Currently, there's no standard way for upgrading Blu-ray players and discs to handle the ultra-HD format, although plans are in the works. Broadcasters are also a few years away from an upgrade. LG and Sony said their ultra-HD sets come with upscaling technology to make regular HD images look better — the way some motion is smoothed out on some TVs using complex computer algorithms.
Sony showed off movie footage from a standard Blu-ray disc player that had been upgraded on a 65-inch ultra-HD screen and the result was stunningly clear.
The file sizes of ultra-HD movies will only be about 25 percent or 30 percent larger than similar HD files, according to Pete Lude, the past president of the standards-setting body, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. It's not four times as much data, despite having four times as many pixels as HD, because of advances in compression technology, he said. That means broadcasters won't have to make infrastructure changes to upgrade just a few years after they made huge investments in HD, and that Blu-ray disc standards might be revised without the need for consumers to buy new hardware.
"We want to get it all right in one big standard," Lude said. He pegged the timing for an ultra-HD standard as being anywhere between months and decades away as industry players dispute the merits of different technical specs.
Still, ultrahigh definition may not be as far in the future as you might think. According to research group IHS, about 20 percent of TVs shipped globally in 2017 will measure 50 inches or bigger, up from 9 percent in 2012. And this past holiday shopping season, Americans were much more attracted to these big screens. Flat panels that are 50 inches and bigger saw unit sales rise 46 percent from a year ago, compared with a drop overall of 1.5 percent, according to NPD.