Distribution & Delivery Global Viewpoint – April 2020

8K Receivers - Bound by Bandwidth?

As more 8K receivers are being seen at recent shows around the globe, I wonder where all bandwidth is going to come from to deliver the video? While the CE guys are pursuing ever more static resolution, is it really going to deliver better pixels or just more pixels?

All things being equal—same compression algorithms, same bit depth—4320P120 is going to need 48 times the bandwidth of progressive HD, 1080P30. Sure there is some saving in temporal compression of higher frame rates, but its in the ballpark. And let’s not forget, that the higher the resolution, the easier it is to see compression artifacts.

There are compromises, like lowering the dynamic resolution, the frame rate, down to 50, or even 24 fps (for the motion picture look). But that leads to inevitable disconnect between static and dynamic resolution: motion artifacts, blurry or strobing motion.

The current business model for broadcasters and cable networks is choice, a huge choice of channels. Carrying 8K channels would mean giving up conventional SD and HD channels to release spectrum. Already, all but the premium channels are squeezed to the limit of visible artifacts that don’t put off too many viewers. DO we really want compression artifacts in crystal clear 8K resolution?

My thoughts on this, unchanged since the 3D debacle, is that this smacks of the CE guys wanting to leverage existing manufacturing facilities to churn out something new in order to encourage the sucker consumer to trade up to the latest technology. The reality that most will be watching up-scaled standard dynamic range HD or even SD content on their brand new 8K monster does not concern the vendors. As long as there are suckers out there to buy the stuff, who cares?

I can definitely see the application for large-screen display in public spaces, theme parks, events, and product launches, but for domestic programming, it’s a step too far if you are a content creator or broadcaster. Storage and editing platforms for 8K are going to be uneconomic for the next few years. We will get there but we are not there today.

I would rather watch 1080P at 50/60 fps in HDR and wide color gamut, than 8K. Just think of the bandwidth saving! Is the immediate future 8K receivers using all manner of complex up-rezzing technology with existing HD broadcast channels? I guess the question remains, that as a viewer, do you want to watch compelling content or are you a pixel peeper?