Created by Samantha Ebata, Lead, Performance Analysis / Sport Biomechanist March 2016
4K is becoming the newest video standard for digital video and computer graphics. But what is 4K and how can it benefit sport?
4K, also known as UHD (Ultra-High Definition), is the name given to the visual technology which offers a higher resolution than standard HDTV (approximately 4 times the pixels). 4K format has to consist of at least 3,840 pixels (horizontal) by 2160 pixels (vertical) of resolution and can go upwards of 4000 horizontal pixels.
The advantage of the increased number of pixels is an image quality that exceeds that of the tradition 1080p HD picture, more vibrant image, better high frame rate and better large projection surface visibility.
Figure 1. Sony4K camera is just one of many UHD cameras on the market
So, how does this enhanced image quality benefit sport? There are two potential users that could benefit from 4K video: the spectators and the sports themselves.
The biggest potential benefit of UHD video is to the sports themselves. The larger image size enables the user to record a wide view of the subject (during training or competition) and then digitally “zoom-in” to a standard HD size (1080p) on the video (post hoc).
Figure 2. Difference between SD, HD and 4K resolution
This enables coaches, athletes, officials or analysts the flexibility to view and analyze the large image for tactical analysis or zoom-in to a specific athlete or play for a better technical skills analysis all with the same video file (see Figure 3).
Imagine video review in hockey of whether or not the puck crossed the line or football of whether or not the ball was caught in bounds. With 4K technology, there’s now almost 4 times the resolution for officials to make a decision. This has the potential to enhance the accuracy of the decision making by the officials (should it be integrated into the sport).
The images produced by 4K technology can provide many benefits to the fan’s at-home experience. The UHD format is progressive and runs (generally) at 60 frames per second which enhances image detail and reduces motion blur. The overall image is clearer and more vibrant than the standard 1080p. This higher quality image also provides the ability to zoom-in with a higher resolution when discussing plays allowing the audience to see in greater detail the specifics of the play in question (i.e. goal line reviews).
Figure 3. An example of the ability to zoom in on 4K video. a) Wide view recording of a swim meet b) Zoomed in image from the same wide view video
In 2015, Rogers Communications Inc. announced plans to broadcast select baseball and hockey games in 4K. Now more cable operators across Canada are following suit and offering more sports programming in UHD.
In 2016, there will be more sporting events than ever before offered in 4K for viewers to enhance their experience, perhaps just in time for the Rio Olympics.