Playback/Display of 8K Content
8K content can be played back in a home, office, or commercial/professional setting. In the End User Distribution Methods section, we described several ways 8K content can be encoded for delivery.
The content gateway in the 8K playback setting manages the flow of content from external sources and may facilitate the flow of content within the premises as well (over Wi-Fi networks). External sources include:
- Over-the Air Terrestrial Broadcast
- Cable / Broadband networks
- Cellular networks
- Satellite networks
- Hybrid broadcast/broadband networks
Gateways can consist of a router to connect IP networks within the premises and to external networks. It can include a modem that may demodulate RF-encoded signals and decrypt them. Modems are common on cable and satellite networks. A receiver performs a similar task for cellular or over-the-air transport. These elements of the gateway may be combined in a single piece of equipment or several pieces. They may also be part of the platform (a smartphone has a cellular receiver integrated). In the sections that follow, we will refer to content from these sources as coming from the “Content Gateway”.
De-modulated and de-crypted 8K content can be stored on local media devices for later playback or played back to an 8K display or wired or Wi-Fi connections. A playback platform typically uses hardware-based content decoding and a software-based video player to correctly parse and extract the decoded content and format it for use by the display. Playback platforms can include:
- Streaming Apps
- Streaming stick/box
- Set Top Box
- Game console
A streaming App in an 8K TV may only need to connect to a broadband network to playback content, but the other playback platforms will need a wired or Wi-Fi connection to the 8K display. These options include:
- HDMI cable
- SDI cable
- DisplayPort cable
- USB cable
As a result, there are now many combinations of delivery options, playback platforms and display connection methods for an end user to consider. Compounding these myriad options are additional variables that will impact successful delivery of content to the screen. These factors include:
- Codec support
- Operating system support
- Incompatible interfaces
- Bandwidth issues
- Hardware or software issues
While this ecosystem is well developed for FHD content and emerging for 4K content it is immature for 8K content. The additional tabs on this page provide schematic descriptions of various delivery, playback and display options.
Set Top Box for TV Playback
A Set Top Box (STB) can be used to receive video signals from a cable network or satellite network (and maybe a cellular network). Sometimes the STB integrates a router to create a wired or Wi-Fi network. The STB will demodulate the RF-modulated signal and decrypt any encryption used to prevent piracy.
A compressed video stream can be sent to the 8K TV over a Wi-Fi connection or a wired Ethernet connection where is decoded (uncompressed) at the TV and played back. STBs may also feature an uncompressed connection to the TV which could be a single HDMI 2.1 cable or four HDMI 2.0 cables.
Smartphone for TV Playback
Smartphones typically receive video from a cellular network or a Wi-Fi network that may be connected to a broadband network. If the phone can access 8K content it has the option to use a local Wi-Fi network to send the compressed stream to the TV or it can “cast” the content to the TV using a Direct Wi-Fi protocol that does not require any external Wi-Fi network to operate.
Alternatively, the phone may be used to download content which can then be transferred over USB to a hard drive or memory stick, which can then be inserted into the 8K TV for playback. This connection requires a high-speed USB 3.2 protocol to enable real-time playback.
PC for TV Playback
8K content can be ingested into the PC from various sources and stored locally on the hard drive. The PC may also be able to live stream 8K content from a source, like YouTube, directly to an 8K TV. One playback option has the PC doing the decoding and playback at the PC to send an uncompressed signal over HDMI.
Alternatively, compressed signals can be sent over a wired Ethernet, local Wi-Fi network or by Wi-Fi Direct casting to the TV. In a professional environment, the uncompressed connection from the PC graphics card may be 4x12G SDI or 4xDisplayPort 1.2. These would need to be converted to HDMI fore connection to the TV (monitor).
Game Console for TV Playback
The Sony PS5 and Microsoft X Box Series X have announced there will be support for 8K playback. One option is to allow the console to upconvert a lower resolution game to 8K resolution for playback on the 8K TV. The best connection in this case would be the uncompressed HDMI route.
Alternatively, a lower resolution game output could be sent over a local Wi-Fi or ethernet network to the TV to allow the TV to upscale to 8K. Game console can also access web-based content so it can allow an 8K stream for an Internet source to pass thru the console directly to the TV over a Wi-Fi or Ethernet network.
PC for LED Video Wall Playback
In a commercial environment where an LED-based video wall with 8K or higher resolution has been built, both a PC and a video wall controller are needed. The PC stores the content or acts to help stream it to the video wall controller, playing out the content and sending it over one of several uncompressed connection options.
The video wall controller must format the 8K signal for distribution to the multiple cabinets that compose the video wall. A 1Gbps or 10Gbps ethernet connection is used to send signal to all the cabinets. This can be a direct connection or it may be done via a network switch.
PC for LCD Video Wall Playback
With an LCD-based video wall, there is often no need for a separate controller as control can be built into the PC. Content can be played on the PC and fed to the 8K video wall over several type of uncompressed connection links.
Since an 8K video wall can be constructed with four 4K resolution panels, or sixteen 2K panels, the number of cables to each panel will be either four or sixteen. Integrators have the option to use HDMI 2.0 capable connections of DisplayPort 1.3-capable connections.