Whether you call it 4K or Ultra HD, next-gen television sets are on their way to your living room. Some experts expect sales in the US alone to approach 1 million this year, with early adopters opening their wallets at an even greater rate overseas. But while many of us still get by with 1080p, content producers are adopting Ultra HD as the norm on set, with manufacturers focusing almost exclusively on next-gen hardware here at the National Association of Broadcasters' annual trade show in Las Vegas.
Ultra HD cameras take every shape and size, from Sony's just-announced Alpha A7s mirrorless camera to Blackmagic's giant URSA, with its foldout 10-inch screen. Even drones are snapping 4K footage, including JVC's new gimbal-mounted Super 35mm cam. Some models, such as Red's $14,500 Dragon cam, can capture even higher-res video -- in this case, that means 6K footage from a camera you can hold in your hand.
Tools for shooting video from above were another focus here in Vegas. One of our favorite drones of the show, DJI's Phantom 2 Vision+, only captures at 1080p, but it does so with such grace (thanks to its integrated three-axis gimbal) that the $1,300 copter should not be overlooked. NAB's not just about cameras, though. Thunderbolt 2 made its debut here in 2013, and this year, Intel returned to demo Thunderbolt Networking, enabling 10 Gbps connections (and super-fast 4K video transfers) between Macs and PCs.
Microsoft even made an appearance to show off Skype TX, the company's hardware/software solution for seamlessly linking up remote television guests with hosts in the studio, while HP dropped by with its DreamColor displays, capable of showing a billion colors. Finally, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler rounded out the week with an address to broadcasters, a good part of which was spent motivating attendees to maintain their competitive edge when it comes to internet distributors, such as Netflix.
Ultimately, there was plenty to take away from these few days in the desert -- filmmakers and distributors have more options at their disposal than ever before, and while Ultra HD may have yet to take off in the American living room, producers are well on their way to creating future-proofed content, guaranteeing that when you opt to update your own hardware, there will be plenty of movies, TV shows, ads and live broadcasts to enjoy at four times the resolution of 1080p.