Going Way Beyond 4K: Permanent Public 8K Broadcasts Go Live In Japan
Stephan Jukic – December 13, 2018
Japanese state broadcaster NHK has been preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in the biggest way possible (digitally speaking) since at least 2014 and now after years of heavy testing in partnership with corporate partners in Japan, the effort has finally paid off with a permanent, public 8K video broadcast. The new, ultra-sized broadcast video resolution format is being called Super Hi-Vision by NHK and is expected to receive an even broader deployment in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, in both public forums on giant screens and on private 8K TVs of the kind that are expected to start hitting the market before that date.
According to the state broadcaster, the newly permanent public 8K broadcast feed is the opening bid in a “new era of full-scale Super high vision”.
We can at least say that for now NHK is the only company or media organization of any kind in the world that’s delivering this whole new level of ultra HD resolution so concretely to a public consumer audience.
Now, it’s worth noting that right now, 8K TVs are still just barely a thing. Pretty much no mass market models exist (even in Japan) and in terms of both 8K content of any commercial kind, the landscape is completely flat for the time being outside of what NHK is doing. In other words, you can safely bet that any 8K TV that does get sold this year won’t be receiving Netflix or Amazon Prime in 8K any time soon afterwards.
In terms of specifics, the new NHK 8K (actually 7680 x 4320, but close enough to call it 8K, since even 4K UHD is really 3840 X 2160..) feed is available daily from a special channel within Japanese public TV between 10am and 10pm and will be transmitting at frame rates of 59.94, 60 and 120p. This too is pretty impressive when you consider the fact that 8K Super Hi-Vision resolution as specified above means 16 times the resolution of 1080p Full HD and far more information than even uncompressed 4K video accounts for.
Also unsurprisingly, NHK’s lineup of programming for the daily 8K broadcasts is pretty limited for now and mostly consists of several programs that are repeated throughout each week. If you’re curious, you can see the full weekly broadcast schedule below (unfortunately it’s only available in Japanese for now).
This may not seem like much but considering how much less anyone else in the world has done so far to actually create real live 8K broadcasts of any kind, we consider NHK’s 8K effort to be downright impressive. It’s going to become even more awesome when the 2020 Olympic Games reach Tokyo and audiences with access to 8K displays can actually enjoy something nearly live and widely popular in this awesomely crisp resolution.
As for anyone who already wants to enjoy NHK’s globally unique 8K broadcasts in their own home, the requirements are pretty straightforward: You’ll obviously need an 8K TV and alongside this, you’ll also have to get yourself a dedicated NHK satellite dish in order to receive the company’s transmissions. The company also claims that viewers might also need to replace their existing receiving equipment like boosters and distributor boxes. In case you’re curious about the 8K TV part, they do actually exist on the Japanese market, with a 70 inch model from Sharp selling for 70″ SHARP LC-70X500 sell for ￥646,290 ($5705 USD) and another 60 inch edition going for amuch more reasonable equivalent of $4395 USD in Japanese Yen.
In other words, becoming a pioneer watcher of 8K video even in Japan will mean spending some serious money and getting your hands on a type of TV that doesn’t even get sold in most electronics stores. Crappy, but the same extremes were the case with 4K TVs just 6 years ago, so….
NHK’s first ever 8K image transmission test was conducted just 4 years ago with the help of Japan’s largest cable TV broadcast facility. This was in 2014 in other words. Right now, even 4K UHD content options are fairly limited on the Japanese market and the majority of consumers still view their TV, streaming and satellite content via HDTVs. NHK has really jumped ahead basically and while some might criticize the money and effort spent on doing this sort of thing, the effort is definitely appreciable as a technical achievement.
Maybe more people, both as consumers and technical observers will see a serious reason for favoring the new NHK 8K effort by the time 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics roll around. We might even start seeing Netflix in 8K by then, who knows.