Although 4K was the resolution du jour at IBC in Amsterdam again this year, as it has been for the past couple of years, Japan’s national public broadcaster, NHK, was going one better with a demonstration of 8K, or Super Hi-Vision (SHV). The company’s roadmap set a 2020 date to begin satellite broadcasts of 8K content, which aligns nicely with the Olympics recently being awarded to Tokyo for that year.
Rather than the 145-in Panasonic plasma TV that was used to show off those more than 33 million pixels at IFA last year, this year saw NHK demonstrating 8K (7680 x 4320) on an 85-in Sharp LCD. The pictures were being supplied in MPEG-H HEVC/H-265 from what NHK says is the world’s first real-time encoder to support the first standard capable of handling the 8K resolution and 60P frame rates of SHV.
But it’s not just the pictures that get an upgrade, as the SHV format also includes 22.2 multichannel surround sound that reproduces sound in three dimensions. So not only will consumers have to invest money in a new TV when 8K comes around, they’ll likely also need to shell out a substantial amount of cash on new speakers to enjoy all the audiovisual benefits of the format.
Although NHK has been developing 8K technology since 1995, the Olympic games often provide a good opportunity for broadcasters to give new technology a leg up. After successfully transmitting a SHV signal over the air in 2012, it also shot the opening and closing ceremonies and a few events of the 2012 London Olympics in 8K and transmitted the pictures live via a high performance internet network. Tokyo being awarded the rights for the 2020 games gives the broadcaster more than just an arbitrary date to aim for to make its first 8K satellite broadcasts a reality.
NHK also displayed a couple of compact 8K cameras at IBC, including a portable camera system and a cube camera head. The portable camera system includes a 5.3 kg (12 lb) camera head, a 14 kg (31 lb) camera control unit (CCU) and captures 8K images with a 2.5-in, 33 megapixel CMOS sensor. The 2-kg (4-lb) cube camera head measures 12.5 x 12.5 x 14 cm (5 x 5 x 6 in) and captures images with a 1.5-in, 33 megapixel CMOS sensor. The portable camera system takes 35 mm full-frame lenses, with both cameras supporting PL, EF and F lens mounts.
So with 2020 seven years away, should those looking at purchasing a 4K TV in the near future be concerned that it will be obsolete within a few years? Probably not. While the 8K pictures being displayed at the NHK stand were indeed a pleasure to behold, at the kind of screen sizes most people would be considering for their homes the additional resolution isn’t likely to be very noticeable to the naked eye.