The future of digital home entertainment: NHK develops a 4K/8K set-top box

by on October 5, 2016

Stephan Jukic – October 5, 2016

The Japanese public broadcaster NHK is already known in entertainment and broadcast technology circles for its extreme dedication to innovating on digital video delivery and currently the state company is one of the only organizations in the world which is seriously investing money, time and resources into a comprehensive nationwide 8K broadcasting system that they hope to have running by 2020.


Thus, it should be little surprise that what they’ve developed now falls right into the rubric of consumer 8K technology. We’re talking about NHK’s new 4K/8K “Super Hi-Vision” ultra HD cable decoder box which the broadcaster is showcasing at the huge CEATEC technology show in Tokyo, Japan until the 7th of October.

The new 4K/8K cable decoder box is of course still just a prototype bit it does showcase the feasibility of 8k video transmission to consumer homes in the very near future and if one company can pull this off before anyone else, it’s likely to be NHK. The set-top box has been developed with the partnership cooperation of a private company called KDDI Jupiter Telecommunications and Japan Digital Serve Corporation.

NHK’s trial brodcasts of both 4K and 8K content have been going on for well over a year with the most notable recent example of this being the 2016 Rio Olympics, and Jupiter Telecommunications has also been trailing 4K broadcast delivery since quite a ways back (by 4K content technology standards) in June of 2014. They’ve also been developing and testing a 4K VoD service since May of 2015.

According to NHK,

“The prototype receiving system is the first to use the channel bonding technology developed by NHK for splitting 4K/8K signals into multiple cable TV channels. This technology has the advantage that it can utilise existing cable TV facilities and transmission infrastructure in their present form. The miniaturisation of this 4K/8K cable TV reception equipment was achieved by the development of a demodulation Large Scale Integrated (LSI) chip (which comes from Socionext Inc) that converts cable TV signals into video and audio signals. Now all the main modules for 4K/8K reception on cable TV are ready. High expectations are now being placed in the development of a commercial version of cable TV receivers for the practical start of 4K/8K broadcasting.”

NHK has been recording and trial broadcasting live sports events in 8K resolution for over a year now

NHK has been recording and trial broadcasting live sports events in 8K resolution for over a year now

All this technical jargon aside, 8K broadcasting is definitely coming, just as 4K UHD broadcasting is already here in select markets from select satellite and terrestrial broadcasters as well as OTT content services on the market. Of course, for the time being, the bigger focus as far as direct consumer impact goes will be the improvement of native 4K content delivery to create what are widely known as “better pixels” in the 4K content and display industries. This better pixels development includes technologies for high dynamic range, superior color performance and much a broader range of stops between the brightest and darkest content on a screen.

What we suspect is that better pixel development and much greater HDR technology refinements will both be considerably more developed by the time native 8K TVs and content delivery mechanisms hit the market in the next several years. This will allow the consumers of the early 2020’s and onwards to experience home entertainment in a way that puts even the best 4K HDR display sets of today completely to shame in terms of its realism and quality.

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