NHK Puts 8K into High Gear

Thinks Super HiVision Platform Can be adopted by 2016

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

While the world is obsessing over 4K cameras and 6K upgrades, Japan camera giant NHK continues its development of its 8K Super Hi-Vision technology and has published a white paper which says the standard could be adopted for broadcast and streaming by 2016.  2016?!  We’ll be lucky if 4K is streaming by then!

At its recent Open House, NHK showed the new 8K AH-4800 camera head, co-developed with Tokyo-based AstroDesign, which is much lighter and more compact than previous models. It has a 2.5in, 33-megapixel “single plate” CMOS image sensor and processing circuitry in a 125mm (W) x 125mm (H) x 150mm (D) housing (about 5in square). Total weight, with lens, is said to be 4.4lbs, and it captures images at up to 60fps. – Broadcast Engineering

Probably the most impressive thing about this camera is how quickly they’ve managed to miniaturize the circuitry to create prototype that’s mobile and could be used in the field.   And if you look at the video below, you can see by comparison how gargantuan the HEVC video encoder rack is, which compresses 4 times the MPEG 2 HD standard.  The world’s first HEVC/H.265 encoder can reduce the 8K 30GBps stream by a factor of 1/350th.  “To encode Ultra HD video which has very high resolution,” says the demonstrator in the NHK video below, “encoding is done in real time by dividing the screen into 17 strips.  Compression to 85 mbps enables on Ultra HD channel to be transmitted using one satellite transponder.” And NHK plans to extend its encoding support from 60hz to 120hz by the time adoption is ready in 2016, which is part of the 8K spec.

uhdtv-1024x576Yikes, that’s some serious compression.  And it could have to be if 8K streaming has any hope of being adopter here in the states where draconian bandiwidth caps of internet providers could be the major speed bump in adopting 4K distribution online.    But there’s a greater concern.  If 8K is coming so quickly on the horizon (rather then 10-20 years down the road as previously expected) then it could affect the adoption of the emerging 4K market, leaving users to wait to upgrade and skipping the purchase of a 4K TV or camera.  Already users are wondering why the hurry since the adoption of 1080p HDTV as a spec only a few short years ago.  When the US went digital, prices plummeted on HDTVs and users bought them by the droves.  Then, TV sales suddenly plateaued, and even dropped, leaving TV manufacturers to scramble and hastily adopt a 3D TV model to get users back in the stores.  But when 3D peetered out, 4K was suddenly at the forefront.

So what seems more likely is that 8K may become the source format for filmmakers and movie theater projection.  RED is already pushing their Dragon 6K upgrade program, so having an 8K variant by 2016 isn’t all the much of a stretch.  It would just require the rest of the post industry to catch up with a viable 6-8k workflow, which is something they’re having to do anyway.   And movie theaters have just recently started with costly 2K and 4K adoption, so how likely will they want to re-invest in 8K?

Then there’s biology, which may be the ultimate arbiter.  While some with “golden eyes,” will see the difference between 4K and 8k, many who have seen 4K wonder what all the hype is.  So maybe, the benefit of 8K will be that it’s pushing HEVC/H.265 to become ready.  And in that instance, it’s a good thing.

Hat Tip – Cinema5D

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.


  1. Tim ODonnell says:

    In the hands of a skilled operator and lighting crew, 4k looks like film.

    So we’ve come “all this way”, with digital, just to get back to:
    – the same crew size (if not larger with extra technicians),
    – the same techniques and heavy support equipment, and
    – the same look,

    as film.

    My guess is that like “3D”, 6k and 8k will have limited adoption and need throughout the industry, as well as a short-lived spike in consumer sales.

    As per the IMAGE, there is SO MUCH in the hands of operator, DP, director, cast and crew that at a certain point, one is likely only ‘chasing chimeras’ by adding more resolution and ever more complicated data processing and compression schemes to any already somewhat-burdened digital workflow.

    Simpler is better. There may come a day when ‘digital’ is finally so unwieldy and so complex, motion picture film needs to make a comeback – for the sake of all involved. And if that happens, I will welcome it with open arms.

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