Although there was little new in the way 8K TV products, manufacturers used CEDIA Expo 2019 to position themselves for leadership roles in the category by courting the nation’s custom integrator industry to help drive sales to well-heeled clients and get the technology started.

LG, Samsung and Sony all pitched their 2019 flat-panel 8K models here in Denver, as the next step after the products were formally unveiled at CES 2019.

The custom electronics industry has since its inception driven the sale and installation of the largest available TV screen sizes and as each manufacturer pointed out, 8K provides a solution for getting advanced level picture quality from very large-sized flat-panel displays. The use of denser 8K pixel structures with 16x the resolution of Full HD 1080p, makes its harder to see individual pixels on the blown up screens when seated from traditional viewing distances. 8K makes these harder to see, preserving the illusion of reality.

LG kicked off the show by pointing out the imminent arrival of its massive 88-inch Signature Series 8K OLED TV ($29,999 suggested retail price) and 75-inch 8K NanoCell LED-LCD TV ($4,999). The latter uses LG’s proprietary film layer that serves to purify colors while expanding the color gamut of visible shades.

Both 8K televisions use LG’s powerful a9 Gen 2 8K processor, support HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG formats, and work with Apple Airplay 2 and HomeKit smart home technologies. The sets also offer four HDMI 2.1 ports ensuring the ability to pass 8K video at up to 60fps, and 4K video at 120fps.

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Of interest to the installer crowd, both 8K TV products include AutoCal capablity developed jointly with Portrait Displays (the developer of CalMan software) and LG to help custom installation professionals perform calibrations “in minutes instead of hours,” said Tim Alessi, LG Electronics US Home Entertainment marketing head.

Rick Calacci, LG U.S. Home Entertainment sales VP, announced that LG continues to develop and expand its role in the custom integrator communicty and is offering its installer partners “a customized installation solution for a customized home theater experience through seamless and best-in-class products and with dedicated support programs and partnerships with the most trusted names, like Crestron, Control4, (Portrait Displays) SpectraCal, Savant, URC, Josh AI and Elan.”

LG also used the occasion to draw attention to its statement last week during the IFA 2019 Show in Berlin, Germany that LG’s 8K products are in compliance with the International Committee for Display Metrology’s (ICDM) position that “the stated resolution of a display does not depend on only meeting or exceeding a specific number of pixels, but also on whether those pixels can be adequately distinguished from one another in order to deliver the stated resolution.”

“The ICDM has defined the Contrast Modulation (CM) measurement which describes accurately and quantitatively how distinguishable the neighboring pixels are from each another. For any TV display to deliver the resolution indicated by its pixel count, the ICDM requires the minimum CM value to exceed a threshold of 25 percent for images and 50 percent for text. An 8K TV with a CM value that is lower than these required thresholds does not deliver real 8K, even though the TV may in fact have the sufficient number (7,680 x 4,320) of pixels. Tests performed in accordance with these universally-referenced industry standards resulted in both LG Signature OLED 8K and LG 8K NanoCell TVs achieving CM values in the 90 percent range, guaranteeing that viewers will be able to actually experience all of the additional detail in the 8K content when viewed on their LG 8K televisions,” the South Korean company’s issued statement declared.

At CEDIA, LG executives referred to their television’s as “real 8K.”

Representatives of Samsung and Sony present at the show didn’t have any official comment on LG’s position. Executives we spoke with also emphasized that their displays are “real 8K” as determined by definitions for resolution levels previously established by various other display technology boards and organizations including the CTA, 8K Association, SMPTE and others.

For its part, Samsung used CEDIA to showcase a wide range of 8K QLED LED-LCD TVs it has previously introduced and shipped to retailers, as the first company to deliver an 8K television into the U.S. consumer market. The company is offering 8K QLED models in its Q800R series covering screen sizes of 55- ($2,997.99 street retail price), 65- ($3,497.99), 75- ($4,997.99), 82- ($6,997.99), and 98 inches ($69,999.99).

“Now that we are moving into 75-inch screen sizes and larger, added resolution is needed to keep up with the clarity — the bigger you go the more resolution you are going to want,” said Scott Cohen, Samsung national training manager. “At the same time, while people are choosing bigger screen sizes they are not moving their seats back due to the constraints of the home, design etc., so they are basically replacing the TV and sitting closer to the larger screen. At some point you will be too close and you’ll see the pixels. This is why we need to shrink the pixels and the way you shrink the pixels is by adding resolution. So, with the trend of going bigger — 75 and up — the time for 8K is now.”

Cohen acknowledged that manufacturers who have taken the early lead are seeing some push back from consumers who say “there isn’t any native 8K source content available.”

“There’s a little bit of the chicken and the egg,” Cohen said. “Does the content come first or do the TVs come first? The reality is the TVs need to come first because if you don’t have the TVs in the market, the content producers are not going to make the content available because no one will be able to watch it… In the future I think we will start seeing more and more 8K. We already know that some movies are using 8K cameras to shoot; they may do post production in 2K but they are shooting it in 8K. We are aware there are some popular sports that are toying around with 8K cameras, not necessarily to broadcast in 8K but to use aspects of an 8K camera to do multiple camera angles and so forth. So we know 8K cameras are out there and being used, and that is the real precursor to launching 8K content.”

Last year, Samsung boasted offering the world’s first consumer 8K TV which featured AI upscaling. This same technology is applied to all of the newer 2019 models as well. The upscaling engine and powerful processor take lower-resolution content sources and fill the greater pixel count of the screens with minimal picture artifacts and errors that plagued earlier upconversion systems from previous resolution transitions. With models ranging from 55” to 98”, Samsung offers the widest breadth of 8K for every application.

Still in the first months of Samsung’s introduction of the first 8K QLED TV, Cohen said his company is seeing success.

“8K is very popular for Samsung. For anyone looking for a flagship TV with the best picture, the best feature set and the best design, they are looking for 8K,” said Cohen. “In addition to all of the added resolution, Samsung’s 8K TVs are the best TVs we’ve ever created, and therefore have the best in contrast, color and so forth.”

Sony also made a claim for 8K leadership in big-screen flat-panel technology by showing its previously unveiled 85- ($12,998 suggested retail) and 98-inch ($69,999) Z9G 2019 flagship Master Series 8K full-array LED-LCD TVs. Like other Sony Master Series models, the Z9G series is said to “provide true mastery of picture quality, with color, contrast and clarity approaching that of a professional-grade monitor.”

They were developed in collaboration with Sony Pictures Entertainment “to truly display the creators’ intent,” Sony said. Both models are powered by Sony’s powerful Picture Processor X1 Ultimate to drive the companies advanced 8K upscaling and picture processing algorithms for dynamic and realistic looking images and color.

“Within our competitive set, only Sony is involved in the end-to-end creation and delivery of entertainment content from theaters into the living room,” said Mike Fasulo, Sony Electronics U.S. president and COO. “This enables us to match out TV picture to the quality of Sony’s cameras and monitors that are used on film and TV productions across the world.”

By Greg Tarr

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