8K: Coming to a home near you

Posted By Tom Coughlin on January 30, 2019 01:10 pm | Permalink
Just when you thought the world was settling down and adopting 4K video, it looks like 8K video will be making its debut as home entertainment media, in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. This piece will discuss developments in 8K video from the 2018 IBC and SMPTE Technical Conference that took place late last year.

At the 2018 SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition a speaker from NHK in Japan said that the company would begin 8K Super Hi-Vision satellite broadcasting in Japan in December 2018 with 7680x4320 pixel resolution. They gave some details on the requirements and solution for a video production system to support these broadcasts.

Because of the size of 8K video files, producing this content will require a lot of high-performance cables and connectors. NHK is focusing on an IP workflow for their 8K video. The table below gives an idea of the sort of cabling they would need for 8K. At 60Hz they would need a 100 GbE transport, while a 120Hz video they would need a 200GbE transport. NHK said that they had a lot of 25GbE cables, but that 100- and 200GbE cables are still too expensive.

Rather than using a single transmission of 8K video, broken into packets as a single TRP flow using the ST2110-20 IP-broadcast SMPTE standard, NHK is breaking the 8K video images into a set of parallel transported 2K video images (16 2K streams, in fact). This increases the complexity of the network, but lowers the cost of implementation, since no 100- or 200GbE networking is required. They pointed out that even if moving from a 25GbE network today to 100- or 200GbE network in the future, they can continue to support sending 8K video images as 16 2K video images as multiplexed IP flows over the network.

NHK said that their production system will become software-based and deployed on a cloud system. General monitoring can be done using single 2K streams. Pixels lost by packet loss can be corrected using adjacent pixels.  

At the 2018 IBC show, that took place in Amsterdam in the fall, the 8K display area in the Tech Zone gave additional visions of the future of 8K video, once higher bandwidth IP-networks are available. There was a display showing a mobile production van for 120 Hz (frame rate) video capture.  

This combined ultra high definition 8K video at 120 frames-per-second with wide gamut color, high dynamic range, 12-bit per frame and 22:2 multi-channel surround sound (144Gbps uncompressed video). The demonstration introduced a newly developed compact dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) transceiver and upgraded 8K production video switcher and used 8K video screening. The poster stated that the 8K video can be transmitted over 70km without image quality degradation or delay. The video switcher can switch a maximum of six full-featured 8K videos. A video synthesis module allows 8K video in video display.

There was also a 240 frame-per-second 8K camera and slow motion instant replay server on display in the IBC Tech Zone. The camera was made by Hitachi.

According to the NHK paper presented at IBC, "The highspeed camera acquires 8K 240Hz video through three 1.25-inch 33-megapixel 240-Hz CMOS image sensors. Signals are transmitted between a camera head and camera control unit (CCU) through a four-core optical camera cable, and the CCU then processes the sensor signal and outputs an 8K 240Hz RGB 4:4:4 video signal. The 8K 240Hz slow-motion replay server system can record up to 240 minutes of 8K 240Hz video while simultaneously playing back an 8K 60Hz slow-motion video. The input 8K 240Hz video is compressed by a factor of 12 and stored on solid-state drives. The replay server offers loop-recording, live-editing, and slowmotion replay functions with a dedicated remote controller." 

The slow-motion replay server can record 8K 240Hz video and playback 8K 60Hz video simultaneously. The server output is 8K 60Hz YCbCr 4:2:2 video using four 12G-SDIs. The output data rate from the image sensor array is 159Gbps.  

Of course, if 8K is going to be in our homes, we need displays and other electronics to support it. The 8K displays are starting to become available, but at the IBC show, I saw an 8K set-top box.

8K video looked to be on-track for introduction to Japan by the end of 2018, in preparation for 8K televising of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Displays in the Tech Zone and at booths around IBC gave details on cameras, production trucks and replay servers for 8K content, while the 2018 SMPTE Conference showed how an IP-based 8K workflow could be done using multiple streams of 2K sub-image content and then viewed in your home.

Tom Coughlin is the president of Coughlin Associates (www.tomcoughlin.com), and is a digital storage analyst as well as business and technology consultant. He has over 37 years in the data storage industry, with multiple engineering and management positions at high profile companies.