stand at the end of your driveway to watch it – that’s the real beauty of UltraHD 4K resolution.


Imagine watching the chariot race from Ben Hur in 4K! Awesome. Hang on – in fact, you will have to imagine it, because it will never be up-scaled or re-shot in 4K. What about the footy grand final? Nope, are you insane? The bandwidth required to transmit television in 4K would be roughly equivalent to teleporting a rather chubby William Shatner up to the Enterprise, which the University of Leicester recently figured out involved 2.6 x 1042 bits of data and needed 4.85 x 1015 years to complete – one hell of an upload.

So just what can we watch on our new UltraHD 4K televisions actually in 4K resolution? The answer is… nothing. At best, nothing yet. In reality, nothing decent for a very long time.

At least that’s impressive, in an annoying kind of way.


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