Tom Butts /
03.07.2014 09:24 AM
When 4K Isn’t Enough
Tom Butts
The rush to 4K/UHDTV has elicited the usual responses from various corners of the media and entertainment industry. Much like the move to HD, consumer electronics manufacturers are moving forward in the anticipation (or perhaps speculation) that the television industry will respond in kind with the content. At the 2014 CES there was no shortage of announcements of these kinds of efforts from Netflix to Amazon; broadcasters as well successfully demonstrated over-the- air transmissions of 4K content in the Samsung booth. Despite grumblings from industry pundits (like myself) that most of the viewing public won’t be able to discern the difference on average size screens and that 4K will consume too much bandwidth, vendors push forward regardless.

But what if even 4K is not enough? How about 8K?

Japan, which never seems to sit still when advancing new imaging technologies, has decided that 4K is not enough and is pushing 8K as the broadcast standard of the future. Japan’s public broadcaster NHK dubs its version of 8K “Super Hi-Vision,” which provides about 16 times the resolution of conventional 1080-line HD. It also generates a proportionally greater amount of data; for example, an uncompressed 8K 60-field image produces a data rate of about 24 Gbps. And it’s hardly new: The format has been demonstrated for years at various trade shows.

NHK, which has been leading these efforts, announced the successful transmission of 8K last month when SHV signals were transmitted via a single standard UHF terrestrial broadcast channel over a distance of 27 km. According to NHK, the data was fitted into a “standard” six MHz broadcast channel via “image compression technologies” and was transmitted using “ultra-multilevel” orthogonal frequency division multiplexing and multiple-input multiple-output dual-polarization technologies.

This was followed up by another successful test of 8K transmission, this time at an event in Tokyo earlier this month in which a team of both public and private technology organizations conducted the world’s first successful test of transmission, storage and distribution of uncompressed 8K video over a 100 Gbps Ethernet connection.

The Olympics, which has traditionally been a test bed for new imaging technologies is the driving force behind Japan’s push to 8K. NHK reportedly is showing SHV footage of the Sochi Winter Olympics to Japanese audiences; and government officials have made well known their intentions to launch full-scale 8K broadcasting in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

At last year’s interBEE in Tokyo, a government official drove that point home, announcing that the country—which has so far spent about $10 million in its 4K/8K efforts, had moved testing for 4K forward to this year, with full-scale viewing by 2016, and that a timeline has been established to develop the appropriate standards and infrastructure to make 8K transmissions happen by 2020.

Sharp and Samsung demonstrated 8K displays at CES last month, and vendors from Hitachi to Grass Valley at recent trade shows have demonstrated cameras and editing capabilities for the format so we can expect more news at the upcoming NAB Show.

But will 8K ever be feasible for the home? Who knows; but we’ve been through these debates enough to understand it doesn’t really matter. The past several Consumer Electronics Shows have proven that.

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Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 03-07-2014 09:27 AM Report Comment
8K makes a lot more sense than 4K. 4K is hardly noticable to the average viewer while 8K is a whole new world that has a 3D look. If you have not seen 8K at IBC or NAB, take a look this year. It is truly amazing and the viewer will really have a different experience than the barely noticable 4K difference.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 03-07-2014 09:28 AM Report Comment
We appear to be edging our way back to shooting on film.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 03-07-2014 10:01 AM Report Comment
I think we are going way too fast on this. But of course the bottom line is that it's a question for the market. If prices are right it will pick on, if not we will have to wait. Meanwhile we can't complain: the quality of HD or better, 4K is superb compared to the old SD or analog video. Best Regards.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 03-07-2014 04:00 PM Report Comment
Enough already with the pixels. We got enough "K". Brightness, dynamic range, color gamut, frame rate, all are wiser uses of our bit budget.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 03-07-2014 06:05 PM Report Comment
As you said the plans for 8K from NHK are nothing new. The deadline of 2025 for broadcasting was set at least 5 years ago. 4K as an interim step was never planned. The set manufacturers are pushing this trying to fill the gap left by lacklustre profits from 3D. Here is my take: Hooray for NHK, 8K is on the way. The problem is how is it going to get here (my living room). If you look at the stuff I wrote for BE, I do know something about codecs and the tradeoff between temporal and spatial resolution. Until someone proves me wrong I believe that recording a combination of pictures starting with low res Hi Frame Rate and ending with Hi res lo Frame rate will give us the ability to generate any in-between frame rate / resolution combination. I propose a set of experiments to find the optimum combination of resolutions and frame rates for recording purposes. Taking this approach will give us the opportunity to determine if it is even necessary to record Hi res Hi Frame Rate.

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