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NAB Vendors Demo 4K, Talk 8K

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As expected, NAB is awash with product from cameras to displays capable of ushering in a new era of Ultra HD broadcasting. But what is less expected is that conversations are already turning to the higher level of the ITU standard.,

8K and 4K (four times the resolution of HD) are two flavors of "Ultra HD" that are proposed as the next generation of broadcasting. While broadcasters in the U.S. and UK are sizing up 4K, as a more achievable goal given that production equipment has already entered the market, Japanese broadcaster NHK aims to move directly to 8K, which it plans to start testing on Japan’s airwaves in 2016 ahead of a 2020 satellite launch.

At NAB, NHK's demonstration was the first outside of Japan to test transmit a recorded program live using its 8K Super Hi-Vision system, enabled using two UHF television channels.

As an indication of the size of data which post production facilities may be asked to tackle at 8K resolutions, digital film dailies at 2K generate around 2.5TB of new information per day. By contrast an 8K show at 120fps might average 187TB per day of new data.

“If you look at how data rates of network bandwidth and optical transmission are increasing then, to do an 8K show as easily as it is today to do a show in 2K or 4K, we are looking at the order of 10-12 years,” predicted Jim Houston,Principal, Starwatcher Digital.

Hollywood facility FotoKem is currently handling a 4K multi-camera show using Canon and Sony media and it Chief Strategy Officer, Mike Brodersen said the volume of data generated was “already becoming difficult to manage.”

“Instead of a normal show average of 1-2TB a day, on some days we are managing 6-7TB. So how we would deal with 8K I just don't know,” he said.

Brodersen revealed that Fotokem is testing 8K images derived from a Sony F65 camera. The F65 contains an 8K sensor though until now it has only been optimised for 4K. That changes this summer when a software upgrade becomes available to unlock the sensor's full capability.

A practical example, albeit still a test, can be seen on the Quantel booth where the postproduction systems manufacturer was routing an 8K sequence through its Rio color grading system, rescaled in realtime to 4K.

There are two contrasting views on how best to route 4K data around a broadcast environment. Blackmagic Design, an Australian video processing company, unveiled a number of products including a switcher, audio monitoring device, camera and standards converter that can all output 4K video over 6G-SDI, an open standard interface which is four times the speed of throughput of HD-SDI.

Instead of tieing each system up with multiple in and out wires Blackmagic has managed to achieve this using just a single cable link. Its new Production Camera 4K features a Super 35 size sensor offering 12 stops of dynamic range and is priced just $4000 (body only).

“We have been working on Ultra HD for two years and we now have a whole production workflow from capture to post for filmmakers and broadcasters to quickly generate Ultra HD content,” said CEO Grant Petty, CEO.

In truth though, the firm's main and initial market for Blackmagic Design's Ultra HD product line is in the AV market where live 4K production and display is taking off.

“The broadcast market for 4K has still got to find its feet and work out what the workflows are going to look like so it could still take two to three years before 4K takes off,” said senior communications manager Patrick Hussey. “There is big and immediate demand for Ultra HD in a live environment for live events, houses of worship and digital signage.”

Meanwhile Sony, which in its press conference claimed to “own 4K” is predicating the future of Ultra-HD broadcasts on IT and IP networking, rather than the traditional broadcast engineering protocols of 6G-SDI.

“The question we are tackling is how do you develop and integrate 4K into the workflow of an IP domain,” said Olivier Bovis, Sony's head of AV Media. “We have the IP55. We are the only company doing this.”

The NXL-IP55 is a shipping video network unit that can transfer multiple HD image signals, audio signals and control signals over a single network cable. It has been tested over a 300km distance between Sarajevo and Belgrade, according to the company.

“We are reaching a stage when you could cover, for example, a basketball game in 4K without any physical outside broadcast infrastructure on location,” said Bovis. “You could position a pair of F65 of F55 cameras centrally above the court plug in a studio adaptor and transfer the feed over an NXL-IP55-style of technology to a remote studio. There the operator would see an 8K x 2K picture and could remotely control the tally and CCU on a tablet device and for example zoom into that picture and make intelligent HD cut outs.”

Whily only a technology demonstration at this stage, such an application is becoming possible, he added. “The core technology of the NXL-IP55 is fundamentally 4K ready. Today we can take in one HD feed in and deliver three HD feeds downstream. A future version of the product could take in and output 4K over IP.

The routing of 4K transport signals over IP was a superior infrastructure for a an emergent Ultra HD broadcast environment than 6G-SDI, he said, which works over BNC cable.

Among the most significant developments from Sony were on the consumer side where it revealed sub-$10K pricing for two 4K TV sets first announced at CES—making the technology more accessible compared with its first 84-inch 4K TV, which listed for $25,000 when it was announced last fall. At NAB, Sony said its 55-inch UltraHD TV will cost $5,000 with a 65-inch version $7,000.

Sony was also among several companies flagging professional 4K production monitors. These include the PVM-X300 4K in its Trimaster range and and a technical exhibit of a 3,840 x 2160 56-inch and a 4,096 x 2,160 30-inch 4K OLED panel for professional monitoring. There was no indiction of timing for release or pricing.

Sony is being sued and is counter sueing rival camera manufacturer Red for patent infringements which both parties claim have been made on the IP for the codecs behind their 4K cameras.

Neither Red nor Sony would comment about the duo's patent dispute, though Red's Ted Schilowitz said, “We have a great relationship with Sony on many levels. It's a bit like that of Apple and Samsung. In some cases we are best of friends and partners and in other places we are not, but both will achieve their objectives.”

Red is finalising launch of its new Dragon sensor rated at 6K or ten times the resolution of HD for inclusion in its Red Epic digital cine cameras.

“Dragon is ten times the resolution of HD, over two times the resolution of our original 4K sensor and has over 40 percent more resolution than the 5K sensor,” said Schilowitz. “We conservatively estimate it offers 17 stops of dynamic range.”

He has previously said that Red's roadmap includes sensors of 8K and even 28K devices, the latter for super large format production.

"There are no limits to what we can do," said Schilowitz. "I am often asked why we need to go to 4K, 8K or beyond but that is not the right question. The question is 'What am I going to do with a device that can shoot at a higher resolution than I have ever seen before? Imagine, if I can get a camera that does 20 stops of range what can I do with it? How can I manipulate images in production and in post to achieve effects that have never been seen before?' It's what stills photographers have been doing for years – creating other worldly experiences that even the eye can't perceive. Now we can do that with motion pictures."

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