Content, CE Industries Prepare For 8K Transition
Michael Cioni, Panavision
You might just be getting up to speed with that new 4K Ultra HDTV you bought, but the content production industry, joined soon by consumer electronics manufacturers, have begun the slow transition into the next high-resolution video format – 8K Ultra HD-2.
That was the consensus of a number of expert panelists attending the QLED & Advanced Display Summit in Hollywood Wednesday. The event was coordinated by Insight Media and sponsored by Samsung, which is using the event to shed light on the evolution of quantum dot (aka QLED) technology in advanced 4K and soon 8K television displays.
Samsung is preparing to deliver what is expected to be the first consumer-focused 8K Ultra HD display in the United States (and many other parts of the world) later this year. The display, which was shown at CES 2018 in January, uses densely packed full-array LEDs as backlight technology for high brightness and a wide dynamic range, enhanced by quantum dot (QLED) enhancement film to expand the color gamut and raise color volume.
Much of day one of the two-day summit was focused on the pending arrival of 8K content production and the first supporting displays.
Event leader Chris Chinnock, who is the founder of Insight Media, observed that 8K is coming but a lot of questions remain unanswered about the logistics and standards needed to get all the disparate parties and infrastructure synchronized.
Issues still to be addressed include what sort of storage and compression systems will be used to handle the immense data volume? What will the new standards for picture quality involve? What cameras and production equipment will be used? And, most importantly, what is the business model? How will the various industries make money from it?
One of the catalysts for advancement of the new system is the upcoming 2020 Winter Olympics from Japan. The Japanese government has mandated the development of an 8K system for that country to support the 8K coverage by the country’s NHK broadcasting company.
NHK has partnered with Hitachi, Astrodesign and Ikegami to develop the 2020 Olympics broadcast infrastructure in Japan. At the same time, NHK is already creating regular 8K programming with plans to go to full transmission on an 8K channel to start airing in December.
Elsewhere, content producers around the world are moving more and more into 8K capture as the highest quality source, from which content can be produced for lower-resolution deliverables. However, Chinnock pointed out that not much mastering in 8K has been done yet.
On the consumer side, the consumer electronics industry is preparing to deliver what Chinnock called “a tsunami” of large-screen display panels, which will slowly transition to 8K resolution format, through the startup of a number of new 10.5 Gen panel fabs around the world.
One such plant planned by Sharp under the control of Taiwan-based Foxconn is scheduled to break ground today in Wisconsin, where a new technology park is to be constructed to develop smaller screen Gen 6 panels. These smaller panels are expected to be used at first mostly for mobile device applications, but the facility could eventually ramp up to full 10.5 Gen panel production to supply televisions for the upcoming 8K/5G ecosystem.
Manufacturers are expected to take the lead in pushing the transition to 8K just as they did in the transition from Full HD 1080p into 4K Ultra HD, Chinnock said.
But the transition isn’t expected to go down easily with some consumers, considering the short amount of time that has elapsed in the transition into 4K Ultra HD.
Chinnock said a lot of naysayers have already made their opposition known, questioning the need for higher resolution (sharpness detail) that:
- The human eye won’t be capable of seeing on traditional screen sizes from traditional seating distances;
- Content producers, broadcasters and advertisers will resist the high cost of upgrading their equipment and systems to support another new resolution format.
- Product prices will be higher than premium 4K Ultra HD TV displays and source devices.
- The cost of required data storage will be too high.
- The large data volume will make it impossible to transmit 8K signals over available bandwidth on the Internet, satellite and cable systems and broadcast channels.
- There is not Ultra HD Blu-ray format for 8K discs.
Speaker Michael Cioni, senior VP of Innovation at Panavision, said the industry needs to use such arguments as an opportunity to educate so-called “naysayers” to the reality that 8K will bring benefits on many levels beyond higher picture sharpness.
Cioni pointed out that the human eye can, indeed, see improvements in picture quality from images with denser pixel counts, including even better looking high dynamic range and a potentially wider color gamut.
“Resolution isn’t necessarily about sharpness, it’s about dynamic range and color. It’s about more realism and dynamism,” Cioni said.
He said that even content captured in 8K and scaled down for lower-resolution deliverables offer visible picture quality improvement over content that originates in 4K (or lower resolution levels), and that these improvements are clearly visible on screen sizes as small as mobile phones.
Cioni suggested engaging and enlightening the 8K nay-sayer.
” `Nobody asked for it,’ means “I didn’t ask for it. I don’t understand it,” Cioni said.
Cioni said among the most common arguments against 8K are:
- Resolution is too high already.
- Downloads will be too slow.
- Storage is too expensive.
- Render times too long
Cioni said in every case the industry is right on schedule in delivering solutions through traditional Moore Cycle advancements and that relative cost will be no higher than they have been for other transitions.
As for some of the other naysayer arguments, Cioni said although televisions continue to be designed to accommodate average viewing distances of 9 feet and many homes aren’t designed to hold very large screen sizes, that simply means that architects and home owners need to be made aware of the new possibilities the changing technology affords.
Cioni said Panavision offers a camera for 8K capture called the Millennium DXL2, equipped with a large 46mm sensor. He said some of the benefits it provide are: a lower noise floor, more dynamic range mapping, reframing, better depth of field, new levels of lens magnification and others.
“The more resolution you have the closer you can get to things with less distortion,” Cioni said.
All of this goes into producing images of higher quality in the delivered production.
Cioni said that even as the industry moves toward 8K, it shouldn’t be looking to apply ceilings to how high future resolution technologies should go, adding the industry should allow for exponential growth to go to 16K and even higher.
“32K is not going to be a science project for long,” Cioni said.
By Greg Tarr
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