Ultra HD (4K) programmes on BBC iPlayer are still few and far between, so it’s always good news when we get new additions. This week, three programmes were added to the BBC’s 4K “experiment”.
Among them is the popular new thriller that’s based on a true story – Ridley Road – as well as two new nature shows.
4K (also known as Ultra HD) gives you four times the details over Full HD (1080p), with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, compared to 1,920 x 1,080 on Full HD.
HDR (“High Dynamic Range”) helps improve the contrast rates, making the picture much more accurate, while also providing a larger colour palette and more colour shades.
In order to watch 4K/HDR content, however, you need three components – a 4K TV, a 4K streaming device (possibly the TV itself, if it’s a “Smart” TV) and 4K content – see below on what you need exactly.
The BBC has been running trials of 4K content on iPlayer since 2016, when Planet Earth was streamed in UHD and HDR on supported devices.
This year, several programmes were added to the 4K mix on iPlayer, including the New Year’s special of Doctor Who, two major sports events – UEFA Euro 2020 and Wimbledon 2021, and – most recently – Vigil – the very successful submarine drama.
This week, the BBC announced three programmes that are being added to the 4K/HDR selection on BBC iPlayer:
Written and adapted for television by award-winning writer Sarah Solemani (Barry, Aphrodite Fry), from the critically acclaimed novel by Jo Bloom.
Ridley Road is a thriller set against the backdrop of a swinging sixties London we haven’t seen: an East End world where far-right fascism is on the rise, and where a young Jewish woman is drawn into a world of deceit and lies in a high stakes fight.
The programme stars Agnes O’Casey, Tom Varey, Rory Kinnear, Eddie Marsan and others.
All four episodes of the series are now available in 4K on BBC iPlayer.
The Earthshot Prize: Repairing Our Planet
Imagine what might be possible. Prince William and Sir David Attenborough explore simple, ambitious ideas to repair our planet – solutions offering hope for nature and humanity.
All five episodes of the series are now available in 4K on BBC iPlayer.
The Mating Game
Finding a mate isn’t just about love – the survival of an entire species could depend on it. Sir David Attenborough reveals spectacular scenes of courting and companionship, in yet another breathtaking nature series.
Episodes will be released in 4K weekly, after they’ve aired on BBC One every Sunday – there will be a total of five episodes.
How Can I Watch These Shows In 4K?
If you want to watch Ridley Road and the nature shows (as well as the previously added ones) in 4K / HDR, the first requirement is a TV that supports 4K.
Then, for HDR, there are several separate HDR formats – so you also need a TV that supports the HLG format, which is the one the BBC uses (unfortunately it isn’t as popular as some of the other HDR formats).
Finally, you need a streaming device that supports 4K (and the HLG format for HDR) and has the BBC iPlayer app. This can either be your Smart TV itself, or a dedicated device like the Amazon Fire TV Cube.
It’s important to note that the BBC 4K Trial is NOT supported on some popular 4K/HDR streaming devices (such as the Amazon Fire TV 4K, for example).
Also, the BBC’s 4K trial is NOT supported on mobile phones and computer browsers.
Sky Q is also NOT supported at the moment, therefore we can also assume the new Sky Glass TV is also not supported for now.
You can find the full list of supported devices here.
As for broadband, 4K streaming needs a fast connection – the BBC recommends a connection speed of 24MBit/s for the full 4K experience (3840 pixels), or 12MBit/s for a lower (2560 pixels) resolution.
Once you have everything in place in terms of hardware, you need to pick the right settings on your BBC iPlayer app, where you must set the video quality to “Best”:
- Go to BBC iPlayer’s “Settings”
- Select “Video Quality”
- Choose “Best Quality”
If everything is set correctly, you can make sure you’re watching the programme in 4K/UHD, by looking for the UHD icon on iPlayer:
To learn more about 4K/UHD and the BBC, see our full guide.