Everything Hospitality Owners Need to Know About the 4K Revolution
published onMarch 10, 2015

Do you need 4K in your sports bar or restaurant? Probably not. If you’re upgrading your LED screens right now, should you invest in 4K? Maybe.

Before you can even consider these questions, though, you may wonder: “What exactly IS 4K? And why should I even care?”

JD Systems is here to answer all your 4K questions… without the tech jargon (when we can help it) and absolutely without the BS. You ready?

Resolutions from Low to High
Let’s start with the basics. What is resolution? Resolution is the number of pixels displayed on a screen, expressed in width x height. The resolution affects the clarity and detail of the picture, although you should consider other factors, including how far you’re sitting from the screen.

To see how far resolution has come in the past few decades, let’s consider old CRT TVs and the first plasma screens. The typical display resolution for television broadcast back then was 340 lines of horizontal resolution. This relates to analog sources… bear with me because the measurement standards change when we make the jump to today’s digital broadcast.

Up until several years ago, most television programming was still in “standard” definition, although some high definition channels existed. Here’s where we compare apples-to-apples. An SDTV (Standard Definition) TV Broadcast is displayed in 480p, or 480 lines of horizontal resolution or 720 x 480 pixels per inch.

The first HDTV screens had a resolution of 1280 x 720, commonly referred to as 720p, or 720 lines of horizontal resolution. These first HDTV screens provided amazing clarity and a sharp picture compared to standard def, and it didn’t take long for HD content to hit the airwaves en masse.

This standard stuck around for a while, and then 1080p screens came onto the scene, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. At first, 1080p screens were extremely expensive; we hesitated to spec them for most customers, especially since there wasn’t a lot of content broadcast in 1080p HD.

Today, 1080p is commonplace and it’s as hard to find a new 720p screen as it is to find a plasma screen. They are also extremely reasonably priced, making it a smart choice if you need to hang, say 10 or more screens across your sports bar. In most cases, you’re going to get a great picture with any size screen at virtually any practical viewing distance in a sports bar, restaurant or nightclub. It’s still our go-to choice for resolution, but we are asking customers to consider 4K in certain circumstances.

Now that we’re done with the history, let’s look into the present and the future, to 4K and beyond.

What Is 4K?
A 4K screen has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. If you multiply the pixels per inch, you’ll see that a 1080p screen has about 2 million pixels. A 4K screen, on the other hand, has over 8 million pixels, or 4 times as many. Hence the name 4K. If the industry continued with the same naming convention, we’d be calling it a 2160p screen, which wouldn’t be as catchy and we’d miss out on useful hashtags like #4K.

Are 4K and Ultra HD the Same Thing?
Sometimes, you’ll hear people refer to 4K as 4K Ultra HD or 4K UHD, or simply UHD. Are they the same? Not really. All 4K is Ultra High Definition, but not all UHD is 4K. UHD can also refer to 5K or 8K displays — anything above regular HD.

Benefits of 4K
We could sum up this whole post in five words: “4K is lots of pixels.” Now let’s talk about why it matters. Not only is the picture crisper and clearer, but 4K offers the added benefits of faster frame rates, better contrast dynamics and extended colors. Basically, you haven’t really seen your favorite shows or sporting events until you’ve seen them in 4K.

If you’re hanging a really big screen or if viewers will be really close to the action (think of a screen mounted in the booth of a sports bar or restaurant … that’s pretty up-close viewing), you’ll see a discernible difference with 4K quality.

But Where’s the Content?
Sporting event production companies were amongst the first group to begin shooting events in 4K. This means sports bar owners actually DO have some 4K content available to share. And this year’s ISE show in Switzerland gave us a peek at the first 4K Blu Ray players, which means even more options for 4K content are on the horizon.

Remember when 1080p first came out and everyone complained there was no content? Yeah… Now there is. They also complained that 1080p screens were too expensive. They dropped in price. We’re seeing the same trends with 4K. Just as your 1080p screen is worth the investment today, so it goes with 4K.

Enhance the Experience with 4K
As 4K screens drop in price, more customers will buy them for their homes. As people grow accustomed to seeing 4K in their living room, the HD screens in your nightclub or sports bar will start to look as outdated as tube televisions did five years ago. We’re not saying you have to upgrade immediately. We just did an two summers ago where we pulled out tube TVs; there’s no crime in making the most of your long-term video investment.

But if you are ready to upgrade now and you want to future-proof your venue, 4K, if you can afford it, might make sense. It will definitely put you at the front of the technology curve and give you the visual edge against competitors. But screens will continue to drop in price, as with any new technology, so the budget-conscious may choose to wait before upgrading.

If you’re considering a video upgrade in your sports bar, restaurant or nightclub, why not give JD Systems a call to discuss your best options?