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Good Question: When Will We See Broadcasts In 4K?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- If you've been in the market for a new television, you've likely seen all of the new 4K displays at the stores. The major television manufacturers have come out with their own versions of the ultra-high definition sets even as the broadcast networks are still working to broadcast in 4K.

So, that had Tom from Andover wanting to know: When will we see broadcasts in 4K?

"Currently, we're not able to broadcast in 4K, we're limited to the 1920 by 1080 HD standard," said Gary Kroger, the head of engineering at WCCO-TV.

He said that while transmission tests have been conducted, it's still hard to say when 4K network broadcasts will begin.

"I think it will be a couple of years," he said.

Kroger says that while the technology is improving quickly, it takes time for the manufacturers to ramp up the production of that technology. Then, the standards have to be written across all of the broadcast outlets.

The term 4K comes from the idea that the images are 4,000 pixels wide, which, according to Kroger, is essentially four times the resolution of what networks broadcast in HD today. Ultimately, he thinks the HD to 4K jump will be similar to SD to HD jump we experienced just a few years ago.

"If you're a real enthusiast, the higher resolution is certainly going to give you access when that content is available," he said. But, until then, he says there's an upconversion process that will get you sharper picture with a standard HD TV.

According to Best Buy's Chris Sumner, you might not get the full 4K without 4K broadcasts, but, "it does take what you currently have and make it better."

Right now, Netflix offers some of its shows in 4K at a higher cost. BluRay has also announced it will offer 4K movies in 2015.

Some broadcast networks already use 4K cameras, even without 4K broadcasts. During the CBS Thursday Night Football, three 4K systems are used down the sidelines and over the line of scrimmage.

"The benefit of that is the ability to zoom into a small portion of the picture for the instant replay and expand that out and still maintain the high definition image," Kroger said.

Some scripted shows are also shot in 4K so the content is available in that format for later use.

As far as cost, Sumner says 4K televisions can be between $200 to $800 higher than a traditional HD television, but he says the prices are coming down. He sells one for $900.

"There's a 4K TV for everybody," he said.

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