The World Cup was the Biggest Experiment So Far for 4K and 8K Broadcasting

by on July 17, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – July 17th, 2014

Sony is busy looking at the results of its 4K broadcasting efforts in the UK and Japanese broadcaster NHK took things much further still by filming and broadcasting the World Cup games in a whopping 8K resolution for display to Japanese audiences.

The World Cup games, which recently finished up, were not only a soccer fans nirvana with their interesting and exciting matches such as the Brazil – Germany semifinal match in which Germany beat Brazil 7 to 1, they were also a massive testing ground for filming, transmission and live broadcast of 4K and even 8K resolution live action sports events.

Though no audiences were able to watch the games in 4K resolution right on their home TV sets (for those who have 4K TVs), Sony did transmit its 4K broadcasts of select games to live audiences in the United Kingdom.

Sony transmitted the France-Germany quarterfinal and the Germany-Argentina final matches to a Vue multiplex theater in Westfield, London as the games were playing live. The signal was transmitted from Brazil to a Eutelsat teleport outside Paris, France, where it was then rerouted to a Eutelsat satellite after being transcoded to 60p HEVC Ultra HD via the newly developed compression codec for high bandwidth data such as UHD 4K. From the satellite, the games were fed live to audiences in the multiplex cinema in England.

At the theater, the 4K signal was then decoded using a satellite receiver installed by IDC and projected to Audiences via a Sony SRX-R320 4K digital cinema projector, which comes standard in all Vue theaters in the U.K.

From filming to transmission to projection before audiences, the entire World Cup effort for 4K transmission was a vast effort by Sony to not only test out the technology for live 4K broadcast but also to promote the format as widely as possible by taking advantage of this enormously popular international sporting event.

Since Sony is the world’s biggest manufacturer of 4K TVs and 4K projectors in terms of market share, promotion of 4K, which is widely expected to replace conventional HD in the next few years, is a major priority. According to David Bush, head of marketing for Sony Professional Solutions Europe, “These [World Cup matches] build on Sony’s experience in 4K live production for other application areas”.

However, despite their expense and wide popularity, the 4 K broadcast efforts of Sony seem almost trivial in comparison to what the Japanese were up to at the same time with ther filming of the World Cup matches.

Japanese broadcaster NHK, went to Brazil just like Sony had done with its filming crews and while there, they filmed a total of nine FIFA games in a whopping 7,680 x 4,320 pixel 8K resolution, which is known in Japan as Super Hi-Vision.

These ultra-ultra HD resolution games were then broadcast live to audiences in four Japanese cities and three locations in Rio De Janeiro. One of the Tokyo based live broadcasts was also displayed on an enormous 330 inch screen.

With the 8K broadcasts, the technical difficulties were even more serious, since the uncompressed signal being beamed in Brazil required an enormous bandwidth of 24 GB per second and later, after compression, still required a hefty 300 Mb/second bandwidth.

According to NHK and the Japanese government, 8K SHV broadcasting on a wider scale is supposed to begin in Japan in 2020, in time for the Tokyo Olympics.

This kind of massive technological effort should also have the peripheral benefit of pushing development of wider 4K adoption along much faster.

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