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Author Topic: 4K: the beginning of the end for large format printing?  (Read 3829 times)
bbrantley
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« on: January 07, 2013, 01:08:31 AM »
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Okay, I know this is the Printers and Papers forum, and there are other forums where this topic might fit.  But I feel like this group has the most vested interest in this topic, so I'm putting it here in order to get the best opinions.

My theory is that the next few generations of LCDs are going to start obviating the need for paper prints.

Let me expound in both directions so you know where I'm coming from.  I've been shooting and printing, almost purely for my own fun, for about a decade now.  I've got one of those iPF beasts, and I have my handful of papers I like, and I generally print and frame or go send off the results to be face-mounted to acrylic.  I calculate my cost, not including my time, at something like $300-$500 per print, when all is said and done.  That includes the amortization of the equipment over the final prints, the ink, the materials, the outsourced work, shipping, frames, and so on.  That does not include lighting modifications I have occasionally made in my home.  I love big, detailed prints...  the kind that suck you, such that you can't help but walking up and putting your nose on them. 

At the same time, I have a finite number of walls where I can display my work.  I have many more images than I have space to display.  In fact, I have a stack of framed prints in my basement, gathering dust.  I am now at the point where I am hesitant to invest further in prints, since I'll be taking one down every time.

I'd give all this up if there were a thin, non-invasive, energy-efficient display technology that approximate the qualities we like in large paper prints.  I think we are getting very close in many dimensions now.  Certainly, the LCDs have broad gamuts and much greater dynamic range than our lowly paper.   The newest models have enough ppi to rival what we can do with ink, and I expect this will improve by another factor of 2 in the next three or four years.  (Let's hope the prices will improve by a couple of those factors of two, too!)

I don't think we're really there on energy efficiency, and indeed these may still be an ugly black rectangle when not powered up.  It may be hard or impossible to enframe them such that they don't look like an ugly TV.  And we are probably stuck with 16:9 aspect, which might be the worst drawback of all.  There will still be issues with clarity in some lighting conditions, although on the other hand old-fashioned paper has this problem at the other end of the range.  Tonal fidelity and stability, especially in monochrome works, will no doubt be a challenge for a while. 

But... there would be no more printing.  I could reclaim that space and time and energy.  I could show as many images as I wanted, even slowly alternating them over the course of an evening.  The sizes are already close to exceeding what can be done practically in flimsy media.  The technology is conveniently incremental, too -- one could start phasing it in in one room or two and then gradually add displays in other areas as prices come down and quality continues to go up.

A part of me does not want to "give up" the mostly-fun that is large-format printing.  (However, I could do without drivers, profiling, and paper alignment issues.)  But another part of me thinks that this transformation is going to be unavoidably enticing -- eventually, from both a direct economic perspective and an aesthetic one. 

I'd love to hear what you think. 

p.s.  If you've not had a chance to see one of these new 4K displays, or at least a retina display on a laptop, you owe it to yourself to find one and have a gander. 
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darlingm
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2013, 03:17:42 AM »
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I think some of that is bound to happen.  Not many thought it would happen with books, but more eBooks are sold now than physical ones.

However, I think people value something a lot more when it's something physical they can get their hands on - especially art and photography.

I also think a lot of buyers think what they're buying is an investment, and will increase in value.  Not sure you'll get that same thought on a digital version.

There's always going to be a large amount of people that aren't tech-savvy.
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aaronchan
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2013, 04:47:59 AM »
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If you want 1 large picture hanging in somewhere on the wall, would you buy a 4K 80" LCD TV for that?
Or you have a large lobby which could hang 10 pictures, would you buy 10 TV for that?
Let say you have a only 1 spot for 1 large picture, but you want to show multiple images, a 4K TV might fit in this situation.
But please don't forget, you will have a hugh LED light blow your eye during the night time. of cuz you can turn it down during the night time,
but i think a turning off a light bulb is much easier than turning off this big ass tv.

just my $0.02

aaron
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Benny Profane
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2013, 07:35:36 AM »
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Well, ask yourself. How many of '10 and '11's most popular cheap Photo Xmas present do you see around anymore, the digital picture frame with the revolving slide show? Sorta made it's way to desk drawers and closets like the digital watch, right? You expect some monstrous version of that to make it to somebody's wall?
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Wim van Velzen
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2013, 08:52:48 AM »
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I don't know whether large wall LCDs are the answer, but I do know that the technical limitation is more in viewing photographs that taking them. Most people see more digital images than printed ones; the digital images they see are showing far less of their detail than a 8x10" print did of a 35mm negative. Slide projection was a very good way of getting into the images. In that respect 4K could be a significant step up.

Personally I would prefer a projected slide show over an LCD, but who knows what future improvements there will be.
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framah
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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2013, 09:44:06 AM »
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Personally, I think your view is quite myopic. You are thinking only as a private person with a collection of his own images. In that situation, what you are imagining is a pretty good idea.
 But let's take it out of your house and into the real world.

We walk into an art gallery and the  walls are covered with large LCD screens, each with an image for sale. For only $3,000, you can get a thumb drive of the image for your home "art display" or for another $700 more, you can walk home with the LCD right off the wall. Of course, the gallery has a room in the back full of LCD's for just that occasion.
The problem there is how does the gallery or the artist "lock" the file so only that person can use it and not let him copy it?

The truth here is that your scenario is only feasible in your type of situation. Personal, use for your own images. For anything else, it's not realistic and I'm not going to try putting my 11880 up on ebay any time  soon.

On the plus side.. when you all decide to stop printing on your machines then those of us who do this as a business will have less competition.

I did once find a nice little desktop digital frame in a Good Will for $10. Cleaned it up, plugged it in and it worked fine. I guess they were bored with it.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2013, 12:47:35 PM by framah » Logged

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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2013, 10:50:05 AM »
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Personally, I think our view is quite myopic.
...
I did once find a nice little desktop digital frame in a Good Will for $10. Cleaned it up, plugged it in and it worked fine. I guess they were bored with it.

Exactly.  In spite of the clenched teeth, the sweaty brow, the clogged nozzles, the drifting profiles, the mangled media and the exorbitant costs, few photographic satisfactions compare with that of producing a great big print. 

Even better (sorry, framah) giving it to someone you know will love it as much as you.
 
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Sal Baker
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« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2013, 11:40:37 AM »
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Well, I guess this is the end of painting too.  Just paint digitally on your iPad, frame it and put it on the wall.

Sal
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2013, 11:49:34 AM »
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I don't think you have enough eyeballs to make this a problem for concern.

You're going to have to compete against this first:


http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sugexp=les%3B&gs_rn=1&gs_ri=hp&qe=cGljdHVyZXMgb2Yga2l0&qesig=91x2joYDyEV91Z-6DiyzRw&pkc=AFgZ2tk-nxxoqcgwBldfQ_hbUDhmJkTr3-GD1eAgH_hxRJh-ReFmgO1Z_3rFFfuBKCtnJXndRJR3S8iUQelDjMeLCmtvFV493w&cp=15&gs_id=1n&xhr=t&q=pictures+of+kittens&newwindow=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.1355534169,d.b2U&bpcl=40096503&biw=1330&bih=940&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=zgnrUL3eFKnk2wWm-oDACA

...and then the other some odd billion or so images before being concerned about what media format they're viewed. Just some perspective.
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2013, 01:09:35 PM »
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Here's an idea I got from picking up 20 dollar bills snorkeling to the bottom of my local spring fed river.

I want to print my fine art posters with ink and paper that I can wad up and throw into my local river and come back in a week to pick it up, flatten and dry it and have it as good as new just as I did with that 20 dollar bill.

Can that be done?

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bill t.
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« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2013, 01:22:54 PM »
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Where exactly is that river?
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deanwork
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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2013, 07:12:06 PM »
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It happened a long time ago, it's called HD Video. Half of the artists in the Bay Area who at one time would have been photographers are now video artists. It is as common as diet coke.

AW, those kittens are so cute....


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digitaldog
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« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2013, 07:26:12 PM »
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Considering how many framed prints I have in my home, moving that over to an emissive system would be darn expensive. And I assume I have to plug the damn thing into a plug nearby. And as someone with a state of the art green home, I'm not sure, at least during daylight hours how much that would drain my 3.6 kWh solar system. Better be LED <g>

Don't get me wrong, I love the look of emissive images but I don't find it practical, at least until I have Bill Gates monies for such systems and don't give a crap about the carbon footprint.

I had one of those small backlit LCD's (digital frames) for photo's but got tired of it quickly. Turn it on, turn it off. I do agree, with a lot of images, having them recycle on a big panel would be cool. And it will happen someday. My screen saver, with a lot of images that load when idle for a few minutes, works pretty well for the time being.

My prints, at least during daylight hours are pretty 'green' (energy efficient). I'm guilty enough running a big NEC display most of the day.
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2013, 07:27:34 PM »
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For only $3,000, you can get a thumb drive of the image for your home "art display"...

It better match!
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Andrew Rodney
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bill t.
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« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2013, 07:51:26 PM »
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When the day comes, guys like framah will have to retrain as Color Management Specialists, which will be the highest paying job throughout the early 2020's.

We'll all have houses with oled walls like "Cloud Atlas" or "Back to The Future."  You'll buy the stuff by the foot and apply it with wallpaper paste.  Will run forever off two AA batteries.

http://cf.drafthouse.com/_uploads/galleries/23686/cloud-atlas-4.jpg
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bbrantley
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« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2013, 10:08:00 PM »
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You guys are a hoot.  Sounds like there are plenty of you who'll stick with paper to the grave.  Smiley

I think there are some obstacles, but the hardest ones are quickly getting mown down. 

Control is just something that's historically been done horribly, but we'll see big strides especially if Apple or one of the more competent human interface firms gets involved.  It should be trivial to sense presence in the rooms and power up or down the display on the spot. 

The emissive elements still suck enormous power (just feel the heat rising off any reasonable-sized display, even the LED ones), but that'll probably get optimized down in time.  The physics suggests it should end up on par with what you'd spend front-lighting a reflective surface.
 
I think the teensy displays are a red herring.  They've historically been poo, with no way to control or manage them reasonably.  They look like poo.  They're a novelty.  C'mon, think bigger than that, silly.

I think cost will get competitive, at least as long as printing stays so darn expensive.  I guess some of you can amortize your personal prints across your business volume, but the rest of us have to pay retail or, um, do it ourselves and pay something awfully close to retail while we're sub-scale.  If the displays come down to 300-500, and you buy them only once...  well...  that'll be a pretty strong proposition for some subset of the market.

I do agree that the physical manifestation and image-rights aspect is a tough nut to crack.  Of course, we've witnessed the transition already cracked for lots of other parts of the markets (marginal costs of 0 break or change the markets, completely), so that might be an unfortunate consequence.  On the other hand, viewed through my personal lens, it's irrelevant -- I'm shooting and (currently) printing my own stuff. 

The "myopic" comment is a touch ironic, but then, your handle is "framah" -- so it may be unfair to ask you to separate emotion.

Finally, I agree that there is something special about producing the physical final work.  I am just not sure if that specialness outweighs the time I could otherwise spend out in the world, finding the next image.  The latter is pretty special, too.

Okay, I've cemented my prediction in the perma-internet.  Let's all check back in ten years and see how right I am.  Smiley

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Johnny_Boy
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« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2013, 11:02:12 PM »
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I think many of the prints will move to screens. Nobody thought digital camera will ever replace film camera, but it eventually did. Kodak is dead.

There will come a day when people (99%) will stop printing photos onto papers to display on the wall as well.

Give it maybe 20 years? A large 100" 4K organic bendable LED screen will come free in a cereal box. In fact the entire walls of the new homes will be made with such materials. Who needs to paint room and re-decorate walls when you can switch them out at a flip of a switch. 
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hjulenissen
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« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2013, 04:19:44 AM »
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Does screens have to be transmissive? I thought that "e-ink" and similar reflective display technologies developed for electronic books (reading) were prime candidates for replacing paper prints some time in the future when they are mature enough: no energy used when holding a static image, bright sunlight no problem, image can be changed by the flick of a switch. Of course, probably no more DR or color gamut than printed paper, either. Unless some nano-carbon-kevlar coating enables significantly blacker-than-charcoal blacks (reflectivity of 1/100?).

I think that money is being poured into LCD-type (OLED etc) technology in order to reduce energy consumption, simply because display is a main contributor to limited battery life in smart-phones and tablets. I'd be surprised if we dont see significant improvements over the coming years (I believe that significant amount of energy is turned into head today - just touch an LCD screen or imagine what happens when a LCD pixel is "black" while the backlight is forced to turn other pixels into "white". This suggests that some future technology could produce the same images at lower energy cost).

-h
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mac_paolo
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« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2013, 05:43:38 AM »
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And as someone with a state of the art green home, I'm not sure, at least during daylight hours how much that would drain my 3.6 kWh solar system. Better be LED <g>

[…]

My prints, at least during daylight hours are pretty 'green' (energy efficient). I'm guilty enough running a big NEC display most of the day.
I agree.
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Benny Profane
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« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2013, 07:29:08 AM »
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I think many of the prints will move to screens. Nobody thought digital camera will ever replace film camera, but it eventually did. Kodak is dead.

There will come a day when people (99%) will stop printing photos onto papers to display on the wall as well.

Give it maybe 20 years? A large 100" 4K organic bendable LED screen will come free in a cereal box. In fact the entire walls of the new homes will be made with such materials. Who needs to paint room and re-decorate walls when you can switch them out at a flip of a switch. 

It's reasoning like this that just encourages me to finally buy a large Epson and start selling prints. Yes, the digital camera has severely damaged the small print market, and eliminated thousands of people in the industry who think they can make a decent print. That just eliminated the low price competition. The high end print market will always be there, with less wannabees at the bottom crowding me out. I am almost as happy as when I hear of the many who think it's sufficient to learn the basics of Lightroom or, heaven forbid, one of those cheap or free photo editing programs out there to use for serious retouching over Photoshop. Thanks. Just making it easier.
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