NHK’s research and development led to the demonstration of a 4K (4096×2160) camera in 2004 at the NAB show. They followed that by introducing their first 8K camera sensor at NAB 2006, followed by an improved version in 2012. Sharp also showed an 85-inch 8K LCD monitor at CES that year, but people didn’t pay as much attention to that demo as they did the arrival of the first 4K / Ultra HDTV monitors in September of that year at the EFA show.
Back then, depending on the brand name, that 84-inch Ultra HD video monitor – which required four HDMI 1.4 inputs to work – could have set you back as much as $25,000 USD. Coincidentally, this was about seven years after we saw the start of a move away from 720p/768p displays and TVs to Full HD (1920×1080) screen resolution.
A year after those ground-breaking 4K TVs showed up, NHK unveiled a 4-pound 8K Steadicam rig, plus a multi-format video recorder prototype. A 13-inch 8K video monitor for cameras, using OLED technology, also took a bow. And by 2014, NHK was broadcasting selected Olympic events in 8K via satellite via locations around the globe.
In our industry, we were still pushing Full HD and 2K displays and signal management products, looking over our shoulder at a 4K dot in the distance and figuring we had plenty of time. That all changed at ISE in 2018, where Ultra HD and 4K displays were everywhere, not to mention an $80,000 8K broadcast camera from Sharp. Full HD digital signage still make plenty of sense, but the economics of LCD panel manufacturing meant that the fabs in Asia would be pulling back on Full HD and ramping up Ultra HD production.
So here we are in 2019, just embracing the move to Ultra HD. Yet, pundits are already saying, “It’s time to give 8K a look.” At least one Tier 1 display brand has already showcased 8K digital signage at ISE and NAB, and will do so again at InfoComm, likely prompting competitors to show they’re at least players in this new game in Orlando. NAB featured half a dozen 8K video cameras along with recording and storage solutions, and what’s likely the first-ever 8K digital SLR camera to hit the consumer market.
Is this irrational exuberance? Hardly. Clever readers will note that this summer will mark seven years since the first 4K TVs took a bow, seven years after the transition started to Full HD (which itself took place about seven years after the industry began moving away from standard definition displays to 720p/768p HD displays).
Industry forecasts are for about 430,000 8K TVs to ship by the end of December, with over 2 million shipments called for in 2020. Those numbers closely track the roll-out of 4K / Ultra HDTV models from 2012 through 2014. Given that our industry really didn’t embrace 4K until 2017, we figure that you have just a couple of years to get with the 8K program.
And keep in mind that we’re fast approaching a point in time when the pixel density in a display just won’t matter anymore. Because of economics, all large TVs and monitors over 65 inches will have 8K resolution, whether you need it or not. Fortunately, video scalers have gotten quite powerful and can “pull up” your lower-resolution content to fit the screen. And other metrics like HDR, color accuracy and high frame rate support will be the important ones, not the number of pixels.
Are you ready for 8K?