TOKYO—When the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony begins, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK will achieve a major milestone on its roadmap for 8K UHDTV as it presents the international spectacle to Japanese viewers on its BS8K (Broadcast Satellite 8K) channel in 8K.
Delayed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, the games represent another significant achievement for the broadcaster, which made television history 57 years ago with live international satellite distribution of the 1964 Summer Olympics and domestic coverage of some Olympic events in color.
For the 2021 Summer Olympics, NHK plans about 200 hour of 8K UHD coverage, including broadcasts of the opening and closing ceremonies and seven events, including swimming, athletics and judo. It also plans 8K coverage of four Paralympics events: athletics, swimming, badminton and wheelchair rugby.
(NHK previously has conducted tests of its Super Hi-Vision technology, including uses during the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2016 Rio Olympics but downconverted much of that footage because so few 8K displays existed.)
The broadcaster plans separate 2K Summer Olympics coverage on its General TV 2K terrestrial channel and a simulcast of the 2K presentation in 4K UHD on BS4K.
Coverage of the Olympics in 4K and 8K will be the first on NHK’s BS4K and BS8K since it launched the satellite channels in December 2018. “We hope to provide viewers with a fully immersive experience that makes them feel like they are watching the events at the venues,” said NHK executive director of broadcasting Masagaki Satoru.
NHK began work on its Super Hi-Vision 8K television system in 1995, showing the world the incremental progress it was making on development of the concept and technology at special exhibits during major international industry gatherings, such as the NAB Show and IBC.
8K UHD is the pinnacle of the TV viewing experience. From a resolution point of view, it creates pictures with four times more pixels than 4K UHD (7,680 x 4,320 pixels vs. 3,840 x 2.160 pixels, or 33 million pixels vs. 8 million) and 16 times more than HDTV.
Both 4K and 8K present video with High Dynamic Range (HDR); HDTV as broadcast does not. They also offer a wider color gamut than broadcast HDTV (ITU-R Rec. 2100 vs. ITU Rec. 709). While these qualities taken together deliver the highest visual TV experience to viewers, 8K’s 22.2 multichannel sound system extends the system’s superior quality to the aural arena.
Millions of viewers in Japan have the opportunity to enjoy NHK’s 4K and 8K coverage. According to Statista Research, there were about 8.8 million Japanese households that owned a 4K or 8K UHD TV as of fiscal year 2019, a figure the research firm forecasted to grow beyond 16 million this year.
An NHK spokesperson declined to provide details about specific 8K production technology to be used for its 8K coverage. However, the broadcaster previously has deployed an 8K camera system of its own design for major sporting events, debuting its use for coverage of the Rugby World Cup in 2018.
NHK’s 8K UHDTV coverage of the 2021 Summer Olympics will only be available to viewers in Japan.
The 2021 Summer Olympics from Tokyo run from Friday, July 23, to Sunday, Aug. 8. The 2021 Paralympics are scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 24 to Sunday, Sept. 5.
In the U.S., NBC will begin live coverage of the Opening Ceremony at 6:55 a.m. EDT and re-air the opening at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
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Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.