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Software capable of importing and manipulating 4K video is not necessarily a new development. Many, if not most, nonlinear software packages have been resolution independent since the early days of HD. The barrier to running 4K on the desktop hasn't been the software, but rather, the hardware on which it runs. Until fairly recently, real-time 4K performance was relegated to only the most high-end post-production workstations. While it was technically possible to import and work with 4K video, playback performance when working with 4K video left something to be desired in most software packages. The bandwidth and processing power required to play back uncompressed 4K video in real time is still substantial and today remains out of the reach of some users. However, innovations in compression algorithms, video processing techniques, and data connectivity have made 4K video editing and manipulation more accessible.
The 4K revolution seems to be advancing day by day, and those working in post production are faced with the choice of how best to prepare themselves for the ever-approaching frontline of this revolution. Fortunately, manufacturers are offering new solutions so editors, colorists, and VFX artists can better prepare for the inevitable arrival of 4K.
GPU Acceleration: Modern GPU cards are small computers unto themselves; matching the RAM and processing power of full-fledged computers of only a few years ago. Originally developed for graphics processing, they are highly specialized to perform tasks specific to image processing, which makes them a natural fit for accelerating video playback and effects.
Codecs: Intermediate codecs such as ProRes have helped to bring the 4K revolution to the desktop by balancing processing and bandwidth requirements for playback. This enables editing software to play back video on editing workstations with modest specifications.
Data Connectivity: SDI has proven, over the years, to be a rather flexible standard for video transmission, which has been able to grow and adapt with the needs of the video industry. Originally, developed for digital standard-definition transmission, today there are several potential standards for 4K SDI transmission using between one and four BNC cables.