Our 100th Issue – A Look Back at How Far We’ve Come
This week, the 8K Association Monitor newsletter celebrates its 100th issue. Since March 2019, the Association has published 267 original bylined articles on the 8K Association website and more on the Discover 8K website which is aimed at 8K viewers and enthusiasts. As Issue #100 also coincides with the start of the new year of 2024, it seemed a good moment to look back on the highlights of those issues. We’ve come a long way in the development of the 8K Ecosystem. We’ve reviewed our articles and have structured our review into three key areas – capture, delivery and display.
Content Capture and Cameras
The big change over the last five years has been the development and release of a wide range of 8K video capture devices, from the consumer end with smartphones, through enthusiast cameras to high end cameras and drones. 2023 was a particularly strong year with a number of new devices:
- Sony a7RV full-frame mirrorless camera
- Circle Optics High End 8K 360° VR camera
- Fujifilm X-H2 APS-C camera
- Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 12K OLPF model
- Leica Q3 fixed lens camera
- Canon R5 Cinema camera (which impressed)
- DJI’s Inspire 3 Drone
- Nikon Z8 mirrorless camera
- Sony Burano professional camera
- DJI Zenmuse X9-8K camera module
That’s a very impressive list from APS-C to professional cinema quality levels.
There is still more to come as Sony’s semiconductor division was reported to have develped two new sensors that will come to market in cameras later. Other developers such as Gpixel of China and Atomos have also developed new sensors – while the special camera developed by the Sphere captures up to 18K!
Editing of 8K native files without the need for proxies was a topic of early interest when the newsletter started. In 2020, this needed much research and care in choosing a GPU that could handle the load, but in the years since, things have become easier. Silicon suppliers have worked hard to enable better video processing in their CPUs and GPUs using dedicated video cores that can reduce the overhead of working with 8K. NHK told us in 2022 that it was editing and post-processing 8K video using MacBooks, by exploiting the ability to create 4K H.265 proxies, and Apple has since further enhanced its silicon to support multiple streams of 8K playback and easier editing and processing even in native 8K resolution.
Delivery of 8K
It’s instructive to look back at the comments about 8K at the start of our coverage, around the time of NAB in 2019. An early article talked about the importance of the VVC codec, which was still due for finalization at that time. Now, not only has the standard been finalized, but specialist suppliers (MainConcept and Spin Digital) have developed the technology to enable real time compression using the codec.
In an article about ‘super resolution’ in 2020, Adrian Pennington wrote of the development of a huge screen in Las Vegas inside the Sphere venue. At the time the final specification had not been made public, but now we have lots of detail and have already published some information, with more on the way. (It was interesting to note that the estimated cost in 2020 was around $1.3 billion although the final figure is reported to have been more than $2 billion).
NHK, the pioneering 8K company in Japan, has shown some very interesting technology that it has developed to exploit the features of the VVC codec. The codec has been designed to allow the creation of multiple streams of content consisting of a base layer (at FullHD or 4K/UltraHD) and separate enhancement layers to allow resolutions up to 8K to be supported. This reduces the bandwidth requirement, but also has a second advantage – that the enhancement layers can be provided using alternative channels. So, you could transmit FullHD or 4K content over the very economical terrestrial or satellite broadcast systems, while delivering the enhancement layers using the internet just to those users that want them.
There have also been some innovative approaches to new compression techniques. We reported on AI-powered compression being developed in the UK That’s a science project at the moment, but it claims to offer huge improvements over existing compression techniques. Compress2X also has an interesting approach that was evaluated by video quality company SSIMWAVE. The codec appears to be able to compress 8K down to around 12 Mbps with only limited compromise in image quality.
Smartphones are a significant source of 8K video and we reported on an intriguing new ‘cinematic’ coded called APV that was developed by Samsung is to be implemented in a future smartphone. At the time of writing, this link on the GSMArean site showed 179 smartphone models with support for 8K video.
The TV market has had a bad time in 2023, suffering from a hangover after the boom in TV sales during the pandemic. Since life returned to nearer normal, consumers have been spending their money on travel and going out, rather than buying TVs. Even the high end of the TV market has struggled recently, with OLED TVs down around a quarter in 2023, despite great new TVs coming from Samsung based on its great QDOLED technology.
As we have often reported, 8K TVs are often the very best TVs in brands’ ranges. Given the weak market and relatively low volumes of high end TVs, brands other than the best – such as Samsung, LG and Sony – have tended to reduce their investment in new products. However, Samsung, in particular has been boosting its 8K range and at CES 2024, LG is updating its high end 8K models.
We looked at the challenges to making 8K OLEDs about a year ago. It’s a really tough challenge, so developments in 8K OLED TVs are likely to be rare in the next year or two. Having said that, LG Display won a ‘People’s Choice’ award for its stunning looking 77″ 8K OLED panel at the SID Display Week.
LCD panel manufacturing costs tend to scale with display area rather than resolution, so once LCD panel makers have got closer to the HDR performance of OLED by further developing miniLED technology, we expect them to focus again on 8K. This was reinforced by a forecast given by DSCC at the SID and DSCC Business Conference in 2023 which showed slowing growth in 2022 and 2023 but faster growth from 2024 onwards.
One of the big technology trends in recent years is AI and the concept has been exploited already in developing upscaling technology. This has the advantage of allowing the creation of really good looking 8K content from 4K or other sources. In an article in October 2023, John Archer, a respected professional TV reviewer highlighted the high visual quality of 8K TVs. We’re hoping for (and expecting) some interesting announcements in this area in the very near future.
As well as the established technologies of LCD and OLED for TV, laser projection from Hisense and an intriguing foldable/rollable inkjet-printed OLED prototype from TCL/CSOT are under development. That firm also showed a 120Hz 8K panel with an 85″ diagonal at Display Week. The world’s largest display panel maker, BOE of China, showed a very impressive 16K 110″ concept at the Display Week event in May 2023.
Although there is weakness currently in the 8K TV market in terms of sales, there are lots of developments going on in content capture and delivery and in time the real benefits of 8K content will shine through.