Google and 4K Video to Hit 2014 in a Big Way

By Steve Anderson January 02, 2014

The thought of 4K video is a pretty exciting one by any stretch of the imagination; a format that makes 1080p look almost like standard definition by comparison is an eye-opener to most any movie buff out there. But by like token, 4K video is likely leaving Internet service providers (ISPs) with a collective case of the cold sweats. After all, it's going to take quite a bit of bandwidth to supply 4K, and users aren't likely to be happy about bandwidth caps that won't allow for but a handful of 4K videos every month. But Google may have a solution in the works, and a growing number of TV and other hardware makers seem to be getting behind this solution.

Specifically, it's the VP9 video codec Google developed, and with the VP9 format, users will get access to 4K video that uses, at last report, right around half the bandwidth currently used for HD video. Right now, VP9 format seems to be available on YouTube, but there are reports of other services looking to get in on VP9, which will likely be more prevalent as prices drop on 4K televisions and the like.

Naturally, 4K video will be playing a part in this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) event, and reports suggest that Sony, Panasonic and LG will all be playing 4K YouTube streams as part of the booth events at each company's booth. There are several others set to join in, at last report, and will cover a substantial portion of the field that might be seen in any good electronics store. Additionally, other hardware vendors that don't get directly into the component game, like video card makers and the like, are poised to bring out new graphics chips and the like that will help the development of 4K video move onto mobile devices and the like, a particularly welcome development especially among YouTube users.

VP9 does seem to have some competition in the field, particularly from H.265, otherwise known as High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). H.265 has the support of the International Telecommunications Union, but with so many hardware makers appearing to back Google, which in turn brings out one of the biggest online video sources along with it, it seems like H.265's chances in the field are not the best. Some, however, are hedging bets, with companies like Rockchip working on products that will handle both H.265 and VP9. Others, like Videolan and Mozilla Firefox, can already handle VP9, so that's a further plus in its direction.

Whether VP9 or H.265 gets put into wide distribution depends on several factors, like who's backing it, who's ready to use it, and which does a better job of providing video at lower bandwidths. On these three fronts, VP9 seems to be ahead so far. If it can do the job that Google seems to be saying it can, then it's likely to be a great future ahead as more video starts becoming available in the 4K format.

While it may take a while to work its way through the complete video ecosystem—particularly when it comes to home video releasing—we're likely seeing the earliest days of the migration to a new format. One day, much of our video is likely to be available in 4K format, and it's a fair bet that Google will be near the tip of the spear when it comes to getting said video into our homes.




Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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