NAB: NHK Demos 8K Broadcasting; Rules Out 8K Coverage of 2014 FIFA World Cup

LAS VEGAS – Japanese broadcaster NHK demonstrated for the first time outside Japan the real-time, over-the-air transmission and reception of 8K, which is 16 times the resolution of HDTV.

8K and 4K -- four times the resolution of HD -- are two flavors of “Ultra HD” that are proposed as the next generation of television broadcasting. The U.S. and U.K. are among the countries already exploring the potential of 4K, the more achievable goal as the needed production equipment has started to enter the market. 8K broadcasting is more challenging; NHK has been the most bullish about reaching that goal.

The broadcaster plans to record its “Super Hi-Vision” 8K coverage of the figure skating and opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia, in 2014 and to begin domestic 8K satellite tests to coincide with the 2016 Summer Games hosted in Rio.

It aims to launch an 8K broadcast service in Japan by 2020. However, it said it has no plans to test Super Hi-Vision at the World Cup in Brazil 2014. “There are political issues surrounding rights [to the World Cup],” said Masakazu Iwaki, senior manager within the planning and coordination division at NHK. “We do not have rights. FIFA and Sony would like to make a 4K World Cup and we are not the 4K team.”

NHK’s NAB demonstration featured the latest iteration of NHK’s Super Hi-Vision system, which supports 8K video and 22.2-multichannel sound. The broadcast was of an 8K recorded program compressed in H.264 (MPEG4) and transmitted using two UHF television channels.

The transmission and reception antenna was located within NHK's exhibit at a distance of about 20 meters.

“The two antennas are not placed in each other’s line of sight because we want to show how transmission is achieved without error in a non-line-of-sight reception environment,” explained NHK spokesperson Haruyuki Ichinohashi.

Last year NHK fed live coverage of the Olympics from London over several international research and education internet networks, JANET, GEANT, SINET4 and GEMnet2 to sites in the U.K., back to Tokyo and also to a screening in Washington D.C..

At NAB, featured production technology for the Super Hi-Vision system included a 120fps 3-chip camera and a 60fps single-chip 33 megapixel camera in a compact body similar to the dimensions of current HD cameras.

NHK is also investigating production workflows, developing a dockable camera head to accommodate a wider range of lenses and working on a new chip with greater light sensitivity.

Both Sharp and Panasonic have publicly showed prototype 8K TVs. An 84-inch 8K LCD display from Sharp was used for the 8K broadcasting demonstration.