The webinar, Webinar: 8K content — dead or alive? covered a lot of ground, concluding that while 8K may still be in the gestation period, there is much to be said for the technology as a whole.
Interestingly, the accompanying webinar poll ‘is 8K Dead or alive’, came down to a slim margin, with 43% of respondents saying it is dead, but the optimists winning out with a 56% quota. As one commentator put it: “8K is alive and well as a production format. We lack any technical reason to deliver 8K display to the home. For the human psychovisual system to perceive it, the display would have to be bigger than would fit in most homes.”
The challenge of real-world practicality
Ian Nock, Founder and Principal Consultant, Fairmile West began by placing the debate firmly in the context of a real-world home viewer. He pointed out that while the capture quality of imagery might be 8K, the reality is that the end consumption device might be scaled to suit any resolution, from a smartphone to a wide range of TVs.
“It’s important to not focus on the numbers, it’s important to focus on the quality of the imagery. The quality of the imagery that’s delivered to a device is not necessarily related to whether it’s 4K, 8K or HDR (which can produce fantastic looking HD that looks better than 4K or 8K), simply because there are limitations in terms of processing and delivery, especially when there’s compression involved. We can’t escape that.”
Nock continued to make a clear distinction between real-world use cases and the scientific definitions that can be applied. “Can we even ‘see’ 8K and 4K? Well, that’s all about seating position, but I’ll tell you that nobody sits in the ideal seating position in front of a TV display except vision engineers and scientists. Everyone else puts the television wherever they can - all the analysis that the BBC have done and other organisations have done - it’s 2.73 metres away from the display screen. It doesn’t matter what the resolution is, it doesn’t matter what the size of the screen is. That’s how far away people are from the TV screen, because largely homes have three metre by three metre rooms. You know, that’s the real world.”
Many of the questions from viewers took a similar stance, with one question pithily quoting a past IBC presentation: “I recall a talk at a past IBC where the speaker described UHD as “more pixels of blur” - mainly because of depth of field and motion blurring. Is the image capture capable of 8K resolution - and for what types of programming?”
Another commentator saw things from a wider historical perspective: “From a production standpoint, we’re facing the same challenge the film industry did when they had to choose whether to shoot in 16, 35, or 70mm. It was a question of resolution then, just as it is now.”
Increased cost of 8K needs to be recognised
Continuing with the theme of pragmatism, the panel conversation moved onto the question of increased cost across the board when creating, broadcasting, streaming and storing 8K media.
Prashant Chothani, CEO, Travelxp said: “We knew that the costs were going to be high. We were discussing that the cost of producing 4K or 8K content should come close to HD, but it will never come because you can’t change the rules of physics. Physics is constant, it cannot change, [you have to deal with] compression and delivery, then you can have some optimization, but still the cost of production is going to be high.
“We invested very heavily in producing content - we went for the top end - I think 4K and 8K is filmmaking for television. So the dynamics and mechanics of commercial exploitation on television will have to do everything and that is why the nonlinear, the nonlinear surfaces, our price for ARPU is higher than in the 4K ecosystem.”
Nock agreed: “Cost is always a factor. A standard broadcaster in Europe or anywhere in the world really is largely funded by advertising - a business model that is paid based on eyeballs, not paid on quality. That money isn’t suddenly going to change. Whether you’re doing SD, HD or 4K, or 8K, it doesn’t really matter - it’s not going to change the income and that is a major disincentive for broadcasters and content.
Full ecosystem required
Chothani was also keen to broaden out the frame of reference, making the point that 8K relies on the whole ecosystem being in place to create, package, deliver and view content at that resolution. “So who is going to invest in the set top box ? Who is going to invest in the content? It was not [a case of] chicken and egg, it was a lot of chickens and a lot of eggs! That was the problem that somebody has to produce the content, somebody has to invest in the boxes, somebody has to give the satellite bandwidth.
“If you want to broadcast 4K service on satellite the minimum was 25mbps when we started and then we’ve got that down now to 18mbps, but the price is ridiculously high. So distribution platforms will have to fight back, and for them to stay relevant they will have to bundle HD 4K and nonlinear services in a hybrid model.”
EU regulation and the technology arms race
Regulation was of course a key topic of discussion, especially in the EU, where new efficiency rules which could effectively ban the sale of power-hungry 8K TV sets from March 2023. However, Nock played down the hype considerably: “I think people need to understand that these regulations [are thereto] to challenge manufacturers and suppliers of equipment to meet the regulations.
“The EU has put in place well communicated requirements for the efficiency of displays around energy usage, and [requested] a market response to it to see what is possible and what is not possible. Generally manufacturers have responded, improved the energy efficiency of the devices, improved what can be done…”
“We have to realise that the vast bulk of television displays today are LCD televisions with LED backlights called transmissive displays. They work by taking that LED backlight, passing that LED backlight through an LCD where you control how much light is thrown away, which gives you your display. It’s a design that’s based upon throwing energy away - wasting energy in effect. There are also other display types which are emissive, which don’t work the same way they work by varying the pixels of the light source being used. OLED is an example of an emissive technology.
“Then there’s micro lens array. There were a lot of TV sets at the most recent CES using that technology, because they can create brighter imagery without using any more energy because they’re not throwing away as much energy and they’re also focusing that light to create the image on the screen. There are all these technical advances from TV manufacturers, just maybe a little bit late for the EU’s requirements.”
8K - a bright future
Nock had one last key takeaway on 8K overall: “Don’t get focused on the numbers. Focus on the quality. Although, unfortunately, customers buy TVs by the (big) number, but they want the quality and we’ve got to keep improving the quality. You can do that without worrying so much about resolution. You can do that by improving your business case, and I think people should focus much more on high dynamic range and wide colour gamut, which are the big, key quality improvers right now that people can do quite quickly.”
Catch the full webinar, 8K content — dead or alive? on demand now, and get the full range of insights from the expert panel. Alternatively, check out the full on-demand IBC webinar catalogue and/or register for any upcoming IBC 2023 webinar topics that appeal.
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