CEATEC 2012: One-on-one with NHK’s Takayuki Yamashita

Known historically as one of the most forward-thinking broadcasters in the world, Japan’s NHK hit a high point this summer when it successfully produced and delivered the London Olympic Games in Super Hi-Vision (SHV) to theaters in Japan, the UK, and the U.S. The SHV format, which offers 8K video (16 times the resolution of 1080p) and 22.2 multichannel surround sound, represents what many believe to be the next step in the evolution of broadcasting.

At the CEATEC show outside of Tokyo this week, SVG sat down with Takayuki Yamashita, senior research engineer at NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories, to discuss the London Games, the evolution of SHV (and beyond), and what NHK might do differently if it does indeed produce the 2016 Games in Super Hi-Vision as many expect.

If NHK were to produce and deliver the 2014 or 2016 Olympic Games in Super Hi-Vision, what would you change from London?
We would, of course, love to do the Games in 2016 [in Rio de Janeiro], so we will see. But, if we do the [2016 Olympics], I know we want to be able to show full-resolution images to the viewer. At London Games, our transmission system didn’t have full-resolution images. The images had low data from the output. But, with the next system, we will output full resolution. The next transmitting system will output full [8K] resolution.

In London, we used three cameras and sometimes two cameras [depending on the event]. I’m not sure if we would add more.

There will be a different capturing camera system that is of a higher quality. The camera has full resolution, but the transmitting system [needs] to compress it because bandwidth is limited to about 200 Mbps via an IP network. So we are developing a compression [scheme] using the next compression standard [HEVC]. I would like to use HEVC for satellite broadcasting and as a transmitting system for IP. In my personal opinion, HEVC is going to change everything.

Also in London, we used a [Panasonic] P2 card system. We used 16 cards for two hours of recording. In the next system, we may use SSD [solid-state drives], but we are not sure yet.

Were you happy with the Super Hi-Vision programming at the Olympics?
I was extremely happy with the London Games in Super Hi-Vision. We received many positive messages from viewers. Domestically, in Japan, we had about 200,000 people come to the three theaters showing the Super Hi-Vision.

What was your favorite moment during the Olympics Super Hi-Vision presentations?
The first scene of the Opening Ceremony, where there were some pillars close [to the camera] and you could see the depth. [It] was impressive. When the camera captured the whole stadium, we could see all the people’s faces. That is incredible and very exciting.

What is NHK’s timeline for Super Hi-Vision? When can we expect it to be delivered to the home?
We plan to launch Super Hi-Vision in 2020 with [terrestrial] broadcasting tests. So 2016 is four years before that, and I think we will be able to conduct test broadcasts via satellite. We will be able to experiment with broadcasting via satellite in 2016 with maybe one or two receivers. And the next target will be test broadcasting broadened to hundreds of homes.

There are several companies showing 4K TV sets here. Do you see that as an impediment to the move to 8K?
In Japan, HDTV launched on broadcast just a few years ago, so viewers cannot buy a new 4K TV because they just changed TV sets and it would be too expensive. The proper timing would be about 10 years after [the launch of HDTV broadcasting]. In 2020, people will no longer be talking about 4K images. We will have a higher-resolution system with 8K.

So what happens after Super Hi-Vision launches and is widely adopted? What is the next technological step?
We see 8K as the final 2D imaging system. We will not look to 16K in 2030. Instead, we will look to change to a 3D system by 2030. The next target will be this Integral 3D system.

Today, the 3D systems are stereoscopic. But we are developing a system that uses an array of small lenses for the camera. In front of a TV screen, people will not have to wear glasses. It will be a very different kind of 3D than what people think of when they hear 3D today.”

Look for more of SVG’s coverage on NHK’s Super Hi-Vision efforts in the coming days.

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