Distribution

NAB 2019: 8K

Super Hi-Vision transitions from science project to practical product

NAB 2019 marked the point where — without any particular fanfare — 8K television moved from a gee-whiz technology demo to a practical production, post-production, and distribution system.

Blackmagic banners at NAB 2019
Blackmagic banners at NAB 2019

Blackmagic Design’s signage was all about 8K; they showed off 8K recording, switching, terminal gear, and editing — everything, it seems, but cameras. No worries: Ikegami had 8K studio cameras and Sharp showed their 8K shoulder-mount camcorder, both were unremarkable in their normalcy. Only their 8K badging sets them apart from their run-of-the-mill HD and 4K brethren.

Ikegami 8K broadcast camera
Ikegami 8K broadcast camera
Sharp 8K camcorder
Sharp 8K camcorder

(As for 4K, it’s no longer a headline feature. Sony’s press conference featured 4K, high-frame-rate cameras: HDC-3500, HDC-4300, HDC-5500, and HDC-P50. Panasonic offered the AK-UC4000 4K camera using standard 2/3” box lenses and the 4K AG-CX350 camcorder; and JVC previewed the 4K GY-HC500 and 550 “connected cams”. But 4K is simply table stakes these days, along with HDR; it’s just something you’re expected to have to be a serious player.)

That’s not to say that 8K is cheap or easy yet. The workstations, storage, and terminal equipment being shown (in signage and in the flesh) at Astrodesign, Sharp, and NHK exhibits all have that big-iron smell to them; these aren’t desktop or portable systems… yet.

8K analyzer and 8K/120p uncompressed recorder from Nippon Control System
8K analyzer and 8K/120p uncompressed recorder from Nippon Control System
8K SSD recorder from Astrodesign
8K SSD recorder from Astrodesign
8K editing PC from Astrodesign
8K editing PC design from Astrodesign
Rack of 8K gear at Sharp's booth. An editing PC is on the table behind it.
Rack of 8K gear at Sharp’s booth. An editing PC is on the table behind it.
8K gear onscreen at Sharp's booth
8K gear onscreen at Sharp’s booth

And while satcasting has started and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics loom large, there’s still R&D going on: upscaling HD to 8K, boosting the frame rate from a just-barely-acceptable 60p to a more watchable 120p,  developing terrestrial transmission technology, and working on layered signals with a mobile-friendly 2K base layer and an 8K enhancement layer atop it.

Upscaling HD to 8K at Astrodesign
Upscaling HD to 8K at Astrodesign
Upscaling HD to 8K at Astrodesign
Upscaling HD to 8K at Astrodesign
8K/120p codec development
8K/120p codec development
8K/120p encoding demo at NHK
8K/120p encoding demo at NHK
8K/120p camera at Astrodesign. It's about the size of a Sony F55
8K/120p camera at Astrodesign. It’s about the size of a Sony F55
Terrestrial transmission testing at NHK
Terrestrial transmission testing at NHK
8K mobile transmission, at Sharp
8K mobile transmission, at Sharp
Quadrature constellations for 2K and 8k layers
Quadrature constellations for 2K and 8k layers
Layered broadcast: 2K for mobile, 8K for stationary (NHK)
Layered broadcast: 2K for mobile, 8K for stationary (NHK)

But two things drove home the point that 8K is here. First, the NHK exhibit in the NAB Futures Park section of North Hall no longer featured an 8K Theater presentation. Instead, there was “only” the 8K living room, a smallish room dominated by an 80” 8K display and 22.2 sound. Photographs were not allowed, but imagine a room just big enough to contain the following diagram:

I watched a sumo match in this room. Yes, it felt pretty immersive. Looked good, too.
I watched sumo in this room. Yes, it felt pretty immersive. Looked darned good, too.

Second, Sharp showed an affordable 8K micro-four-thirds camcorder: 33 million pixels, MFT lens mount, 10-bit H.265 onboard recording using SD cards, shipping this summer for under $4000:

Sharp 8K MFT camcorder
Sharp 8K MFT camcorder
Sharp 8K MFT camcorder
Sharp 8K MFT camcorder
Yes, it has a proper fully-articulated monitor — as every such camera should!
Yes, it has a proper fully-articulated monitor — as every such camera should!
Mic, headphones, USB-C, HDMI, and mini-XLR I/O
Microphone, headphones, USB-C, HDMI, and mini-XLR I/O
Sharp 8K MFT, cine-style
Sharp 8K MFT, cine-style

True, it’s only 8K/30p, not the 8K/60p of the broadcast/satcast standards (it is able to shoot 60p at 4K). But consider the first affordable HD camcorder, JVC’s $3600 GR-HD1 of 2003. It recorded HDV images at 720/30p, not the 720/60p of the broadcast standard. History may not repeat, exactly, but it rhymes.

Eric Escobar shot one of the first (possibly the first) HDV short films, “Apples & Oranges”, on the GR-HD1 back when it came out (in the screening invitation, he famously said, “it’s only two minutes long, so if you don’t like it, it will be over soon”). Heroic measures were needed back then to convert the M2T streams captured over FireWire into something editable. You should be able to pop out the Sharp’s SD card and mount it on your computer, and with luck its 8K files will be directly accessible in Premiere, Avid, Resolve, and FCPX. And you can already buy 8K displays to view ’em on, too.

Maybe Eric will repeat history with another “first” short film — 16 years later, but with about 33x the pixels.


Disclosure: There is no material connection between me any any of the vendors mentioned, nor have any of them offered any payments, bribes, free food, or other blandishments for favorable coverage.


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PVC Staff
Adam Wilt has been working off and on in film and video for the past thirty years, while paying the bills writing software for animation, automation, broadcast graphics, and real-time control for companies including Abekas,…

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Eric Escobar

“Eric Escobar shot one of the first (possibly the first) HDV short films, “Apples & Oranges”, on the GR-HD1 back when it came out…” Adam, thanks for keeping the memory alive! Some day, when everything is shot inside a GPU in Unreal Engine, no one will remember all the terrible formats that came before, but we will.

We. Will.