Cannes: Japan's NHK Showcases Ultra-HD Film Format

NHK 8K Super Hi-Vision Camera H

The first film shot in 8K will be screened at Cannes, showcasing the technology's 22.2 channel audio system and video that is 16 times the resolution of standard HD.

TOKYO – Japan’s public broadcaster NHK will showcase its next-generation 8K Super Hi-Vision (SHV) format at Cannes on May 16 and 17, screening the first short feature shot in the ultra-HD system.

Beauties À La Carte, a 27-minute comedy directed by Toshio Lee (Detroit Metal City), will be shown on a 220-inch screen to demonstrate 8K SHV, which boasts 16 times the resolution of current HD, to the global film industry. The format features a 22.2 channel audio system that was also developed by NHK.

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NHK is unique among public broadcasters in the resources it allocates to research and development of cutting-edge equipment and formats, much of it done at the Science & Technology Research Laboratories (STRL) in the Setagaya suburb of Tokyo. Although the corporation doesn’t give a breakdown of the amount spent on 8K, its annual R&D budget is around $77 million (7.7 billion yen) annually. NHK has been conducting research on ultra-HD systems since 1995.

“Actually NHK is required under Japan’s Broadcast Law to carry out research into improving broadcasting technology,” explains Masayuki Sugawara, a senior engineer in the Advanced Television Research Division at STRL.

The equipment for 8K was developed in collaboration with some of Japan’s biggest electronic manufacturers, including Fujitsu, JVC, Panasonic and Sharp, according to Kimiyo Hamasaki, technical director for the Cannes screenings and a leading engineer for the audio system that NHK developed in-house.

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Sony, which is heavily invested in the 4K format that could be made obsolete by 8K, has not been involved.  

“One of the main reasons we carried out research into 8K TV is due to the characteristics of human perception. Our conclusion is that 8K will be the final two-dimensional television format,” says Sugawara, who explains that the resolution involved is the highest that the human eye can process. “Any further developments will be in 3-D.”

Research into the next generation of 3-D is already underway in NHK labs.

“The current stereoscopic 3-D format just provides a different image to the left and right eye to create a 3-D image in the brain. The integral photographic 3-D that we are researching creates actual spatial images in front of the screen,” explains Sugawara.

This means that not only can the format be watched without special glasses, but when viewers move around the image -- left-right, up-down or backward-forward -- they will be able to see it from different angles.

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NHK’s researchers believe it may take as long as 20 years to bring the system into homes, though the development of 8K has been achieved years ahead of schedule.   

“Integral 3-D requires a lot of pixels,” says Sugawara. “Super Hi-Vision needs about 33-million pixels, and integral 3-D will take 10 to 100 times as many as that.”  

Press and industry screenings of Beauties À La Carte in SHV 8K will be held in the afternoon on May 16 at the Hotel Majestic Barriere, and for the public on May 17, followed by a gala in the evening.