8K: Here We Go Again

Apologies for tooting my own horn a little, but I am taking on a new role as Executive Director of the newly-formed 8K Association – in addition to my normal activities of tech writing, event organization and industry consulting. 

The founding members of the 8K Association (8KA) are AUO, Hisense, Panasonic, Samsung and TCL – panel and TV makers, but we hope to expand to include more brands and component suppliers over the next year.

The initial mission of 8KA is:

  • Promote 8K TVs/Content
  • Help educate consumers and professionals in the 8K ecosystem
  • Help secure 8K native content for members
  • Encourage service providers (especially OTT) to develop 8K offerings
  • Facilitate communication within 8K ecosystem to help with commercialization
  • Develop initial technical requirements for 8K input signal
  • Develop initial 8K TV categories and minimum specifications for image quality
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I know there are many doubters and nay-sayers regarding the need for 8K. I get that. There is indeed some valid concerns and legitimate push back. I don’t see 8KA as simply a tool of the display industry to push a product that end users don’t want. Instead, I see our mission as one of listening to those naysayers and helping to craft solutions that address industry concerns.

I heard a talk once from Jay Baer where he discussed his book, “Hug Your Haters.” It was inspiring as listening to your harshest critics can often lead to an improved product or service. The criticism can be tough to listen to sometimes – and there will be some wackos, but I do believe real improvement comes from satisfying your haters and overcoming objections. I’ll try to have a tough skin, so lay it on me!

Will 8K follow the path of 4K adoption? There are many parallels and similarities but there are also differences. For example, new 10.5G class fabs will enable larger sized (>65”) displays to be made at ever lower prices and so will be pushed into the market with many moving to 8K resolution. That is like the 55” 4K industry push over the last number of years. Market research firms predict that nearly every TV over 50” will be 4K by the end of 2019. Will everything over 65” move to 8K in six to seven years? Maybe.

The 4K transition was aided by the introduction of new codecs – HEVC and VP9. In development of the next versions of these codec: Versatile Video Codec and AV1.

The cost of production at the start of the 4K transition was much higher than HD/FHD production. The same is true of 8K compared to 4K production today, but I think the relative cost is similar. Over time, 4K production costs have declined, so maybe 8K will as well. (see: 8K is Right on Track)

4K adoption was led by OTT service providers. We think history will repeat for 8K, but we must dialog with these companies to understand what they need to make a business and technology case for an 8K service.

4K adoption was clearly aided by the introduction of HDR. HDR will be part of 8K TVs, so that extra boost in visual performance won’t be there. But, 8K TVs will require better upscaling which is driving the use of sophisticated AI algorithms that can continue to learn and improve. This will be especially important when upscaling SD and HD content and where bandwidth limitations introduce objectionable encoding artifacts.

Adoption of 4K by broadcasters has been very slow and we don’t expect them to embrace 8K except in some special circumstances (there will be a bunch of 8K cameras for the Super Bowl, I understand, and for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and other sporting events).

ATSC 3.0 and Blu-ray have adopted 4K but 8K is not on the roadmap yet.

And there are many other aspects of the transition to 8K that need to be addressed, so 8KA has its work cut out for it.

This is the beginning of the beginning for 8K. If you can think back to 2012/2013, that was the beginning of the beginning for 4K and that story has unfolded very well indeed. Will history repeat? Please let me know your thoughts.

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