How to watch the best 4K content right at home

You’ve got a brand new 4K Ultra HD TV and you’re ready to watch the best ultra high definition content around – here’s how to get the 4K experience right at home.

Sure, 4K Ultra HD compatible TVs have been available in Australia for a while now, but right now they’re more affordable than ever before. In fact, there’s no excuse not to have a 4K set in your house.

But up until recently, it was hard to find things to watch that made the most of your 4K TV screen. Luckily, that’s all changed and I’m going to show you how to get the best-looking TV shows, movies and more right in the comfort of your home, on your own 4K TV.

Is it time to get a new TV? If you haven’t made the move to 4K yet, the answer is probably yes! Image via GIPHY

What is 4K?

First off, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. If you read up on this around the web, you’ll see a lot of different terms used: 4K, Ultra High Definition, UHD, Ultra HD — even 4K Ultra HD and 2160P. Unless you’re talking to a cinematographer, when it comes to home entertainment, these all mean pretty much the same thing.

At its most basic, it’s about your TV having a lot of pixels: 3,840 by 2,180, which is four times as many pixels as a Full HD. If we’re talking about a movie or a TV show, then it’s all about that content making the most of your beautiful screen without having to be ‘upscaled’ from Full HD.

Your jaw will drop, too, the first time you see just how good 4K looks in your own home. Image via GIPHY

What does this actually mean for you when you’re watching at home? Well, you’ll get incredible sharpness, clarity and detail in all your favourite movies and TV shows. The difference in the jump from Full HD to Ultra HD has to be seen to be believed.

Who is making it?

The good news is that a lot of people are putting a lot of effort into getting 4K content into your lounge room.

Netflix is easily one of the best known with an absolutely huge catalogue of 4K shows. This global streaming service is committed to making sure all of its original shows can be streamed in 4K – and they’re making a lot of different shows!

From the incredible crop of Marvel superhero series through to original documentaries and movies, Netflix has a lot of 4K on offer. We’ll talk more about that later on.

For anyone working on new 4K content on any platform, we salute you! Image via GIPHY

The big-name movie production houses are getting on board with 4K for home entertainment as well, with more and more movies being shot in 4K (or even higher) resolution. And it’s not just new films either. Older films that were shot on real celluloid film actually have a lot of visual information and convert really well to the digital standard of 4K, surprising as that sounds.

What this means is that the 35mm films of yesterday will look good, but the 70mm films will look even better as a 4K movie in your own TV screen. So yes: it might not be long before you can watch the likes of “Ben Hur”, “Lawrence of Arabia” and even “2001: A Space Odyssey” the way you’ve (probably) never seen them before. Oh, and of course “The Hateful Eight”, which Tarantino shot on 70mm film just last year.

So the question now is how do you go about watching all the incredible content on offer now and in the future? Well, there are a few different ways…

Stream it!

Can you believe it’s only been a year-and-a-half since video streaming services such as Stan and Netflix arrived in Australia? They’ve become such a staple of home entertainment it can feel like they’ve been around for ever.

Right now, Netflix is the only streaming service in Australia to offer 4K content. Earlier this year Stan made some changes that might one day allow them to start serving up Ultra HD movies and TV, but at the moment they don’t have any firm plans around it.

If you want to get 4K via your Netflix account, there are a couple of things you’ll need. First off, it’s only available on the Premium tier, which is the top line of the three on offer. You’ll also need a decent internet connection speed. Netflix recommends a minimum speed of 25Mbps, which is way above the Australian average. If you’re on the NBN or have cable, you’re in luck. The rest of us need to keep our fingers crossed.

You can get 4K movies and TV streamed direct to your TV… if your broadband connection is good enough! Image via GIPHY

Of course, over in the US there are a few different services that offer 4K streaming, such as Amazon Video and Ultraflix, and just like Netflix eventually opened up over here, we could see more options on the horizon soon.

Watch it on disc

There’s a brand new physical format that’s also helping you get 4K into your home. Called 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (which is a mouthful), it’s a way of getting the big file sizes of a 4K movie onto a Blu-ray style disc. If you can’t get the speed you need from your net connection – or if you like to have a shelf of your fave movies – then this is for you.

But you will need to upgrade your old Blu-ray player to one that supports 4K Blu-ray discs. At the moment your options are limited… and they’re not cheap, just like original Blu-ray players cost a pretty penny back when they launched.

If you don’t mind playing the occasional videogame, one great option is the Xbox One S. This brand new Xbox upgrade not only looks good and plays all your old Xbox One games, it also plays 4K Blu-rays discs – and it’s cheaper than the other players on the market.

Read our pick of the best console games to keep the whole family entertained. 

So what you can watch on 4K Blu-ray? Well there’s a big mix of titles you can get right now, from “Mad Max: Fury Road”, “The Revenant” and “The Martian” that were so big at this Oscars this year, through to superhero action like “Deadpool” and “Spider-Man 2”. Kids and adults will get a kick from “The Lego Movie” in 4K, while action fans will love “Expendables 3”, “Creed” and the original “Independence Day”.

Say hello to an ever-growing range of great movies, all on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Image via GIPHY

There are many more movies on the way, from brand new releases like “Suicide Squad” and “Jason Bourne” through to older, much-loved titles with a bit of a cult following, including “Labyrinth” and “Ghostbusters”.

Right now, 4K Blu-ray is one of the best ways to make sure your next movie night is in Ultra HD, no matter what your home broadband is like.

Watch on YouTube

Yes, the service that completely changed what we did with home videos has actually been offering 4K videos since way back in 2010, if you can believe it.

So in addition to cute cats and clips of people hurting themselves in inventive ways, you can also get some high-end content in glorious 4K quality. From smartly produced short films through to documentaries and even just videos looking at incredible landscape and other natural wonders, there’s a lot to find.

Yes, YouTube has more to offer than just cats. Although the cats are still there if you want them. Image via GIPHY

But be warned! YouTube uses a different standard (or ‘codec’ as it’s called) to most other 4K content: VP9 versus HEVC, if you’re interested in the details. Luckily, it’s an open-source codec so modern TVs, such as the Hisense 4K ULED Series 7 range, support both. There’s even a dedicated YouTube button on your remote to make it easier!

Make Your Own!

This pretty much follows on from talking about YouTube, but it’s never been easier to get out there and create your own 4K Ultra HD content. In fact, with a 4K TV, you could even get a bit retro and have some old-style home movie nights, with all the family around to watch.

Better yet, you don’t need specialist equipment. A lot of the top-end smartphones record video in 4K UHD quality – although you’ll fill up your phone’s memory pretty quickly. You can even do simple edits on the phone, thanks to some great editing apps.

If you’re a sportier type, then you have a lot of options when it comes to 4K action cameras. Whether you’re a surfer, mountain biker, hang glider or just someone who likes to take a long walk in some beautiful countryside, you can get in on the action and create your own point-of-view videos in 4K.

Fame and fortune could await as you create your own 4K content. Image via GIPHY

Upload the finished product to YouTube and you could have a starring role on someone else’s 4K TV in no time at all!

So what are you waiting for? Get watching!

That’s a lot of options right now and, of course, even more are on the way. Around the world pay TV providers are working on getting affordable 4K video into the homes of subscribers and even traditional broadcast TV channels are looking into getting Ultra HD up and running. It’s a brave new world of 4K content and you can start experiencing it today!

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