Amazon Prime Instant’s foray into 4K starts with four movies, four shows

Talk about slim pickings: Amazon is finally letting its Prime Instant subscribers stream content in 4K, but the company’s ultra high-definition catalog is remarkably small: Prime Instant starts off with just four 4K movies — Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Funny Girl, Hitch and Philadelphia.

In addition to that, [company]Amazon[/company] will also stream three of its own original shows as well as one BBC America show and a Lady Gaga concert in 4K. Amazon promises to add more 4K content, including upcoming Amazon originals, later this year and early next year. And unlike Netflix, Amazon isn’t charging Prime members extra to watch 4K.

But pricing may be the real problem that prevents Amazon and others from rolling out 4K more broadly. The company also announced Tuesday that it will make select movies available for sale in 4K, charging consumers $19.99 for titles like Moneyball, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Da Vinci Code.

A quick search on Amazon.com reveals that these titles cost between $12.99 and $13.99 when purchased in HD. Studios are looking to sell 4K content at a significant premium — but it’s unclear whether consumers are really willing to pay that much more.

Updated at 12:47pm. An earlier version of this story included Hard Times as part of the movies available in 4K, but I’ve since been told by an Amazon spokesperson that this isn’t actually the case. Also updated throughout to clarify that the four movies are part of Amazon’s Prime Instant catalog.

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.

Plain Ole HD? Pshaw! Get Ready for Ultra HD!

That beautiful 1080p picture you’re enjoying? Well, you may as well just chuck it in the garbage, because Ultra High Definition is coming. Research firm In-Stat put out a report today saying that while it will take some time before the UHD market hits a critical mass of 5 percent household penetration, over the next five to 10 years, companies in the TV ecosystem will be able to experiment with business strategies to turn UHD into a strong business for the long haul.

UHD offers 16 times the resolution of Blu-ray along with 22.2 multichannel three-dimensional sound. Current proposals for UHD have the technology coming in two flavors: 7680 x 4320 pixels (8k resolution) and 3840 x 2160 pixels (4k resolution).
Based on its research, In-Stat predicts that broadcasters will begin offering UHD content to an addressable market of UHDTVs between 2017 and 2022. UHDTVs will approach 5 percent of European homes until 2021 and will then shoot up to 28.2 percent by 2025.
Many of you might have already been planning to dump your 2-D TVs when 3-D sets hit the market. Michelle Abraham, principal analyst for In-Stat, said during a brief phone chat that they expect 3-D TVs to hit the market first, but the 3-D peanut butter will get into the Ultra HD chocolate as the desire to create a more immersive experience will mean that UHDTVs will incorporate both 2-D and 3-D technology. And then your mind will be officially blown.