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.
Broadcasting In 8K Could Start In 2020
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.”