Live from Content Everywhere MENA: UHD, 8K come into focus

Kohei Nakae, NHK’s director, 8K SHV product development, and Steve Owen, Quantel’s marketing director, provided an update of what is next with respect to UHD as part of IBC’s Content Everywhere MENA conference. Nakae discussed the birth of 8K as a concept, saying that it was a result of experiments designed to find out what resolution was required to really create a “beyond HD” viewing experience. The 8K format was the winner.“We broadcasters set roadmap for 8K broadcasting and we have a huge target: the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games,” he said. “And we are on track for that.”

Owen added that the 8K/120 fps may in fact be too hard to reach today but that this is part of what has been happening in the industry forever as engineers and creatives are never satisfied.

“We’re trying to get to high dynamic range and doing lots of things that are driven by what the customer wants,” he said. “And I venture we will all get to the same place but via different directions.”

One mistake he said with 4K is underestimating the data load as it is more than simply quad HD and that more powerful processors and graphics cards will be important to meet market demands for 4K production tools.

“We have to figure out how to use it in a practical way,” he explained.

With respect to developing next-generation editing systems other factors in UHD, like higher frame rates and expanded dynamic range, are a consideration.

“They are all independent and can be done in any order but there are a lot of pieces to be lined up,” he explained. “And broadcasters see 4K/60p as a next stepping stone.”

More importantly, a step can be taken to a next-generation format while also offering improvements for HD broadcasts.

Nakae added that HDR is a very important part and that NHK is working very hard for 8K HDR format.

“We are doing research for 8K HDR for about half a year and we are almost ready to offer an 8K HDR format,” he said.

Owen said such a move would fill a vacuum with respect to production, as an open standard for HDR will meet everyone’s needs.

“We just need to figure out how to do it and standardise it as it is a real good initiative,” he explained.

Stephan Heimbecher, Sky Deutschland, head of innovation and standards, agreed as he gave an update on the recent tests and trials Sky Deutschland has undertaken in 4K.

“HDR can play a major role in sports for situations where there is shade and sunshine [on the field of play],” he said.

Most recently, in December, Sky Deutschland produced a live 4K concert with 10 cameras.

“Contribution of 4K has a lot of new challenges because it is not four times the amount of data but 10 times, so everything along the chain has to be upgraded,” he said.

Tests on football matches have shown that camera positions will also need to be adjusted to get the most out of the format. The camera one position, for example, can go higher in order to get a wider shot of the field.

“With UHD you really can expand the shot to have extreme wide shots,” he said. “But extreme closeups also work great for UHD and they give an immersive feeling that can suck you into a scene.”

The downside of widening the philosophical gap between the HD production and the UHD production is that the separation will call for a side-by-side production philosophy. But that might not be a bad thing.

“Zooming and fast pans don’t look too good in UHD so it is still something of a learning curve,” he says. “And focusing is a challenge.”

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