Ask LH: Should I Be Buying 4K Movies On Disc?

Ask LH: Should I Be Buying 4K Movies On Disc?

Hey Lifehacker, 4K TVs have become much more affordable. As someone who wants to start a physical movie collection, is 4K just a phase that will pass by quickly (like 3D) or is it safe to assume that it’s here to stay for a long time? Thanks, May The 4K Be With You

Dear 4K,

At this stage, it’s too early to tell. The home entertainment industry will continue shoving the technology down our throats for years to come: of that you can be assured. But whether 4K discs will become the dominant movie format remains unclear.

Disc sales on the whole are in rapid decline: the latest figures from the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association (AHEDA) revealed that DVD and Bly-ray sales dropped by 10 per cent in 2014. What’s interesting is that the fall was roughly equal across both formats, which means Blu-ray penetration may have already peaked with a total market share of just 16 per cent.

If people are already abandoning Blu-ray, it seems unlikely that they’ll fork out for an even pricier disc format that requires a dedicated TV and player. Sharper resolution is nice and all, but is it really that nice? With the exception of hardcore videophiles, we’d wager most consumers are far from convinced.

There’s also the horrifying prospect of the industry entering yet another format war. Samsung, Toshiba, Sharp and LG have all unveiled 8k UHD video formats that could potentially enter the fray at the same time as 4K discs. Remember all those poor saps who backed HD DVD back in 2006? Early adopters of 4K players could be taking a similar gamble. It’s also worth noting that the industry has yet to announce a 4K disc standard — currently there are only a handful of protoypes.

In fact, there’s a distinct possibility that 4K discs won’t be launched on a grand scale at all. Instead, the primary distribution model could be digital. According to the aforementioned AHEDA report, video on demand (VoD) and electronic sell-through (EST) sales increased by 11 per cent in 2014. It makes good business sense to tether your wagon to a healthy horse instead of a lame one. Of course, this raises further questions about the huge size of data involved, particularly in Australia with its neutered NBN.

As with most new technologies, our advice is to wait and see. Other than bragging rights, there aren’t many practical applications for 4K technology right now; especially when it comes to physical media. Let the early adopters take all the risks and get mercilessly fleeced at the checkout. 4K players should still be there in years to come; as an added bonus, they will also be priced more sensibly.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I predict the following in no particular order but to happen more and more frequently…
    4K 4D (very immersive – just ask Doctor Who)
    4K reverse curved screens (because manufacturers realise more than 1 person usually watches a massive screen at the same time)
    8K, 16k, 32k, etc, etc
    … and in about 2050 FTA stations to start broadcasting in 1080p (if they are still around)

    • FTA in 2050? At the rate they are going FTA will be dead and buried if they keep their current way of presenting things to the consumer.

    • A reverse curved screen makes no sense at all, it will look worse from directly in front and would harder to see the whole image from an angle. Think about the part of the screen that isn’t closest to you.

  • One thing that should of been learned by now after watching the shift from:


    This format war will always be evolving and screwing the consumer. Personally I still buy on DVD where I can, its supported on practically every device that has an optical drive these days. You can’t say the same for BlueRay.

    My reason for sticking with DVD, simple, I don’t have to keep re-buying the same f*****g content for every format that comes out. As far as I am concerned the high resolution formats that keep being shoved down the consumers throat is at best an attempt by the industry to:

    A) Please the share holders because they have developed something new
    B) sub due a small but vocal crowd who demand high resolutions for their overly big screens
    C) attempt to make pirating the movies/tv shows harder (but lets be honest, they will find a way to rip anything, then down scale it to make it an smaller more manageable download).

  • ha ha – we’re finally going to move to a full digital distribution model but the Australian infrastructure won’t be able to handle it because of choice the Australian Government made to scrap FTTP.

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