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Only a few years ago the buzz in AV was 4K ‘ultra HD’ resolution for televisions and home cinema projectors.
This came along when many people were still upgrading from standard definition (SD) to the first generation of high definition (HD), 1080p. At the time content was sparse, but now there are hundreds of movies available on the UltraHD Blu-ray disc format and both Netflix and Amazon are streaming a wide selection of 4K movies and TV shows.
In recent months we’ve seen some manufacturers, notably Samsung, launch TVs that have 8K resolution (FUHD=Full Ultra High Definition), that’s 7680 x 4320 pixels; which is 4x the resolution of 4K or a whopping 16x the resolution of 1080p HD. Whether the human eye is capable of resolving this next increase in picture detail is up for debate, but certainly benefits are only likely to be seen on very large screens; typically greater than 75”.
Like the move the 4K, the question that everyone is asking is ‘will there be content available in 8K?’ However, unlike the move the 4K when the answer was a resounding ‘yes it is coming soon’; the answer for 8K content is less clear cut.
So far, the only notable announcement of 8K content is the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 which are scheduled to be shot in 8K by the Japanese broadcaster; plus the odd bits of demo footage on the likes of YouTube and Vimeo. Yet recently the Blu-ray Disc Association has announced that it has no plans to develop an 8K version of physical media. The decision isn’t a final one, but it looks like that for 8K content we are going to have to look to the streaming services and possibly satellite broadcasters (it’s unlikely that terrestrial broadcasts will ever be in 8K, as they’re struggling with not having enough bandwidth for even HD versions of all their channels, never mind 4K).
So is streaming of 8K content feasible? Probably. It will likely need a further development of the codecs that are used to allow even greater compression of picture data; so that the bandwidth required to stream an 8K movie is nowhere near 4x the bandwidth of a 4K movie. How good these new compression algorithms are remains to be seen. Certainly if you compare side-by-side the picture quality from an UltraHD Blu-ray disc compared to a 4K stream of the same content you will see the Blu-ray version is vastly superior because the physical media is capable of delivering much higher bandwidth than content streamed over the internet (>80 Mbps compared to ~25 Mbps). That is likely to be the case for some time after homes are upgraded to ‘full fibre’ speeds.
Then there’s your home’s infrastructure to consider. The latest HDMI standard (2.1) can carry up to 48 Gbps bandwidth which is theoretically capable of video resolutions up to 10K; but that HDMI cable has to be connected to a suitable 8K source. Most of the 8K TVs currently available, however, don’t fully support HDMI 2.1, so may not be compatible if/when 8K media sources become available. As for distributing 8K content around the home, then you’re probably going to need a fibre-optic infrastructure as it’s unlikely a copper-based infrastructure will be able to cope with the bandwidth requirements.
The short answer therefore is that 8K is not worth worrying about right now; 4K content will be the standard for premium quality content for many years to come. However, if you are considering installing or upgrading the infrastructure in your home then it’s worth talking to Cyberhomes about what we can do to maximise the compatibility potential for the future.
For the very latest information on 8K, keep an eye on the 8K Association website 8kassociation.com