Sharp’s Decade-long Journey to 8K
Sharp has been working on a complete 8K ecosystem for over a decade – from the cameras to the displays. In Tokyo, it has a unique showroom with a range of partners to test and demonstrate the technology. The firm had also pioneered the use of 5G and claimed a world first when it used 5G to transmit 8K from the cameras to the control center at the French Open tennis in 2019.
We met with Display and Sharp veteran Peter Heins to discuss the products shown at the recent ISE event in Barcelona. A brand new 32″ monitor aimed at 8K production and content creation had not been seen before at a show. There was also a 120″ 8K LCD that had actually been made available during the Covid lockdowns but had only been seen by a relatively few people before its trip to Spain for ISE.
Logistics can be a challenge with a 120″ diagonal set (more than 3 meters!) that is not modular or foldable. However, Heins told us that the display passed through standard doors, and so far, the firm and its partners have always been able to install it, although, on occasion, it has needed a crane! (special fittings are included with the set for use with lifting equipment and a floor stand and wall mounts). Heins reminded us that Sharp had a 108″ LCD display some ten years ago, so it had experience with the logistics – although the panel then was just FullHD.
The panel is particularly impressive in terms of brightness, and it can reach 1,000 cd/m² over large areas of the screen. It has 2048 dimming zones in the direct LED backlight, so the contrast is very impressive when some parts are at full brightness, Heins told us, while others are dark. The panel uses Sharp’s UV2A technology which uses ultraviolet light to align the liquid crystals and has a high level of native contrast. The display can draw over 1.5KW of power at full brightness, although it would rarely be used like that.
The 120″ Is Finding Applications
The monitor has found various uses in professional and even in some high-end consumers’ homes – a 120″ display with that brightness level is quite a home cinema! There have been applications in medicine where not only is the facility to share huge and detailed images necessary, but there is also a significant advantage to using a single display for four UltraHD images to be shown simultaneously. The monitor has both HDMI 2.1 for single 8K images and four HDMI 2.0 ports to allow multi-image use.
Using a single screen minimizes the image variations coming from the display rather than the data in the images themselves. There are also applications in car design and fashion, and it can be a great advantage to see new products being at actual life-size or greater.
There are also several applications in broadcast and content creation where such a large image is required. The display is fitted with a ‘TV-like’ scaler to upscale FullHD and UltraHD images when native 8K content is unavailable.
The ISE unit used the Intel-developed Smart Display Module, which we recently talked about in our round-up of 8K media players. Heins explained that the SDM module, a prototype, had to be in a separate chassis as the 8K set was developed without the slot inside. However, he said he was surprised that the driving system was only the size of the Small SDM version (there is a large option as well). It was able to drive the display at 8K with 10-bit color at 60Hz.
The 32″ is Mainly for Content Creation
The 8K Monitor covered the 32″ in a separate article, but Heins told us that although the smaller set is used in some of the same applications as the large display, the primary use is in post-production of 8K content. However, there are also applications in R&D environments connected to digital microscopes and cameras. Some units are going into industrial production for use with 8K cameras for inspection applications. In Japan, there is a substantial market for the monitor for use in museums and galleries where they are used to inspect scans of artworks and historical documents. A lot of work is going on to digitize historical documents, and the level of detail needed is visible on the 8K display.
Finally, the monitor is labeled as Sharp, but the company supplying it is now Sharp NEC Display Systems. We asked about that, and Heins told us that both brands are respected and strong, so there has not been a need to go through an expensive re-brand on existing products. However, the likely branding of future products is still the subject of discussion. The company was formed from the professional display division of Sharp and NEC Display Solutions in 2020.