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4K Bitrate Video: The Outlook for 2021 And Beyond

Streaming technology is continuously innovating. Here's the outlook for 4K bitrate video in 2021.

Broadcast Operator , Content Distribution
Scott Cliburn06.29.216 min read

A recent survey on the most popular streaming devices revealed internet-connected TVs are the most popular streaming devices in American homes.

What’s more insightful is that nearly a third of these households access streaming video with 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) Smart TVs, a market that saw a 12% increase in purchase from 2019 to 2020.

The 4K market is forecasted to continue its growth through 2025 as these more desirable TVs drop in price and consumers come to enjoy added benefits like Dolby Digital sound alongside higher resolutions. But TVs are not the only devices in which consumers expect 4K viewing experiences; smartphone, gaming console, and computer manufacturers are all ramping up their technology to take advantage of this emerging trend.

If you are offering video products and services, it is important to understand how the growing 4K market affects you, where the 4K market is moving, which devices to prepare for, and the best ways to allow your users to enjoy high quality 4K content on your streaming platform.

Outlook for 4K Bitrate Video

The 4K market is forecasted to grow to a 213.93 billion dollar market by 2026 as more consumers come to expect a highly defined pixel experience in the comfort of their homes as well as on their personal devices. In addition to customer demand, the decline in manufacturing costs has driven many players into the market, making the landscape extremely competitive and fragmented.

While TVs dominate the US market with nearly 31% of the share, mobile devices, Amazon, Roku, Apple TV devices, and gaming consoles also make up a considerable portion of streaming device market share, all of which have 4K capabilities.

Entertainment and media are the primary holders of viewing for the 4K market, but consumers are also showing strong preferences for 4K across gaming.

Microsoft and Sony, respective makers of the Xbox and Playstation consoles, have also released 4K enabled devices to provide more immersive gaming experiences, meaning consumers young and old will be enjoying 4K quality viewing experiences if they are playing these games on 4K screens.

These viewing capabilities are only available if gaming manufacturers utilize the technology, and some gaming services have taken it upon themselves to apply the 4K bitrate to their games, like Fallout 4 (2015), God of War (2018), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), and Assassin's Creed Valhalla (2020).

4K Market Share: Which Devices Should I Prepare for?

Regardless of all the advances 4K technology is making, it is still only available to devices tailored to 4K streaming.

From low-cost devices from Walmart (yes, really), Amazon, and Roku, to Nvidia and Apple on the higher end, there’s something for every type of budget.

Mobile devices are plentiful in 4K technology as well. Sony, for example, has made many of its Xperia phones capable of 4K resolution. And it is not only cell phones --computers and TV sets are available that offer 4k for a variety of devices and budgets..

There is a multitude of computer monitors available with 4K capability from ASUS, BenQ, LG, Dell, and Acer. While some of the offerings may be on the pricey side, with time they will shift towards a cheaper market price. For now, it is possible to get a 4K monitor in the $150 range, with the most common pricepoint hovering in the $300 to $500 range.

The market is welcoming these changes, and brands like Microsoft and PlayStation are getting involved too. 

Playstation introduced their new PlayStation 5 with 4K technology, but their PS4 promotes 4K as well.

Microsoft's Xbox consoles Xbox Series X and Series S both hold the standard of high-quality 4K streaming.

4K Bitrate Best Practices

The most effective ways to stream high-quality content in 4K all depend on the original size of the rendered files. If the file was rendered with a low frame rate then you would have to upload it with a matching bitrate.

Naturally, every streaming platform you can upload to doesn't always have the functions required to keep the quality content you upload, especially with 4K, but there are the standard settings.

The standard bitrate for platforms like YouTube vary based on resolution. While there is no set bitrate limit required for uploads, there are two important numbers you will want to focus on - target bitrate and maximum bitrate. It’s best to think of the maximum bitrate as the ceiling for your video file and the target bitrate as the average maintained throughout the video.

Various streaming platforms have mixed preferences on settings, so the best way to optimize your video quality is to set the rate to correlate with your video's frame rate. 

For 4K SDR (Standard Dynamic Range), this can be between 35-45 Mbps for frame rates between 24-30fps and 53-68 Mbps for frame rates between 48-60fps. For 4K HDR (High Dynamic Range), this can be between 44-56 Mbps for frame rates between 24-30fps and 66-85 Mbps for frame rates between 48-60fps.

Now that will be how your maximum bitrate turns out, your target bitrate for a 4K video should be set to up to 90% of the maximum bitrate. That will not always lower your content's quality.

4K is designed to be the highest quality possible, so long as you edit your content with the proper settings and preparations.

When it comes to the bandwidth, it depends entirely on the pixel breadth of your device. 

The most efficient way to view 4K is through a 3840 x 2160p screen as it was specifically made to view all the pixels of a 4K stream. That means at least a 65" screen, which may not be realistic for every consumer.

This does not mean 4K is off the table, the quality will just adjust to the screen of the device it is viewed on.

Streaming with the optimal resolution is a combination of your high-quality footage and an editing software's rendering. If you stream in 4K and render it properly with the H.264 format, quality will convert with the device it is viewed on.

You can't, however, force 4K on a device with 480p when it should be viewed at 2160p.

Part of the solution is adaptive bitrate streaming, creating smoother stream performance while optimizing the bitrate. This does not affect the device in any form as it is designed to be consistent with the quality of the device and high-quality 4K video.

As the name suggests, it is adaptive to your content, based on the profile ladder used, as well as the  end user’s bandwidth and devices. With this form in practice, 4K has a promising future with continuous innovations enforcing positive change, streaming will become more concrete.

The 411 on 4K

The challenge with 4K is the limits on devices that are capable of streaming with 4K resolution. This is being addressed with new products aimed at high-quality streaming and it’s only a matter of time before more consumers get their hands on them.

For video streaming providers, trying to make sense of all the video file formats, codecs, and bitrates can be confusing. This is why Zype built a platform that allows publishers to optimize their video library no matter what device, or bitrate, they are capable of using. Our VOD encoding product takes your existing digital video content and translates it into a variety of formats and quality levels that allows users to enjoy your content anywhere— in their living room streaming from a set-top box or on the go using their mobile device on a cellular network.

If you are looking to remodel the way you stream your content with better 4K implementations then check out Zype's Solutions. We have several services that can enhance your content and introduce you to unique methods of optimizing your content for more of your clients to see.

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