I can’t remember exactly the first thing I did when I bought my HDTV way back in 2007, but if it wasn’t video games, it was almost certainly Planet Earth.
Planet Earth. It was spectacular. It’s one of those ‘things’ – practically impossible to criticise. Incredibly shot, beautifully made, wonderfully narrated. Hyperbole was invented for shows like Planet Earth. For the longest time it was the coolest thing you could watch on a HD television. Now we're getting a 4K sequel — and it might just be the "killer app" 4K TV sorely needs.
In a lot of ways Planet Earth justified HD technology. It certainly helped justify my purchase. How could you deny the power of increased resolutions when faced with this incredible show, with its cutting edge cinematography?
Sometimes it only takes a single entertainment product to validate an entire enterprise. For HDTV that product was Planet Earth. Seriously, just look at the footage below and then imagine it projected onto a 60-inch 1080p TV. In 2007, this was jaw-dropping stuff.
Now we’re on the cusp of 4k and – for the mainstream at least — it’s a difficult sell. ‘UHD’ players are overpriced and, quite frankly, there’s not enough content to warrant the purchase. Netflix has plenty of high quality content, but this is Australia. Most of us don’t have the internet speeds to justify bumping subscriptions to 4K levels.
And video games. Video games are playing catch-up.
4K gaming on a PC is a possibility, but it’s an expensive possibility. PlayStation 4 is releasing the PlayStation 4 Pro — a machine designed for 4K gaming that might not actually be powerful enough for native 4K gaming (and bizarrely doesn’t ship with a 4k Blu-ray player).
Microsoft’s Xbox Scorpio will probably be powerful enough for native 4K gaming, but that’s gonna be late 2017 at the latest, and may be obfuscated by the fact it’s not-a-new-console-but-kinda-a-new-console. It’s fighting an uphill battle against the very cycle by which we consume video games. It’s a bold bet.
Long story short: 4K needs its Planet Earth.
And hey, guess what? Maybe Planet Earth 2 is 4K’s Planet Earth.
I’ve been thinking about this since the show was announced this week. My thought: could a brand like Planet Earth, as powerful as it is, actually legitimise 4K as a technology and make it palatable for mass audiences?
Think about what Planet Earth signifies. It’s a nature show about the earth we live in, but it’s also an event; an expression of technology. We don’t watch Planet Earth because we like elephants and lions and shit — we watch Planet Earth because it’s the best example of moving pictures replicating the world we currently occupy. That’s powerful.
Planet Earth is a glorious spectacle that requires the newest audio-visual equipment in order to sing.
There’s a reason why – for five years straight – every JB Hi-Fi in Australia had Planet Earth running on every goddamn TV in the store. On loop. There’s a reason why you chucked Planet Earth on the box when you wanted to show off your brand new $5000 investment.
Maybe Planet Earth 2 will have the same effect?
Maybe it’ll represent some tipping point for 4K – a technology that’s been on the verge of ‘tipping’ for quite some time now.
Maybe it’s just me, but the existence of Planet Earth 2 in 4K — right now — is pretty much the sole deciding factor in me considering an upgrade. The day that show is released in a consumable 4K format is the day I make the upgrade.
I don’t think I’m alone.