by Anton Shilov
01/09/2014 | 11:01 PM
Ultra-high-definition (UHD) televisions with 4K (3840*2160) resolution are several years before adoption by the mainstream market. However, consumer electronics companies are already showcasing TVs with 8K (7680*4320) panels that are expected to make their debut only sometimes in 2016 in Japan and later in the rest of the world.
At the Consumer Electronics Show this week several companies, including Samsung Electronics, Sharp, Philips and Dolby showcased their 8K televisions to the general public, according to a report by DailyStar news-paper. While Sharp has been showcasing its 8K prototypes for a couple of years now to make evident advantages of its IGZO technology, the demonstration by Samsung was rather unexpected.
A prototype 8K TV with glasses-free 3D technology jointly designed by Sharp, Philips and Dolby. Image by Gizmodo.
Sharp, Philips and Dolby showcased their jointly developed IGZO panel-based 85” UHDTV with Dolby’s glasses-free stereo-3D technology. Samsung revealed a prototype of a 98” television. Neither prototype is going to make it to the market.
A prototype 8K TV designed by Samsung. Image by Gizmodo.
To exhibit presently unbelievable level of details provided by 7680*4320 ultra-high-definition resolution, Samsung demonstrated a footage showing a cross section of four levels of a large mall and gave attendees an ability to have a thorough look at every person or store that appear on the video, reports Gizmodo web-site.
There are two reasons why prototype 8K TVs are demonstrated today: firstly, companies want to attract attention to their brands by impressing end-users; secondly, the 8K technology is not that far from commercialization and it makes sense to start promoting it.
Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK, Nippon Hoso Kyokai) began developing super hi-vision (SHV) technology (which is now called 8K) in 1995. The 8K DCI format has resolution of 7680*4320 pixels – four times the resolution of 4K and 16 times that of current HD – as well as 22.2-channel audio. The annual R&D budget of NHK is around $77 million. Having spent well-over a billion of dollars on R&D since 1995, NHK has developed plethora of technologies not only for 8K/SHV, but also for other applications. Various equipment needed for production, broadcasting and showcasing of video in 8K UHD format has been designed in partnership with Japanese leading manufacturers of electronics, including Fujitsu, JVC, Mitsubishi, Panasonic and Sharp.
The first public screenings of 8K video technology were held at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Beauties À La Carte, a 27-minute comedy directed by Toshio Lee (known for Detroit Metal City), was shown on a 220” screen to demonstrate benefits of 8K/SHV (7680*4320).
Viewers at the public screening in Cannes also experienced spectacular coverage of the Carnival along with content in the genres of wildlife, entertainment, arts, and sports.
NHK performed the live 8K transmission from London Olympics venues in 2012 and aims to begin experimental 8K broadcasts in Japan in time for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. Last year NHK joined hands with Brazilian commercial broadcaster TV Globo in February 2013 to shoot the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in 8K.
Technology-wise, the world seems to be pretty much ready for 8K. The high efficiency video coding (HEVC, also known as H.265 and MPEG-H part 2) technology used for UHD video compression is ready and is even supported by existing encoder/decoder chips. NHK Engineering has developed 2.5” 33MP CMOS sensor capable of capturing 7680*4320 video at 60fps and has created an 8K TV camera with Hitachi. Astro introduced an 8K movie camera with NHK’s 33MP sensor last year. RED already sells 6K-supporting (6144*3160) Epic Dragon cam. There are various experimental tools for production and post-production of 8K content. Sony and Panasonic are developing new optical media capable of storing at least 300GB per disc. Unfortunately, we still lack many industry standards needed for commercialization as well as available equipment. But the industry still has years ahead of it!
What is not completely clear is Hollywood’s attitude towards 8K formats. In theory, once all technologies are ready, major studios just start to adopt them and eventually release movies created using them.
Before 8K becomes a mass market standard, 4K has to replace full-HD. The latter will happen only when decent 4K TVs will be affordable enough. The price of TV-sets depends mostly on the price of panels, so, in case of UHD 4K, the industry will need proper pricing on IGZO, OLED and other advanced panels to move forward with the new formats.