Vimeo starts offering 4K downloads, but shies away from streaming

Vimeo-loving video producers can finally put that expensive Red camera to good use: Vimeo is now allowing Pro subscribers to offer 4K downloads of their movies, and anyone who wants to sell their videos through Vimeo’s VOD platform can also offer those paid downloads in 4K to consumers.

However, Vimeo isn’t offering 4K streaming just yet. “It’s pretty early for streaming,” said Andrew Pile, Vimeo CTO, during an interview last week. That’s in part because there are simply not that many devices that stream 4K content out there yet. There is no affordable streaming device capable of 4K playback, and few people have a 4K monitor for their desktop computer. But that could change soon, according to Pile. “The new iMac is gonna be a turning point,” he told me.

So why offer 4K at all if most consumers are simply not ready for the ultra-high resolution yet? Because filmmakers have been shooting in 4K for a while, and some of them have already been uploading 4K content to Vimeo. That’s especially true for artists participating in Vimeo’s VOD store, explained Pile: “A lot of these things are captured on Red cameras.” Up until now, Vimeo has been transcoding 4K downloads to lower resolutions. Now, it’s keeping them intact, and available to download.

4K was supposed to be a big step forward for online video services in 2014, but the roll-out of 4K content has been slow because of technical and business model challenges.