8K is making way // EIT Digital

8K is making way

Helion, the new 8k sensor announced by RED for video capture in 8k. Credit: RED

98" LG television with an 8k resolution. Credit: LG

Our homes are just starting to swap the HD televisions with the Ultra HD televisions, the 4k standard with a level of resolution that is 4 times higher than the HD (the name 4k though is not referring to the factor 4 increase in resolution but to the almost 4 thousands horizontal pixels - 3840x2160 versus the 1920x1080 of the HD).

The big issue, and debate, is the perceived quality. It turns out that our brain likes more an image with higher contrast than one with higher resolution. Hence, an HD plasma television (where black are real black) may be more pleasing than a UHD in LED technology. However, the path is clear. Sooner or later we will swap our HD television for a 4k one.  And of course, we hope that more and more content will become available in 4k. Netflix is providing a growing number of movies and series in 4k, at the European soccer championship we have seen the first 4k broadcast... This is good but watch for the compression rate. To send all that information through the Internet or via satellite broadcasters need to squeeze the content to the point that we are losing quite a bit of the beauty of 4k.

As work is progressing over the whole value chain, from content production to transport up to fruition a new wave is getting ready to make our 4k televisions obsolete: the 8k.

8k stands for an even higher resolution, 7680x4320 pixels, that is some 33 million pixels (or hundred million dots on the screen, since for every pixel you need one green, one red and one blue dot). 

RED, a digital videocamera maker, has announced a new sensor, Helium, with 8k resolution that can open the way to a new wave of immersive video. Why immersive?  With the 4k we have basically reached the human eye resolution (8 Mpixels) when you are looking at the screen from a distance where the screen fills in your field of view. This is already providing a perceptual sensation of looking at a window, rather than looking at a screen (try it out!). 
With an 8k you can maintain the same sensation of looking at a window but... at a much larger window (4 times as large). Hence you can "look around" a bit and still be inside the screen with your field of view. This creates the sensation of immersion.

Clearly, the sensor to capture images in 8k is just the first piece in the value chain. Then you'll need to cover the transport part (and 100Mbps would be an absolute minimum to really enjoy 8k content without losing details in the compression) and then the fruition part (the screen).

For the transport part we are going towards the deployment of more and more fibres (in some areas there are 1Gbps connections on the last mile, but of course you need ultra high bandwidth end to end, not just on the last mile) and 5G may also come to help. In both cases it is something for the next decade if we are looking at mass market adoption.

For the television screen we had LG showcasing a nice 8k television with 98" (2.5 meters) display, and that is probably the minimum size to really get the immersive perception.  The cost? They did not tell. However, a smaller 8k television (85") by Sharp was priced 133,000$. A bit too much for most of us...

Author - Roberto Saracco

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