Today’s Best TV Picture

The best video picture you can watch on your 4K TV is, of course, 4K Blu-ray. But this isn’t about that. Blu-ray is mostly movies. This is about the best TV show quality you can get.


Until recently, the best picture you could get for TV shows was digital over-the-air (OTA) broadcast. Yep, from a rabbit-ears antenna. Digital OTA broadcasts delivered the least-compressed signal, blasting the airwaves at an astounding 19+ megabits (Mb) per second — magnitudes better than cable or satellite.


However, the new best TV picture is none of the above — it’s streaming. That’s right, streaming — digital video bits surging through the tubes of the Interwebs straight to your eyeballs from the likes of Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.


Scurrilous and outrageous, you say. Streaming is even more compressed than cable TV. To that I say, have you seen it lately? Nearly all cable, satellite, and digital broadcasts top out at 1080i, with ABC and Fox sporting only cave paintings from the Paleolithic Era at 720p (a paltry 12% of a 4K picture’s pixels).


Streaming, by contrast, can boast a razor-sharp 4K picture. On a fat-pipe Internet connection, gone are the artifacts that plagued streaming for so long (tiling/blocking, stuttering audio/video, buffering, color banding, low contrast, blotchy dark areas, etc.). I’ve watched super-clean YouTube 4K videos pouring in faster than 65Mb per second.


Streaming can also deliver High Dynamic Range (HDR) video including Dolby Vision, accompanied by Dolby’s flagship object-based surround sound, Dolby Atmos. (See elsewhere in the March 2018 archives for a glossary of the new acronyms and jargon of audio/video streaming.)


Everyone won’t get the best picture via streaming. Like everything else in our industry, it’s the Wild West out there. Your customers are going to need your best efforts to give them the best sound and picture.