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World's first 8K TV channel launches this week

27 Nov 2018 | Rasmus Larsen |

Japan’s NHK will launch the world’s first 8K TV channel on December 1. It will broadcast movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, NASA content, concerts, and more in 8K.

To prepare for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Japan’s public service provider NHK has been developing 8K image systems since 1995, with a stated goal of broadcasting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in its full glory. The company is now launching the ’BS8K channel’ to prepare for the big event.

NHK’s BS8K channel will broadcast 12 hours daily. On launch day, it will feature 8K footage of Earth shot by NASA from the International Space Station as well as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in a restored 8K version created from the 70mm film negative in collaboration with Warner Bros.

- “On the BS8K channel on December 1st, a landmark film in cinematic history, the science-fiction epic "2001: A Space Odyssey" will be broadcast,“ said Yukinori Kida, Executive Director of Broadcasting, NHK. “Although many films were shot in 35mm, this film which was made half a century ago, was one of the few shot in 70mm, the highest quality available at the time. NHK was the first in the world to request this film be converted to 8K. Warner Bros, which owns the film, scanned the original film negatives, repairing scratches and restoring the color, to convert it into 8K.”

Other content in 8K includes concerts from three of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic, art broadcasts from the Louvre and Katsushika Hokusai, live sumo wrestling, documentaries such as Treasures of Tutankhamun, TV dramas, and nature programs. In March 2019, the channel will broadcast a restored 8K version of the classic film My Fair Lady that was also shot on 70mm.

NHK 8K channel

Still a lot of work ahead

The launch of NHK BS8K is a milestone but there is still a lot of work ahead for everyone involved. Sharp and Samsung have launched their first 8K TVs but these are not compatible with the 8K60 video format that NHK is using, instead being limited to 8K30. NHK is planning to eventually move to 8K120 HDR.

Before 8K can become reality in the living room, consumers must also invest in 8K TVs with full HDMI 2.1. These TVs do not exist yet. The transition will take many years and perhaps even longer than for 4K because while many movies and video productions can be remastered to 4K based on the original 35mm film negative, 8K will typically require 70mm or content shot on new digital cameras such as RED’s cameras. Netflix’s Lost in Space was shot in 7K on a RED Helium camera but the company has not announced plans to offer 8K content. YouTube already supports 8K video streaming.

The NHK BS8K channel will also support 22.2 channel audio but not all content will be available in that format. For example, 2001: A Space Odyssey will be broadcast in 8K with standard 5.1 surround sound and no HDR, whereas the broadcast from Vienna Philharmonic will include 22.2 audio and HDR.

All of that will be solved in time and perhaps consumers will start buying super-sized TVs that can take advantage of the very high resolution but the road ahead is long and full of uncertainty.

NHK has been a driving force in developing 8K technology that it has previously referred to as “Super Hi-Vision”. For the official launch, it appears that the public service broadcaster has settled on the more widespread term ‘8K’, short for 7680x4320 pixels – four times as many pixels as 4K.

If you are curious to learn more about NHK’s work in the field check We expect to hear more about 8K at the CES show in January 2019.

NHK: The history of 8K Super Hi-Vision

1995 Research on ultra high-definition video system begins.
2000Research begins on ultra high-definition video system with 4000 scanning lines and 3D audio system.
2002MarchUltra high-definition video system with 4000 scanning lines and 3D sound reproduction system displayed at the inaugural ceremony at NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories.
2003MayMovie on the ultra high-definition video system with 4000 scanning lines shown at NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories open house.
2004Ultra high-definition video system with 4000 scanning lines and 22.2 multichannel sound system named Super Hi-Vision.
2005MarchSuper Hi-Vision is shown on a 6OO-inch screen at the Expo 2005 Aichi Japan.
OctoberThe Kyushu National Museum introduced a system displaying stills of art pieces in Super Hi-Vision.
NovemberLive feed experiment to transmit uncompressed Super Hi-Vision signals via optical fiber succeeds.
2016AprilDisplayed at the NAB2006 (biggest international exhibition of broadcasting equipment in the US) in Las Vegas.
SeptemberDisplayed at the lBC2006 (biggest international exhibition of broadcasting equipment in Europe) in Amsterdam.
DecemberNHK's program "Kouhaku Utagassen" (The Red and White Year-end Song Festival) was successfully transmitted with bit-rate compression over IP networks from Tokyo to Osaka, in cooperation with NTT and NTT Communications.
2007OctoberVideo format standardized by SMPTE.
2008JulyAudio system format (22.2 multichannel sound system) standardized by SMPTE.
SeptemberAt the lBC2008 in Amsterdam, NHK succeeded in an international transmission experiment, in cooperation with BBC, RAI, among others (IP networks from London to Amsterdam; satellite from Turin to Amsterdam).
2009AprilDisplayed at NAB2009 in Las Vegas.
MayLive experiment to transmit Super Hi-Vision video over multiple channels via satellite. A full resolution projector was put on display at NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories open house.
2010MayFull resolution color camera was displayed at NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories open house.
AugustInterface standardized by SMPTE.
SeptemberDisplayed at the IBC2010 in Amsterdam. NHK succeeded in an international live feed transmission experiment from London to Tokyo using IP networks, in cooperation with BBC, NTT, among others.
2011JanuaryPractical compact projector developed.
May85-inch liquid crystal display and display with built-in 22.2 multichannel sound reproduction system were exhibited at NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories open house.
SeptemberExhibited at the IBC2011 in Amsterdam.
SeptemberExhibited at ITU-R in Geneva.
2012FebruaryImage sensor with the frame rate of 120Hz is developed.
April145-inch plasma display is developed.
MayCompact camera (same size as HDTV camera) is developed.
MayTransmission experiment via terrestrial waves succeeds.
MayProduction system for 22.2 multichannel audio exhibited at NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories open house.
JulyPublic viewings of the 2012 London Olympic Games in Super Hi-Vision held.
AugustRecommended as the international standard for television by lTU-R.
2013FebruaryTransmission experiment via cable TV facilities succeeds.
MayHEVC encoding device is developed.
MayCube type compact camera head is developed.
2014JanuaryLong-distance transmission experiment via terrestrial waves succeeds.
FebruaryPublic viewings of the 2014 Sochi Olympics Games was held.
May8K Super Hi-Vision transmission test using the nation's largest cable TV facility succeeded.
JunePublic viewings of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ was held.
SeptemberVideo shot using a 8K Super Hi-Vision camera with a frame frequency of 120Hz was shown for the first time in the world at IBC2014 in Amsterdam.
- Source: NHK (2)

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