While NHK and the Japanese government have been very proactive in promoting 8K, the format may see slower adoption in other regions of the world like North America and Europe, says Ian Trow As consumer demand for high-quality video content on an ever-increasing number of devices continues to grow, the industry is gearing up to bring […]
While NHK and the Japanese government have been very proactive in promoting 8K, the format may see slower adoption in other regions of the world like North America and Europe, says Ian Trow
As consumer demand for high-quality video content on an ever-increasing number of devices continues to grow, the industry is gearing up to bring 4K and 8K resolutions to the public sooner rather than later. NHK, Japan’s public service broadcaster, along with TV Globo in Brazil, has been testing the robustness of delivering 8K television content over the internet for coverage of the 2014 World Cup. By broadcasting 7680 x 4320 images of one of the worlds largest single-event sporting competitions, NHK promises to offer the ultimate entertainment experience to sports fans.
While NHK and the Japanese government have been very proactive about promoting 8K, the format may see slower adoption in other regions of the world like North America and Europe, where broadcasters are already experiencing issues with supporting the broadcast infrastructure needed to produce and deliver 4K content.
More specifically, the broadcast industry is struggling to support the kind of production infrastructure and workflow that would be needed to deliver Ultra HD content whether it is 4K or 8K.
One major difference between 4K/8K content and the traditional HD content were used to watching today is that 8K and 4K production relies on fewer camera positions to tell the story of a sporting event such as the World Cup. This results in a very different television viewing experience, as most people are used to watching sports events where the broadcaster directs them towards particular areas of action. The issue is still up for debate, as some producers feel that guiding the viewer through the action with multiple camera angles is an essential part of premium sports coverage.
With 8K and 4K content, viewers can see the whole playing field and concentrate on an HD subset of the action in their field of view on a much larger TV screen. If viewers have a preference for the story being told through multiple camera positions in the stadium, this can pose a problem. Broadcasters must decide, both from a technology and creative standpoint, whether they should limit the number of camera shots and panning and scanning within them, or just stick with the way people are used to seeing live sports events, keeping in mind most of todays consumers do not have a 4K/8K-equipped television.
Another production issue that broadcasters are contending with, when it comes to 8K, is how to effectively mix social media with broadcast content on the television screen. Several set-top box (STB) manufacturers have introduced boxes that support a mix of social media interweaved with broadcast content to optimise the viewing experience. Broadcasters must come up with a strategy for handling social media content.
One of the primary issues with delivering 8K television content is that it requires an infrastructure upgrade (e.g., new cameras, vision mixers, and production and playout storage), which many broadcasters are not keen to invest in at the moment. In addition, broadcasters must figure out a way to support the higher bit rates needed to deliver 8K. Issues also exist for consumers in terms of affordable and available technology capable of supporting the new format.
High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), a next-generation compression standard, offers a solution to the bit rate dilemma by reducing the data rate needed for high-quality video coding by approximately 50%, enabling broadcasters to deploy higher quality video services using the same amount of bandwidth. HEVC has major implications for 4K delivery, as premium sports content would generally be shot at 50 to 60 fps, requiring a bit-rate of approximately 15 to 20 Mbps, more than the standard 10 Mbps needed to support 24 fps movie content. A move to 8K would further impact the bit rate challenges involved with stepping up the frame rate to 100 to 120 fps. For 8K sports-type applications shot at a much higher frame rate, its envisioned that broadcasters would require 25 to 35 Mbps, yet shooting at 100 to120 fps goes outside of the capability of what consumer interfaces (e.g., HDMI) can currently support.
Given the push by consumers for a higher resolution television experience, and the issues that still need to be resolved to produce and distribute 8K content, its anticipated that 4K will be successful in the global marketplace first. The services will most likely be available as OTT and VOD initially, with live applications rolled out on a much slower time scale.
Ian Trow is Senior Director of Emerging Technology and Strategy at Harmonic.