I bet most of you have seen the 4K recommended viewing distance graph below. It’s often thrown around in various online forums, disseminated through mailing lists, and posted on Facebook groups that “discuss” the merits of 4K. Guess what: I absolutely hate it, because the graph has zero merit in real life applications of 4K.
Why? The data used for the graph is based solely on the ability of the average person to see 4K resolution of a still image. When was the last time you watched a still image for hours on end on any display? Further, it doesn’t address other more important factors in a 4K presentation. Let me explain.
A 4K or UHD presentation involves moving objects (regardless of how slow the movement is) which directly correlates to Motion Resolution, wider colour gamut (read: better colour rendition), and High Dynamic Range (HDR) for better contrast ratio, all of which are stored using a better compression method than with a regular HD (2K) presentation. That’s not even factoring better soundtracks into the mix.
For Wide Colour Gamut, one doesn’t need to be sitting very close to a display to appreciate it. In fact, in real life (but non-scientific) tests I conducted, every person I encountered could see the difference between HD’s colour gamut (also known as “BT.709”) compared to UHD’s colour gamut (also known as “P3 in BT.2020 colour space,”) even on a 50″ TV viewed from 12-feet away. The same goes with HDR. Not once have I encountered a person who couldn’t see the HDR advantage on a 50″ display viewed from 12-feet away.
Although not everyone can pinpoint the advantage of the better compression method in UHD versus HD, in every scene of a given movie presentation, everyone (in my tests) noticed the improved clarity in fast-moving scenes.
Not surprisingly, the scientists at NHK Japan (you know, the guys who invented both HD and UHD) agree with my findings. Below, you can see the real viewing distance chart provided by NHK, which takes all of the above parameters of UHD into consideration.
So for those naysayers of UHD technology, please get yourselves acquainted with the technology instead of brandishing the faulty 4K chart. Again, UHD is not only about the 4K resolution, it also includes a better compression scheme, better colour rendition, better dynamic range, and, on the audio side, better soundtracks. I would recommend viewers jump on the 4K bandwagon even if they don’t yet have a 4K display, merely for the better motion resolution (as a result of better compression) and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X soundtracks.
PS: Yes, I know that Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are also available on regular Blu-ray releases but the ratio between new blu-ray with object audio vs UHD Blu-ray with object audio is at least 10:1 in favour of UHD Blu-ray.