Going beyond 4K broadcasting: Super Bowl 50 was shot in 8K resolution by NHK of Japan

by on February 9, 2016

Stephan Jukic – February 9, 2016

Both the World Cup and the Olympics have been covered in 8K test broadcasts and now, as of this Sunday, the unique technological innovation of shooting and transmitting in this resolution fell to the Super Bowl as well, America’s largest single sports event.

In an ultra HD broadcast project that goes way beyond the still nascent needs of live 4K ultra HD event broadcasting, Super Bowl 50 was filmed by Japanese State broadcaster NHK with six different 8K cameras as part of a larger 8K mobile unit designed and run by the broadcasting giant. On the other hand, while the game was completely filmed in this massive resolution of 16 times the pixels of Full HD, the video transmission feed could only be viewed live in the compound at Levi’s Stadium or at NHK headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

One of NHK'S mobile 8K units at Super Bowl 50

One of NHK’S mobile 8K units at Super Bowl 50

The mobile production unit from NHK is the largest of its kind in the world for recording live events in 8K resolution and consists of entirely cutting-edge equipment, including Sony 8K production swtichers, Lawo audio consoles and several 8K cameras in the FOR-A FT-1, SHK-810 and SHK-8000 series, from the manufacturer Ikegami along with a blend of Canon and Fujinon lenses.

The Ikegami SHK-810 cameras in particular are the newest of their kind on the market and make use of a single 33 million pixel Super 35 CMOS sensor. Additionally, a System Expander allows for large viewfinders and full studio lenses that can convert the portable cameras themselves into full studio/field units.

Furthermore, the FT-1 cameras on the Super Bowl 50 site had on-board recording capacity for easy transmission of slow-motion replay broadcasts in 8K to NHK’s studio and headquarters in Tokyo.

According to Kohei Tabata, from NHK’s engineering department within the Outside Broadcast Engineering Division speaking at the Sunday, February 8th Super Bowl Event, “It’s not over-the-air broadcast yet but will be seen at a live public viewing on a huge 300 inch 8K screen at the NHK headquarters in Tokyo. It is completely sold out, and there will be a second viewing on Monday night.” Thus, the experimental broadcasts were already successfully delivered to their intended and limited audiences as of Monday evening.

The NHK Mobile 8K unit that was present at Super Bowl 50 on Sunday

The NHK Mobile 8K unit that was present at Super Bowl 50 on Sunday

This entire overall effort represents a single part of a much larger NHK effort to bring 4K live broadcasting to public audiences in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and to public audiences in a more continuous general sense following that particular event.

NHK is quite possibly the media agency most seriously delving into the 8K future as of today, with multiple experimental video shoots in the Super UHD resolution under its belt already and further planned live 8K broadcasts coming to events such as the Rio Summer Olympics in Brazil in August of this year.

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  • MrSatyre
    February 11, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    And zero mention of how that 8K recording was broadcast to NHK in Japan. NHK has used multiple fiber optic feeds from Europe to Japan, and has also used 8K transmitters and receivers via satellite four or five years ago.


    • Ted Langdell
      February 12, 2016 at 8:55 am

      …”was FILMED…” ???

      The wrong medium type was used TWICE in the story. Sheesh!!! What does it take to get the word “Film” out of a story about digital production?

      If it didn’t use a moving, sprocketed piece of plastic coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, it WASN’T FILMED! It was RECORDED.

      OF interest is HOW it was recorded, and whether/what sort of data reduction (which most folks call “compression”) was used to make the data stream manageable for recording and for transmission.

      Will this technology be present in April at NAB 2016 in Las Vegas? That’s something to see, especially if viewed in a large-screen setting like a movie theater.


  • Just Enjoy
    February 12, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Boy! I’m sure glad the writer didn’t refer to the recording a “taped.” Whooh!~~

    I think Mr. Ted would have left this earth.

    Chill out. These terms are just easy language.

    It doesn’t change the fact that ONE DAY we’ll watch 8K.

    One Day


  • Bryan
    February 16, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Does anyone think that 8k will ever be for end users/household TVs? There is already debates about 4k being pointless for screen sizes under 60 inches because the human eye can’t appreciate the difference.

    I think it will be most useful in the production workflow, being able to pan and crop at 4k, give video editors a large canvas to work with, etc.

    Outside of movie theaters or rare extreme home theater aficionados, I just don’t see full 8k resolution video being mainstream for home users.


    • Stephen
      February 17, 2016 at 10:39 pm

      Hello Bryan, I respectfully beg to differ on this viewpoint. 8K may currently seem like a ridiculous level of resolution overkill but only because current display and data transmission/handling technologies are still struggling to catch up with 4K video. This will definitely change in the coming half decade and we will almost certainly see not only 8K TVs and content but also 8K in smaller display devices. With 8K, the resolution of any normal home-sized screen starts to seriously approach seamlessly perfect visuals and this is the ultimate aim of display technology. Users will buy it once it becomes practical and cheap, and manufacturers will seek to experiment in this direction until they can create a workable 8K ecosystem and subsequent consumer demand. LG, for example, is already releasing an 8K TV at some point in 2016 if what we’ve heard is to be believed.

      10 years ago, 4K in normal TVs and streaming content services would have been almost unthinkable, yet here it is. Likewise for 8K in the near future.


      • Bryan
        February 18, 2016 at 7:35 am

        Thanks for your insights Stephen! Great site by the way!

        So I guess the main question is, are broadcasters and over the air systems going to upgrade all of their systems for 4k or just wait until 8k is viable?

        I am just skeptical about 8k for the same reasons high-fidelity audio (SACD, DVD-Audio, even lossless audio formats like FLAC) only reached a niche audience.


        • Stephen
          February 18, 2016 at 2:30 pm

          Hello Bryan. To briefly follow up. I’m of the opinion that we will indeed see first a transition to commercial 4K among broadcasters in the next couple years then a move to 8K further down the road in some cases. 8K is a display technology that strikes me as more of a long-term solution since it really takes resolution to higher levels of natural looking realism. However, for now, as far as 4K is concerned, broadcasters seem to be waiting for more demand before making the leap but are indeed interested in what’s coming. Meanwhile, we have a growing landscape of OTT or IPTV content sources that are leapfrogging the traditional broadcast route and even delivering live 4K content to select public audiences as of 2016.


          • Bryan
            February 19, 2016 at 6:16 am

            Thanks for the response! I guess we shall wait and see – it took broadcast a while just to get up to speed on HD. Sports at 4k at 60fps would be an awesome thing!

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