"No one cares about greater visual fidelity anymore" - Oculus' David De Martini

Former EA exec signs on as VR firm's head of worldwide publishing, lays out plan to line up content for launch

Oculus VR has added another seasoned veteran to its growing ranks, as the Rift maker today announced David De Martini as its new head of worldwide publishing. De Martini spent the last 15 years as a senior vice president at EA, where at different times he oversaw EA Origin, the EA Partners program, and its Redwood Shores studio. Speaking with GamesIndustry International this week, De Martini said he hadn't expected to add Oculus to the resume when he finally parted ways with EA a couple months ago.

"I was ready to potentially retire to the golf course, and this was just so ground-breaking that it took me out of playing golf three days a week," De Martini said. "The potential was just so large that it was really something I'd been searching for at least the last five years within EA. It's the most exciting thing I've been a part of since at least Rock Band at EA."

De Martini actually met with Oculus on a reference from his old boss, John Riccitiello. The former EA CEO told De Martini first that he had to see the technology in action, and second, that he was an ideal fit to bring developers on board the platform.

"[AAA publishers'] core audience, hardcore gamers, are so behind this platform that they have to respond to the cry from the community to get great content on the platform."

David De Martini

"I took a flight, came down here and experienced the device, and within about 30 seconds, I was sold not only on the potential of this device, but what this device actually can do," De Martini said.

Thoroughly convinced, De Martini signed on with Oculus, and now says he's focused on introducing the Rift's capabilities to developers large and small to see what they can do with it. While the company already has support from big names like Valve, CCP, Unity, and Epic Games, De Martini said he expects them to have plenty of company as Oculus gets closer to launch.

"I think what you're going to see is with last week's announcement on continued investment, every piece of news that comes out of this headquarters and comes from this team adds more certainty that this thing is launching in the foreseeable future," De Martini said. "And as that certainty demonstrates itself, I think you're going to see the EAs of the world, the Activisions of the world, along with all the other independent developers jumping on board. There's just so much momentum. Their core audience, hardcore gamers, are so behind this platform that they have to respond to the cry from the community to get great content on the platform."

Oculus vice president of product Nate Mitchell said it's not just third-party publishers that people want on the Rift. While CEO Palmer Luckey is on record as saying the current hardware cycles for consoles like Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are "too limited" for what the company wants to do, Mitchell suggested they could work something out after all.

"I think there's a huge demand for Oculus on the consoles because frankly, the gaming community is there," Mitchell said. "There's a huge PC gamer base at Oculus, but there's also an enormous console base. So many gamers out there own consoles; of course it makes sense that we'd want to have the Rift working on those machines. I think there's a ton of enthusiasm from the community to get the Rift on consoles. We'll see where we end up."

"I think what a lot of gamers are going to be blown away by is five years from now when they're playing whatever it is on Rift 2.0 on their PC."

Nate Mitchell

The biggest problem Mitchell saw was that the VR technology is advancing so quickly that the most immersive experiences will be possible on PCs that are advancing astride, rather than console hardware that is essentially fixed at the beginning of a hardware cycle.

"I think what a lot of gamers are going to be blown away by is five years from now when they're playing whatever it is on Rift 2.0 on their PC," Mitchell said. "It's going to be an awe-inspiring experience and something special. That's why we're focused there."

Despite the buzz surrounding the Rift, De Martini doesn't expect his job lining up content to be easy. For one thing, he'll be trying to convince people running businesses to devote resources to a platform with no installed base coming from a company that hasn't actually shipped a product to consumers yet.

"We have exactly zero production units sold in right now," De Martini said. "So they look at that and ask how many are you going to have? When are you going to ship? How many are you going to ship? And we point them to directional answers. And developers like certainty. They like specific answers."

The big things De Martini has working in his favor these days are the technology itself, and the word-of-mouth it's been producing. De Martini acknowledges that "virtual reality" has a stigma attached to thanks to previous VR fads in gaming that never took off, but he's confident the hands-on experience with Rift will answer any questions about the quality of the product.

He likens the difference between the VR of yesterday and today to the difference between mobile phone 15 years ago and now. The form factor is smaller, the number of things it can do has grown, the tech has improved in every aspect, and the experience is completely different now from what it was. And in an era where people talk about the diminishing returns of brute hardware strength, that novel experience will be key, De Martini believes.

"People are so tired of the last 15 years of the game industry, hearing about 'greater visual fidelity,'" De Martini said. "No one cares about greater visual fidelity anymore. It's already good enough. We don't need things to look even better; we need the experience to fundamentally change, and the Oculus platform is a fundamental change to how people will experience games."

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Latest comments (29)

"No one cares about greater visual fidelity anymore. It's already good enough. We don't need things to look even better; we need the experience to fundamentally change,
BS! We need things to both look, and experience better. Polygons still look polygonal. Until limitations of a interactive environment can become relatively limitless, even the best looking character is ruined by good looking surroundings (at first glance) but very obviously digital at closer inspection. You dont need to be a artist to notice that, just have eyes.
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Renaud Charpentier Game Director, The Creative Assembly8 years ago
From my experience with it, the Rift actually demands greater visual fidelity as you see the world from up close.
Object that are close to you and you can look at various angles easily scream for more polygons and better shaders.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
Yup yup... You just need to look at some First Person adventure games to see how much more visual fidelity is required - hands and fingers look "strange" shall we say. And legs/feet are almost never shown, which, whilst a different form of "visual fidelity", is just as important to immersion.
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Show all comments (29)
Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 8 years ago
Dr Wong... that's art production, you're referring to.

The only way to do that is raw production, production, production. That's not tech.
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Kevin Patterson musician 8 years ago
"No one cares about greater visual fidelity anymore. It's already good enough."

Raises Hand - I care.
We are a long way from maxing out graphics yet.
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exactly, the current visual fidelity is good, but it sure as heck isnt awesome or closer to realistic.
Sear my eyes with stuff as good as reality I say!
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
I believe that if a game has a cohesive artstyle, e.g. Nintendo games, then resolution and polycount won't even matter. The Rift transports you to "over there", so how dull would it be if over there looked like over here? We will see a glorious mixture of reality and unreality clashing, because both approaches will work.

The bottom line of this technology is: if you are in the business of making gaming monitors, then you are probably out of business soon. This technology has an impact on people last seen when 3dfx presented Quake_glide.

Imagine how Stanley Parable, or Antichamber will make you feel, if you cannot really escape that world by looking away from the monitor. It is not a matter of fidelity if the experience itself will work.
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With good visual fidelity and amazing production visuals, the Rift or other VR headsets could herald a 2001 space oddessy moment for interactive entertainment. The elements of strong artstyle will hold true for ANY media, but is not about pushing the boundaries of the 4th or 5th wall.

So whilst early adopters of VR headsets will be more or less amazed and enjoy the current crop of technology, a integrated push with better LED, curved surfaces, thinner and alternative materials will help facilitate a truly next gen enjoyment of interactive immersive media.

So, in conclusion visual fidelity is bloomin important (but not the magic bullet). We have barely broken the 4th wall
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd8 years ago
Bit of a daft statement considering how dropped frames and graphical glitches that are a minor inconvenience on a monitor are immersion-breaking issues on a VR display.
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios8 years ago
I think David might mean, put our 'focus' on changing the experience, games already look 'good enough', so, divert priority away from art, and onto improving the experience (gameplay, immersion) Also Robin, what if the Oculus VR has zero dropped frames and graphical glitches? Have they been reported in the press etc I'm not trolling, just genuinely curious to know. I'm interested in the tech.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Marty Howe on 21st December 2013 4:12am

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Scenario. Rift comes out. It's a MEGA hit. Guess what? Here come the cheap-cheap knockoffs that many won't care aren't as well-made because hey, they're ONLY a measly $50 and are on sale at Radio Shack (or Shitty Ol' Rack as it's called here) or some refurb closeout joint for less once too many lousy models pop up in a few years. Unless there's some heavy quality control and elbowing the copycats in the neck, I'd say monitor and TV makers aren't dead meat on a stick just yet.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 8 years ago
I think people are missing the forest for the trees.

Art design certainly matters but we have been suffering through higher and higher fidelity of varying levels of brown. Art design will only matter when graphics fidelity is less relevant. Each generation we get diminishing returns in graphics fidelity to the point that its very hard to market higher fidelity. That's is more than we could ever ask for.

When graphics fidelity no longer continues to be the obvious go to way to promote a title, games will have to be promoted on more "lower budget" tricks like game design, art design, sound design, narrative etc.

The decommissioning of graphics fidelity relevance ushers in a grand new era for video games which has already begun with the indie game movement. Granted the whole graphics fidelity obsession is starting again on Mobile but will flatten shortly.... I'm glad De Martini has acknowledged this as it's been pretty damn apparent since the 90's.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 23rd December 2013 11:50pm

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I would like to avoid the speculation of a EA veteran on what people want, and the delivery of something new and different.

Too long the consumer game sector has ignored what was really wanted and delivered what they felt they could get away with - this move into VR is like moving into a market they had previously dismissed as just fans and nerds.
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 8 years ago
"you sing the songs of the man who pays the bills...."
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 8 years ago
Speaking as someone who has used the rift a few times now. The low resolution display is in no way acceptable as it stands. For one thing the visual artifacts are very noticable. As is banding and blocky images. I have seen a lot of people, mainly journalists and developers, all shouting the praises of the rift but, without many exceptions, most of them didn't actually want to wear the thing after a short while and showed no real enthusiasm to put it back on after the demo.

Once the novelty wears off all that you are left with is the sub standard visuals and a very heavy unit on your head. This is why VR has failed each and every time it has been touted as the next great thing. I'm very sceptical that Joe public is going to bite this time either.
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Morgan King Animator 8 years ago
The consumer version is going to have much higher resolution, lower-latency, and faster pixel-switching - the dev kit is a proof of concept more than anything - considering the technical specs they've released and the high-res screen they've been showing over the last 6 months, I don't think the resolution is going to be a major deterrent for the released product.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
Hi definition was a real evolution for me. 4k is a marginal evolution its not one Im dying for, but one id like having. However 4k comes with so many setbacks in terms of storage and delivery over the internet, that its hardly practical, with no way to store it or stream or even download or upload it in a convenint manner. A 2 hour movie in 4k resolution is probably s few terabytes large. Right now Id like to see strides in data storage capacity, processor speeds, better compression methods and things like Battery life.... before we move on to 4k, because all that is needed in increased amounts to simply play a movie, let alone play a game in 4k. I bet if I try to play a 4k film on a tablet the battery will be sucked dry in a few minutes. And right now Im happy with 1080p. Though I look foward to 4k resolution, im not dying to have it anytime soon or if it makes things more inconveniant or expensive. At the end of the day. I can live without 4k. And i replaced my DVD library with Blu-Rays, I wont be doing the same with 4k movies.

And finally 4k resolutions can only really be enjoyed on a large display Im talking at least a 40 inch display, having 4k resolutions on a small display, tablet or mobile device really defeats its purpose.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 27th December 2013 12:32am

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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development8 years ago
A 2 hour movie in 4k resolution is probably s few terabytes.
Not true, with compression such as xVid a movie will only take a dozen or so gigabytes.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
Yech... Xvid. :( But, yeah, you can get 1080p DTS BluRay rips that, even at highest quality, are only about 9gb. There's many wondrous things that can be done with codecs and compression ratios.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 24th December 2013 1:39pm

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Speaking as someone who has used the rift a few times now. The low resolution display is in no way acceptable as it stands.
I am seriously concerned that having been proven wrong about the Gen-8 performance being superior, there are some that just attack the Rift in order to muddy the issues of what this system offers, and how far it leaves the Gen-8 hardware behind.

Let's set this straight - the current Oculus Rift is a Development Kit (hint is in the product name Dev Kit!) The consumer deliverable will be Hi-Def and much better developed (audio, tracking, lens and resolution). Looking at the Dev Kit is just giving an idea for developers to work towards, and not an example of the final deliverable.

I am sorry if some in the Gen-8 community are unhappy that these new consoles could not run the HMD to the quality needed - and I am sorry that the new VR revolution seems to be promoting a PC game platform solution - but trying to down play or even muddy the Oculus Rift in order to hide the fact is just stupid.

I know that the consumer console game media and trade are confused how to jump on the VR bandwagon without admitting that their new console hardware is under performing. I know that a number of publishers have demanded that their respective editors play down VR as they are concerned of a upscale in PC and SteamBox interest. Guys' get over it - Gen-8 is not a performance platform its a business model platform!
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
If you currently work with 4k movies and h265 based codecs, you can expect anywhere between 20 and 70 Gb for 120 minutes of film. If you want it smaller, you will have to compromise more. Considering there is neither a broadcasting standard nor studio equipment for 4k TV broadcasting, most of which we are going to see are large downloads and rigged BluRay discs. The fact of the matter is the TV manufacturers having pushed ahead too fast. After 3D did not stick, they just tossed 4k at the market. Expect it not to stick as well and maybe we revisit 4k in five years when there is actual content other than a few remastered movies from selected film studios.

Remember that due to the inner workings of current video encoding technologies, the required bitrate does not scale linearly with resolution. Considering the requirements to user bandwidth, 4k streaming might not be a mainstream option in the next few years. Current U.S. bandwidth limitations and ISP policies might even kill it outright. This throws us back to cable TV boxes preemptively downloading via TV network stream and disc based players.. Not ideal to say the least.

But honestly, most cinemas run at 2048x1080 resolution. Why would you want more resolution at home on a screen that takes less of your view? All 4k can do is either to accurately represent 35mm film grain, or allow for installations to press your nose against the screen. Arguably not what you will be doing at home.

The Occulus Rift combined with a 360 degree field of vision action cam on the other hand....
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Though many cinemas may claim a 'cinema-ratio' there are a number of venues that run IMAX-vision style at 70mm (2.080 by 1.480 in) and some running the even higher standard (IMAX 3D). This is better than 4K (4096 2160) cinema proposals, and also is being superseded by UHDTV (8k - 7680 4320):

For us in the attractions sector we are using IMAX and 8K already and looking at the impacts of 8K in interactive entertainment and also in totally immersive experiences:

As the consumer game sector now argues about the quality achieved fro their latest generational jump (Gen-8) we have to wonder if they may be left behind by other media platforms - as Gen-8 only seems to be battling for the next-gen in DLC and ownership of the living-room,, rather than technical excellence?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by kevin williams on 24th December 2013 11:39pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
I look at it as a numbers game. The Top5 movies shown at cinemas in Germany this year had a combined attendance of roughly 20 million people. Only one movie even had 3D. if you consider the average screen with the average projector powering it, then you are in a situation where they might as well have shown the BluRay. At this point, neither 4k, nor 8k matter in terms of mass market.

Sure, if you want to leverage being an attraction, in the sense that the mode of presentation and PR surrounding it supersedes part of the quality of the content itself, then you need to be ahead in terms of technology. But your average cinema won't have that. It has an audience purely because of its content, not because of the spectacle of an attraction.

The Cave Christie picture is nice, but look at the sides of the pictures and you can see the money dripping off the walls. The Occulus Rift is disruptive to that as well. Occulus vs. Christie: how many persons per year at which costs per person? Even with content at a measly 1080p an upscaled to 4k on an Occulus Rift, there will not be any contest about which is going to be the technology with mass market potential.

The really interesting part about Gen8 is the TV functionality and aggressive monetization experiments of the Xbox. Because it can be seen as a sign of a manufacturer smelling that just being a games console with the classic monetization scheme might not be enough anymore. Microsoft having monopolized PC operating systems (in terms of what matters for PC gaming) previously meant MS could keep PCs from evolving to more console style experiences while retaining the positives of a Windows PC; having full Internet access with all services, home office and what not in terms of functionality. Now Valve tries to tear down this barrier. It is not about bringing gaming to Linux, it is about creating Frankenstein's 3DO from PC parts and a Linux. It will be very interesting to see how Sony and MS will deal with another living room contender that has software for just about anything from day 1. That cannot be fixed by adding more cores, it cannot be fixed by adding Occulus Rift support.

No single thing should worry consoles. Not the Occulus Rift, not smartphones and tablets, not the Steam way of selling and discounting software, not all the free software on SteamOS, not the free multiplayer, not the difference in power, not the price/power ratio in 24 months, not 4k movies, not TV shows and software as a service. But put all those things together and you get a rather powerful storm coming to living rooms.Gen7 mostly defined what was possible in the living room to the point of Sony claiming their PS3 "doing only everything" Gen8 is confronted with all those new possibilities and cannot answer to any of them. This will be an issue.
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Have to say I am a little confused - first we talk about "quality for Rift to transport you there", then we have the "do we need more quality", then "hey 4K is something to aspire to", and now finally "no single thing should worry consoles"!?
The really interesting part about Gen8 is the TV functionality and aggressive monetization experiments
This was a major surprise for me! The whole promotion, marketing and fanboy discussion about Xbone and PS4 was the "performance battle" the need to run 1080p and to offer a "better than Gen-7" performance. To then say this was not the case and the battle ground is elsewhere seems to suffer a selective memory building on blindness (revisionist history dose not change it!)

This seems painfully similar to the backtracking on the Nintendo Wii-U - "...oh its a Gen-8 platform!", "...oh its capable of matching PS4", "...oh its not about performance...." and so on. To try and re-write your marketing and business plan before launch sees your top executive jump ship before the machine is released!

Fundamentally, a discussion about the possibility of the Rift changing the shape of the consumer game sector taking the spot light off of Gen-8 and turning to VR Rift and PC/Steambox seems to have been hijacked for a discussion on performance of consoles, 4K, and now claims that Gen-8 is not a performance combat zone?
The Cave Christie picture is nice, but look at the sides of the pictures and you can see the money dripping off the walls. The Occulus Rift is disruptive to that as well. Occulus vs. Christie
Yes, CAVE is not a consumer system it is used in million Dollar attractions and installations. That's why it was brought up - and though the "production Rift' will impact the visualization sector, it is part of a drive for immersion.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
Let me try to untangle here.

Yes, the Rift will have quality of experience. And the screen of the Rift will have to deal with the issue of visible pixel resolution. Which is not the same as the game having to deal with issues arising from its resolution. There might as well be a middle ground where 4k screen resolution is desirable as not to see pixels, while 1080p content looks good enough on on that 4k display. A BlueRay on a 4k screen certainly does not turn sour.

But for 4k entertainment content, the future is a bit more bleak. Movies exist, but are subject to a barrier when it comes to their delivery. There simply is no mainstream way of delivering content. At the same time, 4k is nowhere ready for mass production of content, i.e. Sports, News, TV Series.

Gaming content in 4k resolution is a bit more immediately available on PCs, but again the necessity in a Rift situation might not be there. As I said, most people essentially watch a BluRay when they are at a cinema. The Rift experience is in my opinion sufficient right out the gate at 1080p resolution to carry the technology. For this reason, the Gen8 consoles are down for the count, but not out yet. The PS4 can pull off 1080p games, it could still look good on a Rift and on a Rift upscaling to 4k. The Xbox One with its 1600x900 frame buffer will have to be more creative and/or suffer more from upscaling.

In this community we often argue Gen8 vs. Mobile. We also argue Gen8 vs. PC. Next week we probably argue Gen8 vs. Godzilla or something. In each of those arguments, however, Gen8 is holding its ground. It is never a complete defeat. But each time, there seems to be a consensus that Gen8 will lose at least some traction due to Gen7 users now having more places to migrate to. Or maybe the type of person who surprisingly turned up to become a Gen7 customer, now never gets into the situation of being a Gen8 customer. Because he now has a PC, or Smartphone, or... Godzilla.

This is why I say, there is not that one single thing out there to destroy Gen8, but there are too many attacks from too many sides. Each attack only does chip damage, but the number of attacks is worryingly high. This has created a situation where each argument against Gen8 is not enough for Gen8 consoles to worry about that specific problem too much. But suddenly Gen8 is pushed from being heir to the King of Gaming, to some indistinct middle ground of living room gaming, with the really exciting stuff being elsewhere. What's even worse is that when Gen8 could push its technological advancement the hardest, it suddenly gets under fire for trying to get RPU numbers up. When the people you need to stir up a shitstorm of bullshit technical arguments against the other guy, are on your doorstep before AND after release AND for two different reasons, you do not need to revise history. You just write down that there were two different issues, that became apparent at two different moments in time. It is one big battle with multiple fronts. In the case of the Xbox One, we might have joked about that they put all the TV stuff in their presentation, but we never asked why. When we did, we discounted it as madness, when we should have looked harder for business arguments for the TV stuff. I only started to assume understanding those when I saw the complete picture after release and the ways in which Valve is pressuring them with an Operating System now.

If I had to prioritize the list of killer features for the future:
1. Gameplay, because only this can raise RPU over long term and business is the most important.
2. Immersion, soon to be revolutionized by VR.
3. Artstyle quality
4. Assets and engines for above 1080p resolutions

Fidelity will matter very much, but not the most. We live in a world where The Last of Us collected best graphics awards this year. Against all Gen8 games and Crysis 3.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
Fidelity isnt everything, Aesthetics and art direction are also important. TAke a game like Xenoblade in standard definition it looked pretty amazing. And as mentioned above Last of us won best graphics award this year against games like crysis 3. I myself want to see better facial expressions. That to me is a larger step foward in video game graphics than graphic fidelity.
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Ouch mate - if you can not reply to my comments in under 600 words in this discussion then you may be doing something wrong!
I used just shy of 300 - and to be honest, though I love spending Xmas on this discussion - I have to think that you may have missed the point.

All the best for the season.
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Al Nelson Producer, Tripwire Interactive8 years ago
I hope he warned the HW makers building 4K TV's and monitors.
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This feature explains the issues of 4K 4HDk for the consumer sector perfectly:

4K is the domain of the out-of-home sector for the time being!
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