Forget 4K. By Tokyo 2020 it will be 8K

In a few days’ time, delegates and exhibitors to IBC will be discussing the merits of 4K production for TV, with most industry observers now agreeing that 4K will be introduced commercially in 2014 and start making headway in 2015. But the decision to award to 2020 Summer Olympics to Tokyo fits in beautifully with Japanese public broadcaster NHK’s plans for 8K, its Super Hi-Vision concept.

Japan’s Super Hi-Vision (8K) will start test transmissions in 2016, and the broadcaster has already said that it will make widespread use of DTH satellite, using the 21 GHz Ka-band.

Japan’s Nikkei share index loved the news, sending it 2.5 per cent higher in trading September 9th and with widespread predictions that the Games could add 150,000 jobs and boost the economy by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.

Japan’s leading consumer electronics companies (Sony, Panasonic, Canon) are ready with high-end cameras and consumer display equipment. Of course, they want us first to buy into the 4K experience before moving on to further decimate our bank accounts by persuading us to go for 8K in a few years time.

Certainly, there are plenty of public broadcasters who do not want to rush into 4K production or investment, preferring to await further improvements in the High Efficiency Video Codec to enable 8K to happen. But perhaps the biggest challenge will not be in image capture, or even in workflow and post-production, but in transmission.

Some countries have no chance of delivering 4K – let alone 8K – transmissions terrestrially because they have already sold the available bandwidth to the cellular industry or re-allocated the frequencies to digital broadcasting. This doesn’t mean 8K is impossible. There’s plenty of Ka-band satellite capacity available, for example.

But 8K – and a few more years of development – could deliver a few more temptations for viewers: true 3D without glasses, for example. Time will tell, but the industry now has a target to work towards, and Tokyo 2020 could be extremely important, and not just for the athletics.

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