Who invented 4K Resolution? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Thanks to the efforts of those who are behind the 4K resolution, people today enjoy clearer and sharper footage quality. Movies, TV shows, and even video games became more precise and immersive. Like other display technologies invented in the past, the history of 4K resolution also shows how effort and time are needed to develop a truly useful invention. Let’s look back to the history of the 4K resolution and its development timeline.

Who invented 4k resolution?

Hitachi is the first company to allow viewing in 4K resolution. This electronics company released its first graphics card to view horizontal resolution of around 4000 pixels when in monochrome mode.

The 4k resolution’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Hitachi, Ltd.
    The first company to release a 4K-enabled graphics card

    The first graphics card to view in 4K resolution was released by Hitachi, Ltd., a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation in Japan. Hitachi released the ARTC HD63484 CMOS graphics processor in 1984, which allows users to view 4K when using monochrome mode.

  • Dalsa Corporation
    The first to manufacture a commercially available 4K camera

    Dalsa Corporation released the first 4K-enabled digital camera designed for cinematographic use in 2003. Dalsa Origin was an award-winning innovation that became available for rental for $3,000 per day in 2005.

  • CineGrid
    First international 4K real-time streaming demonstrations

    CineGrid is a non-profit organization composed of 61 separate organizations and corporations across the globe. They conducted the first research, testing, and international 4K real-time streaming demonstration that helped researchers in Japan and America working on the CineGrid to understand further how to support 4K technology for digital cinema and scientific, educational, and medical visualization applications.CineGrid includes various research groups such as the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, the University of California, San Diego, Keio University in Japan, Naval Postgraduate School, and others. These research groups first demonstrated 4K real-time streaming in IGrid in 2005.

  • Sony Group Corporation
    Major manufacturer to release 4K projectors

    Sony was the first manufacturer of 4K projectors. In 2004, Sony launched two 4K-enabled projectors that allowed the viewing of 4096 x 2160p 4K content at a high contrast ratio. In 2012, Sony was also the first to release a 4K home theater projector.

  • YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Studios
    Online platforms to support 4K content

    YouTube began supporting 4K content as early as 2010. It was the year when major electronics companies started the 4K camera market. In 2013, YouTube automatically added 2160 4K options for videos supporting either 4096×2160 or 3840×2160 resolution. A year after, Netflix began streaming in 4K with some nature documentaries, Breaking Bad, and House of Cards. Amazon Studios started shooting original 4K content in the same year.

 When was the 4k resolution invented?

In 1984, Hitachi released a CMOS graphics processor, ARTC HD63484, that catered 4K resolution display when set in monochrome mode. However, the 4K technology further advanced due to the joint efforts from several corporations and research groups of CineGrid from across the globe.

Brief history of 4k resolution

The idea of 4K resolution started in 1984 when Hitachi launched the ARTC HD63484 CMOS graphics processor, which allows up to 4K resolution display while in monochrome mode. In 2003, the first 4K camera, Dalsa Origin, became commercially available for cinematographic use.

Several university research groups from different countries worldwide worked together to develop the 4K technology. It includes the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, University of California, San Diego, Naval Postgraduate School, Keio University in Japan, and others. These research groups first demonstrated 4K technology in IGrid year 2004, then CineGrid in 2013.

Sony is the first manufacturer of 4K projectors. As early as 2004, Sony dove into the 4K bandwagon to lead the rapidly emerging digital cinema market. The manufacturer launched two new 4K projectors at that time, which offered high contrast ratio and 4096 x 2160 pixel resolution.

In 2011, movies started projecting movies in theaters in 4K. Once again, Sony led the home entertainment industry by releasing the first 4K home theater projector in 2012. However, only a few films as of 2019 were produced in true 4K resolution. It is a secret in the film industry that movies and shows filmed using 6K or 8K cinema cameras were edited at H.D. resolution and then artificially converted into 4K format.

Meanwhile, YouTube is among the first online platforms that support 4K resolution. In 2010, YouTube started to allow 4K resolution video uploads as leading manufacturers began releasing their line of 4K cameras. During this time, users can view 4K videos by setting the quality settings to “Original.” In December 2013, YouTube began displaying the 2160p 4K option at the very top for videos uploaded to the platform that supports either 4096×2160 or 3840×2160.

In 2013, most televisions manufactured and sold didn’t support HEVC. It was only in 2014 that major television manufacturers announced that they would start supporting the said video coding.

In the same year, Netflix started streaming at 4K to televisions that utilize HEVC decoder. The first few videos that can be viewed in 4K format on Netflix are Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and some nature documentaries. Amazon Studios also joined the 4K bandwagon in 2014, shooting their first new pilots and full-length Amazon Studios original series with 4K resolution. Today, you can watch these series on Amazon Video.

The 4k resolution timeline

  1. 1984
    First graphics processor that allows 4K resolution

    In 1984, Hitachi released the first CMOS graphics processor that supports 4K resolution. Computers that used Hitachi’s ARTC HD63484 CMOS graphics processor used a 4K resolution display when set in monochrome mode.

  2. 2003
    First 4K camera for cinematographic use

    Dalsa Origin was the first digital cinema camera commercially available for cinematographic use. This digital camera could capture 4K resolution videos, which was the advanced quality standard for feature film videos. Initially, Dalsa Origin was demonstrated at the 2003 NAB Show in Las Vegas, USA. Dalsa won four industry awards for innovation during the event.

  3. 2004
    An important year for future digital cinema theatrical distribution

    In 2004, several university research groups from different countries worldwide worked together to develop the 4K technology. It includes the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, University of California, San Diego, Naval Postgraduate School, Keio University in Japan, and others. These research groups first demonstrated 4K technology in IGrid 2005.In the same year, Sony led the market in digital cinema with their first-ever 4K projectors. The company released two new projectors at once, and these projectors allow viewers to stream 4K resolution content. Aside from that, these projectors also stream in a high contrast ratio that improves overall picture quality.

  4. 2010 to  2013
    4K in online platforms

    YouTube started to support 4K resolution videos in 2010 as major electronics companies began selling 4K cameras. The viewers can select “Original” in the video’s quality settings to view it in 4K resolution. It was the year 2013 when YouTube automatically added 2160 4K options for videos that supported either 4096×2160 or 3840×2160.

  5. 2014
    Televisions go 4K

    In 2014, major TV manufacturers started releasing television models that support HEVC, a video coding that allows 4K resolution content viewing. Netflix began supporting 4K in the same year for televisions that used HEVC decoder. Amazon Studios also began filming their original series and pilots in 4K that year.

Where was the 4k resolution invented?

It is not clear where the 4K resolution technology was invented. But, it was a  joint effort by various research groups from various universities in different countries. The contributing universities are Keio University in Japan, and various universities in the U.S., including California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, Naval Postgraduate School, University of California, San Diego, etc.

The importance of 4k resolution

  • Better footage

    Content creators always craved to film better footage, which 4K-enabled cameras provide. Using 4K-enabled cameras produces incredibly sharper footage, unlike when using 1080p.

  • Advantage over advanced editing techniques

    It’s also possible to edit 4K videos using editing techniques that are too complex to use for H.D. footage. 4K captured videos are easier to crop up to 4x and still have full H.D. resolution.

  • Improved educational, medical, cinematographic, and other visual applications

    The first real-time demonstration of 4K streaming conducted by CineGrid at the IGrid 2005 became a huge step to understanding how 4K technology can be applied for scientific, medical, educational, and cinematographic visual applications.

  • Superior streaming quality

    Televisions, computers, gaming, and online platforms that support 4K resolution provide superior streaming quality compared to lower display resolutions.

The 4k resolution by the numbers

  • 3840 x 2160In the display industries and consumer media, the dominant 4K resolution is 3840 x 2160. This resolution is used by the UHDTV1 format, UHDTV,  and Ultra H.D. displays and projectors of CEA. It was also the chosen broadcasting standard of the DVB Project, UHD-1.
  • 16:916:9 is the aspect ratio of 3840 × 2160 4K resolution, with 8,294,400 pixels. This resolution is accurate twice the vertical and horizontal resolution of 1080p or 1920 x 1080 display resolution and triple the vertical and horizontal resolution of 720p or 1280 x 720 display resolution.
  • 2014Major television manufacturers began launching their line of 4 K-enabled TV models. These televisions support HEVC video coding, which allows 4K resolution content to be played.
  • 2005CineGrid conducted the very first demonstration of 4K streaming in real-time at IGrid 2005. This demonstration made a considerable contribution to the digital cinema industry and the understanding of 4K resolution support in medical, educational, and scientific visualization applications.

 Five facts about 4k resolution

  • A generic term

    4K is a generic term used for any resolution with around 4,000 pixels horizontal pixel count. It means that there are several 4K resolutions that are different from one another that various organizations have standardized.

  • Cinema-like viewing

    Watching your favorite show using 4K TV is like watching at a typical cinema. The only difference is that the screens in theaters are significantly bigger than 4K TVs.

  • Viewing experience

    Depending on the display size, you can only notice the difference of 4K over the 1080p viewing experience when you are watching 10ft. away from the display.

  • Ultra H.D. gaming

    4K resolution became a hot topic in the video gaming industry when Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro allowed a 4K experience for gamers playing Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Final Fantasy.

  • Not only a display resolution

    4K doesn’t only indicate display resolution. It also refers to improved color replication, which increased the standard from 8-bit to 10 & 12 bit. It also increased the standard frame-rate speed from 25 fps to 60 fps.

FAQ about 4k resolution

  • What does it mean to have a real 4K resolution?

    It is a term used for a display resolution of 4,096 x 2,160. True 4K might be the same as 4K resolution, but since people often confuse 4K with Ultra H.D., the term is used to distinguish between the two.

  • What is the smallest size of 4K TVs?

    The 32 inches Q50R and Q60A series TVs from Samsung are the smallest 4K TVs commercially available today.

  • What does upscaling mean in 4K?

    Upscaling means enlarging videos that are below 4K resolution. It also means filming with fewer pixels and then converting it into 4K.

  • How many pixels are there in 4K?

    Over eight million pixels are in 3840 x 2160 4K resolution displays. Lower 4K resolutions like 3840 × 1600 have 6,144,000 pixels, while 3840 x 1080 has around 4,147,200 pixels.

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