So, 33 million pixels (7680 x 4320) - four times more than 4K Ultra HD, and 16 times as many pixels as Full HD. This 8K resolution was always on the roadmap, especially for broadcast organisations, for whom 4K was a technology that "escaped from the wild", only becoming a standard because panel makers started releasing them. The result has been the inexorable rise over the last four years of larger screens, and as Sascha Lange confirmed today at the IFA Global Press conference in Rome, the highest value of screen sizes in Europe is currently the 55 to 59-inch market.
But 70-inch and above is also growing, but it needs 8K to deliver the best results, says Lange, who is VP for Marketing and Sales in the EMEA region. A 128-inch screen with 8K resolution has the same pixel density as a 32-inch full-HD panel, he points out, and with today's open living room designs, there's enough space for larger screens with closer viewing distances in the home. The result - ultra realism.
To prove the point, Sharp has its 8K 70-inch display at the IFA Global Press Conference event, while announcing the official European launch of the LV-70X500E, which went on sale in Japan last year. Its ultrafine resolution results into a pixel density of 125 ppi, while wide color technology covers 79% of the Rec,2020 colour-gamut. Eight HDMI inputs include four standard 2K/4K ports,while the four 'bundled' 8K inputs use parallel HDMI connections - HDMI isn't even close to allowing 8K signals with the additional HDR and colour information at full bit-rate. By bundling parallel inputs, the LV-70X500E supports High Dynamic Range through HLG and HDR10.
But for what? There are no 8K sources yet. But of course, just as 4K content followed hard on the heels of 4K screens, 8K content will come. Still pictures are one source. For video, NHK Japan is currently test broadcasting one hour of 8K per day, and plans a full 8K service as early as 2018. YouTube has supported 8K videos for over a year, and streaming will be first out of the gate with mainstream content - Lange informed us that 'Lost in Space', showing on Netflix, is being filmed in 8K. Sharp has an 8K camera available, and it will be used in Many for a European pilot project with France TV to create 8K sports viewing at the Roland-Garros French Open in May. The catch? The images will only be available within the stadium.
But it ain't as simple as having the cameras. IHS Markit's Paul Gray pointed out to us that while the image sensors may be available, the lenses for 8K are "pushing the boundaries of physics" and that NHK has reached the conclusion that glass of this resolution simply doesn't exist yet, so that 8K sensors are really recording the limitation of existing lenses in fabulous quality. And since glass making doesn't, of course, follow Moore's Law, it may not be a quick fix, and it's little exaggeration to expect million-dollar price-tags when they do. Similarly, shooting in 8K doesn't necessarily mean editing and releasing in 8K - especially for a show like 'Lost in Space' , heavily laden with effects which certainly won't be rendered in 8K. Many 4K movies today are still rendering their VFX in 2K.
So as Sharp's Lange admits, the first priority for 8K televisions is effective upscaling of 2K and 4K content. The LV-70X500E will up-convert content to 8K using an advanced picture processing suite so that the image is not merely “blown up” to the higher resolution, but visibly enhanced. Samsung is saying much the same for its 8K model shown at CES and due by the end of 2018.
The 70” (177cm) LV-70X500E will be available in Europe starting end of April 2018 at a
recommended retail price of 11.999 Euros.
IFA has a cartoonist to hand during its presentations. Here's her interpretation of the Sharp launch.