CES 2013

Broadcasting In 8K Could Start In 2020

With set makers working hard to push adoption of 4K as TV’s next-gen format, work is moving forward on 8K. Visitors to the Consumer Electronics Show are brought up to date on “super high vision” which boasts an eye-popping 7,680 x 4,320 resolution.

When industry analysts at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show said jumbo-size TVs with unbelievably high resolutions were the next big thing, they weren’t kidding.

While companies like LG, Sony and Samsung are in a frenzy to sell massive 4K, ultra-high definition TV sets, many industry leaders are looking toward what’s next: 8K TV, or what’s being called “super high vision.”

At the annual Las Vegas trade show on Tuesday, a group of panelists, which included executives from NBC Universal, LG, NHK, Canon and Sony, discussed the future of 8K TV, which boasts an eye-popping 7,680 x 4,320 resolution. And while the industry predicts broadcasters could start shooting and even distributing in 4K by 2016, 8K may not be too far behind.

The format’s first official test took place at the 2012 London Olympic Games, when the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) shot the opening and closing ceremonies — in addition to basketball and cycling events — in 8K and distributed the live broadcast via Internet 2 — an advanced, higher-performance network — to London, Tokyo and Washington.

Yoshiaki Shishikui, NHK’s chief of advanced television systems research division, led a crew that used three 8K cameras for the test. Only two cameras were able to broadcast live during the sporting events.

“8K is a pretty simple concept,” said Shishikui, who actually shot the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games in conventional, 1080 high-definition 28 years ago. “More pixels means a wider viewing angle, and more resolution gives you a sense of actually being there. It delivers a sense of realness — that’s the goal.”


Those who had the opportunity to watch the Olympic events in 8K on massive monitors (the record was actually set in Tokyo when it was broadcasted onto a 520-inch screen) called it a surreal experience.

“To actually see that kind of resolution and quality was amazing,” said Myra Einstein, manager of technology policy at NBC Universal.

To enhance the viewing experience even more, NHK helped develop an unprecedented 22.2 hi-vision sound system, which literally wraps around the viewer.

“You can hear someone in the crowd at the Games clapping behind you,” said Shisikui.

Research for 8K television began in 1995. Ten years later, the first, uncompressed 8K live feed was distributed via optical fiber. And while the London Olympics was an important step for all industries involved, the reality of bringing the platform to broadcasters in the U.S. is still nearly a decade away.

The group of panelists agreed that in 2020, the format could be used for experimental broadcasting. The 2016 Rio Olympic Games will also be shot in 8K, and likely on a wider scope, meaning more events and maybe further distribution. It’s unclear if it would be available to consumers at that point, however.

Sharp, which first showed off its 8K prototype at last year’s CES, again touted the super hi-vision television set this year, even though it’s years away from consumers being able to buy one.

4K distribution continues to be biggest hurdle

Even with more than 50 4K TV sets on display at this year’s CES, content in that format is sparse and distributing it is still a challenge. With consumers showing interest in the next-generation TV sets, and manufacturers creating them in a range of big sizes, the next hurdle is figuring out how it will be distributed to the home.

There are 4K distribution experiments going on outside of the U.S.  In South Korea, the government has funded the country’s joint broadcasters group to broadcast a channel in 4K 34 hours per week.

“This is a very serious experiment,” said Nandhu Nandhakumar, president of the LG Technology Center of America, the South Korean electronic company’s Silicon Valley research lab. “We expect further trials this year and even wider trials in 2014.”

Many 4K TVs will go on sale this spring in the U.S. and globally, according to vendors at this year’s CES, even though content is still at a minimum.

“There’s certainly going to be more [content] in the future,” said Sheau Ng, vice president of technology and standards at NBC Universal, “but we still need to figure out what’s the business model. The equipment guys can create these [4K TVs], but for us to get the content, we need to say, here’s the business model, here are the projections and this is how we can make money.”

Comments (7)

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Mike Barras says:

January 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

I still have the spinning disc image dissector with 41 lines of resolution.

Tanya Pavluchuk says:

January 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I’ll wait until it’s better than real life…….

steve weiser says:

January 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm

If 8K is due to begin selling in 2020 and 4K is still not here (although the article did mention early selling during 2013), why not just bypass 4K and devote the time to getting 8K out earlier? It seems to me that 4K is just another 720p situation where set manufacturers, wanting to get some type of HDTV out on the market, introduced the 720p and then made it obsolete by putting out 1080i and 1080p sets a short time later. Forget 4K and move directly to 8K and get it out by 2015 or so.

Christina Perez says:

January 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Wanna bet the industry purposely refuses to develop an OTA broadcasting standard for these high-res technologies, making super-HD available only to pay TV subscribers? That seems to be the plan — and it will destroy broadcast TV and its ubiquity and universal availability. Broadcasters should insist that these high-res standards are compatible with broadcast transmission — but I bet they won’t. Will you?

Warren Harmon says:

January 8, 2013 at 3:05 pm

We are surly approching over-kill, how much resolution does one need to enjoy the content without exploiting the stream with useless bandwidth requirements.

    Christina Perez says:

    January 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Absolutely. Just last night I was marveling at the great picture delivered by my 40″ 720p set — 720p, not even 1280i. This is a ploy to strip the American public of the availability of free, over the air HDTV, IMO.

Ellen Samrock says:

January 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Codecs are advancing so rapidly that by 2020 it may well be possible to broadcast an 8K video stream on one 6 MHz channel–and possibly two or three streams. Who knows? And 2020 is a good projection date to shoot for. If UHDTV came out this year or next it may well fail in the marketplace. Consumers have just purchased HDTVs, Blu-ray players and software. They’re not going to upgrade now. Eight years from now, maybe. CE manufacturers have no doubt learned a lesson from 24-bit CDs. I’ve already replaced some of my most favorite movies with Blu-ray versions. I have no intention of buying them again in 4K or 8K formats. What I’m seeing with the Blu-ray versions is a slight improvement in sharpness and a color along with a whole lot more grain. Since 8K far outstrips film in terms of resolution only content shot with 8K cameras will matter anyway. You won’t see much improvement with content shot on film today. Some series such as “Downton Abby” are filmed with 4K cameras as well as some motion pictures such as the latest James Bond film. This trend will grow as the entertainment industry moves further away from film. So content shot in 4K now will certainly benefit from UHDTV down the road.