Dec 12, 2016

How can 4K TV take The BBC’s Planet Earth to the next emotional level?

Everyone loves Sir David Attenborough and his Planet Earth series. We challenge anyone to resist the powerful combination of his dulcit tones, impressive knowledge, beautiful cinematography, evocative music...and of course the best that nature has to offer.

Apparently even the nation’s hard to please “millennials” are hooked in every Sunday, with figures released this week showing that the first three episodes of the new series attracted more viewers in the 16 to 34 age bracket than The X Factor. And thank the lord for that!

Even more excitingly, the BBC announced last week that it has begun trialling the broadcast of Planet Earth using 4K high dynamic range video on its iPlayer streaming platform.

For those of you who don’t know, 4K TV uses four times the pixels that Full HD does, which means we’ll be able to view things like last week’s nail biting door-mouse getaway in even finer detail and more vibrant colours. As Pocket-lint’s editor Stewart Miles explains, 4K TV “gives more nuance to the picture, which if you are talking Planet Earth is going to be amazing.”

But what does 4K do to viewers emotionally? You’d presume that an enhanced image quality would mean an enhanced emotional experience. And you’d be right.

We worked with Currys, PC World, BT Sport and M&C Saatchi to put this very concept to the test earlier this year. We pitted two groups of football fans against each other watching their teams battle it out live on screen. Half the group watched in HD and the other half in 4K.

While the game itself was a dull scoreless draw, the results of the experiment weren’t. By using wearable sensors to measure viewers real-time emotional responses to the match, we were able to show that 4K produces a higher level of arousal and actively immerses the audience, significantly more than HD.

If viewers are more emotionally engaged by a program then they are more likely to watch it again, which is obviously great news for the people creating the program, the advertisers paying for the space in the breaks and the channel streaming it. Engagement means profit.

For those of us on the other side of the screen, a more engaging experience is more satisfying. And who wouldn’t want to be more satisfied after a night snuggled up on the sofa in front of their favourite programmes?!