During IFA 2018, Samsung and LG announced that new UHD 8K TVs would be available very shortly, in addition to their UHD 4K TVs. They should start being marketed in late 2018. But what is 8K resolution and is it really useful?
What is 8K resolution?
8K resolution is a follow-up from 4K format, which itself took over HD 1080p picture resolution. 8K stands for the 8000 horizontal pixels used to create an image, which when scaled to the 16/9 ratio of televisions is about 4300 vertical pixels. Therefore an 8K image can have up to 33 megapixels: 4 times more than 4K resolution and 16 times more than an HD 1080p image.
Are 8K TVs compatible with 4K and HD content?
Yes. The new 8K televisions by Samsung (the Samsung QLED QE65Q900R, QE75Q900R and QE85Q900R have been announced) and LG are backwards compatible with lower definition formats. When compared to a 4K television of the same size, 8K panels include more pixels and reduce the singular between each pixel.
Therefore, a program in HD or 4K gains in density and precision on an 8K TV.
Artificial Intelligence for 8K upscaling
Artificial intelligence is thriving. It’s used in the SoCs of high-end smartphones to improve photos by detecting their subject matter or the pictured scene, and Samsung is now using AI in their new 8K TVs. In this instance, it’s used to scale SD, HD and UHD 4K content up to 8K resolution. A graphics processor with AI compares the parameters of the image to be displayed with a database of tens of thousands of different types of images. When it finds a corresponding image in its database, the processor applies the best scaling algorithm possible. All of this in real time of course!
Is there 8K content already available?
Simply put: no. Although the Japanese television group NHK did say that it would broadcast programs in 8K format as early as this year and that it would most certainly be the case of the 2020 Olympic Games. But for France and the rest of the world, there’s no existing “mainstream” 8K content as of yet. Keep in mind that no movie and TV serie is shot in 8K yet. Moreover, it’s only very recently that movie studios have started filming with 6.5K cameras and using post-production equipment in 4K for 4K Blu-ray discs. The same goes for some VOD sites (notably NetFlix and Amazon Prime).
When can we expect 8K content?
We can reasonably expect that some television stations will be emitting demo satellite channels by the end of 2018 and most certainly by 2019. In France: nothing is certain. We’re more likely to see 8K videos on Youtube, again as demos. As for movies and TV series, we’ll need to wait for the industry to start using compatible cameras and 8K post-production equipment.
Nevertheless, the digitization of movies shot on film could be done using 8K scanners and we could enjoy old films in breathtaking quality.
When it comes to smartphones, the most high-performing models can now capture videos in 4K, sometimes at 60 frames per second, which enormously improves definition during movement. Recording in 8K isn’t on the cards for now.
Will movies in 8K format be HDR compatible?
HDR picture appeared at the same time as UHD 4K Blu-ray discs but this technology is still not to everyone’s liking. There is actually a possibility that this picture enhancement technology will not be systematically used in the near future. Hypothetically, HDR metadata for 8K pictures would require an advanced color coding process which would take up a large part of the bandwidth.
Seeing as 8K consists of over 30 million pixels, it’s doubtful that 8K picture would be HDR certified because the storage space needed would be enormous.
Will Blu-ray UHD 8K players be announced soon?
Nothing of the sort has been announced yet and we can wonder if such a disc will ever be developed. The way we watch movies and series is definitely leaning more and more towards streaming. The physical medium will more than likely be left behind, at least from a marketing standpoint. NetFlix is swiftly working towards this transition and we can easily imagine that 8K content will be streamed from Internet set-top boxes or new 5G radio boxes. Moreover, the NetFlix app will more than likely be integrated in the new UHD 8K TVs.
Will the first 8K TVs be viable?
If you remember, the first 4K televisions couldn’t display more than 30 frames per second and had a limited colorimetry. To truly enjoy higher frame rates and HDR technology, we had to wait for the second generation of televisions fitted with HDMI 2.0 controllers. It’s the same with 8K TVs. However, the electronic compartment of some models could be replaced with a new one that features a HDMI 2.1 controller.
What is the point of 8K TVs?
Right off the bat, we could respond say that there isn’t any. We’d be wrong to do so. The processing power of the new 8K televisions will benefit all other content, 4K HDR especially. It may be compared to the way Snapdragon SoCs improve the quality of photos taken with smartphones. The processors of these new televisions will be capable of well-needed advanced treatment of HD and 4K video streams. For example, converting an HDR program to SDR in order to enjoy a great picture without pushing the luminosity to the max. Moreover, even if we don’t entirely make the most of 8K resolution with optimised content, the precision of 8K screens and their bigger size will still ensure a totally unique visual experience.
What will 8K change?
Probably the size of our televisions. The 65” screen will become a standard and more than likely the minimum in the years to come. 100” screens in living rooms won’t be a rare occurrence. As a matter of fact, the high precision of the panels allow for a reduced viewing distance. All in all, 8K will create a more immersive visual experience.