Japan plans 8K broadcasts in 2016 – 2 years ahead of schedule

Both frame rate and resolution are in need of improvement, and this week we’ve got some good news on the resolution side of things: NHK and Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications will be bringing us 8K broadcasts by 2016, 2 years ahead of schedule.  Their first 4K broadcast be in July 2014, the date of the final match of the 2014 World Cup.

Despite the large presence of 4K TVs and monitors at this year’s CES there are many who consider 4K to be a stopgap on the way to 8k (7680 × 4320, or 33.2 megapixels), which is comparable to 70mm IMAX (some say 8k is better).  8K is also the point where pixel density truly approaches “retina” levels of detail at all but the very closest distances for normal consumer display sizes.

For many years already there have been signs that 8K is the target for consumer flat panel TV screens (some say 16K is the endpoint for applications such as virtual reality headsets). Most films scanned for archival purposes are scanned in 8K, as are some digital intermediates. And NHK has been working on its 8K Super-Hi Vision standard for years. Check out this video below (from 2011) of an 8K LCD display from Sharp and NHK:

Watch it on YouTube and choose the 1080P version to get the full effect.

Although I do think we’ll see the first 8K screens by 2016, whether as many manufacturers get on board with 8K at that time as are supporting 4K this year remains to be seen. 1080P has been commonplace for about 6 years now, and available for even longer. A 3 year or so gap between the introduction of 4K screens and the arrival of the first 8K displays seems a bit short (which is another argument for why 4K should’ve been skipped).  And then there’s the issue of branding: when 8K sets arrive, will the CEA stick with the “Ultra HD” moniker, or go for something new?

NHK's three-chip 120hz experimental color camera

NHK’s three-chip 120hz experimental color camera

The development of an 8K ecosystem is progressing: last year in a collaboration with Shizuoka UniversityNHK showed off an 8K sensor capable of shooting at 120 fps. So things are progressing steadily on the capture side.

But for now, however, the necessary pieces for even a 4K ecosystem are still not in place: we need 4K blu-ray players, 4K game consoles, and, perhaps most importantly, internet bandwidth capable of quick downloads of reasonably compressed 4K content.

I’m very interested to see where all of this is heading.