BBC jumps on 4K

08 December 2016 | Tom Carter

The BBC has undergone a trial of finally moving to 4K on its streaming service BBC IPlayer. The trial contains 4 minutes of Planet Earth II footage, which, given the vibrant colours and places the programme visits is an excellent opportunity to find out how good 4K really is.

For those that don’t know, 4K is the next evolution in television picture quality – it can display four times the detail of current high-definition television.

Working with video, I’m always excited by new ways people are making video more lifelike (just read my blog on 360 video), and I think 4K is the quality that is very close to reality. The whole trial the BBC is running is part of an effort to develop technologies that will make live broadcasts in formats like 4K possible. But, obviously, only on televisions actually capable of showing 4K (few and far between at the moment).

The BBC’s 4K footage will contain a clip of a frog on a leaf with lots of rain. This might not sound particularly interesting, but Phil Layton, the head of broadcast and connected systems at BBC Research & Development has said, “the reason this is so interesting is that the redness of the frog is a really deep Ferrari red that you would never get in broadcast television at the moment”. This is just awesome as it could be like you’re genuinely there, watching the frog in the rainforest and is one of the best things about 4K.

4K is a relatively new concept, it was only in 2014 when Netflix first started streaming in 4K, so it’s good to see BBC iPlayer jumping on the 4K band wagon in relatively quick succession.

Not that it really needs it, but this is another boost to the profile of the amazing Planet Earth II, with a lot of people who see the quality of the clip no doubt likely to get as hooked as I am.