Amazon promises original series in the 4K format in 2014

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While some TV studios are taking a cautious approach with 4K video, Amazon is going all in.

Starting next year, Amazon Studios will shoot all of its original series in 4K resolution. 4K, also known as Ultra HD, refers to video with a resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels—that’s four times the pixels of 1080p—and an aspect ratio of at least 16:9.

“As a premium original-content creator, we’re excited about 4K and the future of Ultra HD technology, particularly as we move into drama series next year,” said Amazon Studios Director Roy Price in a statement. Amazon has been making a bigger push into original series lately, with a pair of new drama pilots to complement its existing comedy series.

Amazon isn’t alone in its embrace of 4K. Last month, Netflix began testing 4K video with short streaming clips. Neil Hunt, Netflix’s chief product officer, told Macleans last month that it’s shooting the second season of its hit series House of Cards in 4K, and hopes to add more high-resolution content in the first half of next year.

Faster path to a 4K experience

Compared to traditional pay TV services, Amazon and Netflix may be able to move faster by creating their own content. DirecTV CEO Mike White recently warned of a “very complex rollout” for 4K video, noting the need for new TVs, set-top boxes, and advanced compression technologies.

TV studios and distributors are wary of making big investments and getting burned, as they did with 3D television, White said in an earnings call. He wouldn’t commit to a timetable for 4K services from DirecTV, but said all the pieces might not come together until 2015 or 2016.

It’s also unclear whether future Blu-ray disc formats will support 4K. An upcoming 100GB format could pave the way, but the Blu-ray Disc Association hasn’t made any official commitments just yet.

But, while Amazon and Netflix are controlling their own destiny with 4K content, they still face hurdles in terms of Internet bandwidth. Netflix won’t even show its 4K video samples if it deems your connection to be unworthy, but it’s possible that an upcoming compression format, called HEVC or H.265, could make 4K streaming more realistic.

In the meantime, Amazon hopes to show its customers the way with a “ 4K Ultra HDTV Guide” on its website. This site describes the advantages of 4K, and directs customers to purchase 4K televisions and media players. As prices fall for 4K HDTVs, like the Samsung shown at the top of the story, the pieces of having a full 4K viewing experience are starting to come together.

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