Netflix Opens Streaming On 4K Content
April 9, 2014

Netflix Now Streaming House Of Cards In 4K Ultra HD

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Early adopters of the 4K, Ultra HD format now have more options for content. Netflix just began streaming in 4K, though content is initially limited to the second season of House of Cards and a handful of nature documentaries.

Netflix began testing 4K streaming last fall. It is finally ready to offer content with the higher resolution demands of Ultra HD. Programs available in 4K will be marked with an Ultra HD 4K label, TechCrunch reports. Of course not all Netflix subscribers will have access. It will be limited to TVs with Netflix and HEVC/H.265 decoding capabilities, Multichannel News reports. The high-resolution content is essentially only available for those early adopters who have 4K, Ultra HD televisions. “It's available everywhere Netflix is available and the first TV sets are hitting reviewer's desks and store shelves now,” said Netflix spokesman Joris Evers, via an email to Multichannel news.

An early review by the UK-based HDTV Test, reported that the stream switched to [2160 HD] after cycling through [720p HD] and [1080p HD]. The reviewer was watching the first episode of season 2 of the Netflix original series House of Cards. The picture was unimproved in parts, and stunning in others.

"So how does it look? You can’t cheat the physics of compression, especially given Netflix’s 4K streaming bitrate of 15.6 Mbps which is lower than that of well-transferred Blu-rays, albeit using the more efficient HEVC/h.265 codec. The opening shot of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife (Robin Wright) running in a park at night is a testing sequence with lots of gradients and camera noise, and we saw minor posterization during the fade in, and around the street lamps. To our eyes, the [2160 HD] layer did not look visibly more detailed than the [1080 HD] one in this fairly dark scene," wrote Vincent Teoh of HDTV Test. Teoh did note that the 4K streams excelled during bright, colorful scenes.

"On-screen images were rendered with greater sharpness and smoother gradients, receiving a very slight boost in intra-scene gamma and contrast in the process too. Every time the video stream switched from [1080p HD] to [2160 HD], it’s as if a veil had been lifted from the front of the screen, bringing objects – even faraway ones in long shots – into breathtaking clarity," Teoh wrote.

A number of 4K, Ultra HD sets are available on the market. In January at CES 2014, Netflix announced a partnership with LG, saying the new line of TVs from the manufacturer would support Netflix and its 4K content. Additional deals with Sony, Vizio and Samsung were announced at CES, Multichannel News reports.

It is necessary to have a compatible TV. Even those early adopters who have a 4K TV hooked up to a set top box capable of carrying Netflix such as Apple TV, Google's Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV, the box will not support streams in 4K, SlashGear reports. It will be necessary to wait for the next generation of set top boxes, that support 4K Ultra HD content.