Inter BEE keynote: Japan Will Broadcast 8K by 2020 Olympics
COW Library : Broadcasting : Debra Kaufman : Inter BEE keynote: Japan Will Broadcast 8K by 2020 Olympics
It's not news that Japan has announced its intent to broadcast 8K by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In today's production environment, the advent of 4K is still news and 8K seems like a futuristic pipe dream. But when I was in Japan in November, I learned just how serious Japan is in its intent to broadcast 8K and to do so sooner than originally announced.
The main message is: Japan plans to be the first with 8K. "Simply put, we want to be the pioneers of 4K/8K and we want the Japanese to be the first to have a taste of it," said Minami, who noted that the government has so far put 1 billion yen (approximately US$10 million) into the effort and plans to add more to the pot later on. Minami also announced that 4K and 8K broadcast trials have been moved up so that the 8K broadcast of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will not be beta tests.
"The Minister's policy is that we are going to grow 4K/8K as one of the major pillars," said Minami. "Prime Minister Abe said, we should use 8K for Tokyo Olympics. It's a natural evolution to 8K." The Olympics is the ideal venue for introducing new technology, said Minami, who pointed out the Summer 1964 Tokyo Olympics introduced full color broadcasting and first-time satellite relay broadcasting.
Competition is key for Japan in moving first to 8K. "Right now, 4K/8K is not the sole proprietary technology of Japan," he said. "Korea has already announced they're working towards 4K. Europe has its Forum for Advanced Media in Europe (FAME) similar to the Next Generation Television & Broadcasting Promotion Forum we have in Japan. Every region is aggregating the technological expertise of the region. In global competition, we have to provide the best of each region, so we can contribute to an international standard."
The show floor at Inter BEE 2013
In order to be first, said Minami, the beta testing has been moved up considerably. "In 2020, NHK said they plan to start the test of broadcasting for 8K," he said. "But this is quite an important year for Olympic Games, so we insisted the timing happen much earlier. The tests for 8K broadcasting will start in 2016 so we can switch to full scale broadcasting in 2020. Similarly, we've done the same thing with 4K, moving testing forward to 2014, with full-scale viewing by 2016."
"We want to be in time for experimental 8K broadcast of 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio," he added. "The Ministry is also looking for the technological standards to commercialize 4K/8K, and we should look at the trends in standardization. We want to be able to put out the standards publicly; the test bed and standardization are being carried out in parallel."
Noting that "support with the budget will be continued as long as possible," Minima said, "coverage will be wide in the industry, so I need the cooperation of the related parties so we can realize this as early as possible."
The cooperation of manufacturers in this 4K-to-8K evolution was quite evident on the Inter BEE exhibit floor, including Canon's new DP-V3010 4K Reference Monitor and Cinema EOS C-500 4K camera. Sony and Panasonic also showed 4K technology, including cameras, displays and Panasonic's new ToughPad tablet.
Astro Design showed its 8K camera, and several other companies highlighted production and post production technology aimed at the 4K/8K market. Given the clear government mandate, it's a good bet that every major Japanese camera manufacturer is currently hard at work on an 8K camera.
The show floor at Inter BEE 2013
But, more tellingly, Minami also implored broadcasters to cooperate. "We ask all parties to agree to this suggestion," he said. "I want to invite local TV stations to join the Forum. I have a lot of opportunity to talk to local broadcasters and when we talk about 4K/8K broadcasters, many managers are afraid they might be left out. But, I think considering the current situation I recommend that local stations should learn skills to handle 4K/8K broadcasters. With regard to 4K programming, I suggest that as long as you're ready to produce 4K programs, you should do so without waiting for the commercial availability of 4K."
"There will be additional bandwidth for this broadcasting, targeted for the Olympic Games," he continued. "If users want, they can set up 2K, 4K or 8K without stress. We are not forcing users to displace their existing TVs for more advanced TVs. Currently, we have so many different new types of TV sets available in the market and I'm expecting there will be so many types of devices in the coming years that users can choose among."
In Japan, 8K UHDTV will be known as Super Hi-Vision since Hi-Vision was the term used in Japan for HDTV. Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto, Japan. Original image © and courtesy of CANON Photo Production Dept. Photo by Leigh Nofi.
He acknowledged stresses that local broadcasters are experiencing, not just from the move towards 4K/8K but from third party programmers and the advent of smart TVs and other devices. "I think broadcasters could be hesitant to open up their resources but it is very important," he said. "The more open they are, third parties can join in and a variety of content can be provided. I ask broadcasters to consider allowing new content to come in on HTTP files. This is content for a new generation."
Minami admitted that the popularity of 4K/8K among consumers can't be predicted at this juncture. But Japan's study of potential B2B usage cites education, CAD/CAM, security cameras, medical, and disaster prevention as potential uses for Ultra HD. He also discussed 3D TV, which he called "a mutation." "We believe that was more of a sidetrack compared to the natural evolution," he said. "But the 2K-to-8K evolution process is more natural and logical. After 8K, we will perhaps advance to 16K but I think that will be difficult to perceive with the human eye. Commercialization of 8K is the path we should work towards for 2020 Tokyo Olympics."
The Tokyo Big Sight Conference Tower is a planned venue for the 2020 Summer Olympics and will host wrestling, fencing and taekwondo events, in addition to serving as the main broadcasting center and press center for the Games. Photo by Masato Ohta from Tokyo, Japan. Source, Wikimedia Commons
Thank goodness we don't have to contemplate 16K… yet, at least. Will Japan be first to the party with 8K broadcast? At this juncture, I believe they will… for better or worse. No other country (that I know of) has expressed a national mandate to be first. If we look at Japan's history in this arena, Japan's national broadcaster, NHK, pursued High Definition earlier than any other country… and succeeded in adopting a national High Definition system.
But being first carries its own perils. Japan's HD system was high resolution but analog, and the country has just completed the "digitalization" of its previously analog HD system. Will other countries join Japan in mandating 8K broadcasting? I have my doubts, especially since there's no consensus in the technology or broadcast communities that 8K is even a desirable resolution for broadcast. In the absence of a national mandate, the market will decide, just as it did with regard to 3D.