YouTube announced that it would begin supporting Ultra High Definition 4K video content. YouTube officially unveiled the news via TestTube, an incubator for new features concocted by its so-called mad scientists.
YouTube developers have posted six experimental videos that can be streamed at up to 2160p — essentially a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160. The videos support 60 frames per second, and thus are sharper and smoother than the common frame rates of 24fps and 30fps.
To appreciate the video content in all its glory, viewers need to have some serious computer hardware — including a monitor at that can support the 4K resolution. However, the six videos still can be viewed using less-impressive equipment, albeit at a lower resolution and frame rate.
“It’s definitely mainly for hobbyists at the moment,” said Joel Espelien, senior analyst at The Diffusion Group.
It will be necessary to clear other hurdles to watch the videos on a TV.
That will require “an updated YouTube app running natively on a 4K smart TV”.
“None of the standalone boxes support 4K yet,” he noted, “but keep your eyes on the new Apple TV later in the year. If that supports 4K, it will be a game changer for 4K video apps from a variety of folks.”
4K has been touted as the next step in video evolution. However, given that the transition from analog to digital TV, which included the HDTV rollout, was completed only five years ago, it is unlikely that broadcast and cable networks are eager to do it again with an upgrade to 4K.
Yet online streaming services and even satellite pay-TV services now are actively exploring 4K delivery.
“4K is not an immediate requirement for any video service per se,” said Greg Ireland, research director of multiscreen video at IDC.
“However, 4K is another facet of the overall consumer experience — or potential consumer experience — and services that seek to stay established as market leaders will want to be at the forefront across these facets — 4K included,” Ireland added.