8K is beginning to gain momentum across entertainment and display industries, though the technology still has many hurdles to overcome. Within a complex ecosystem of content acquisition, media preparation, distribution, delivery and consumption, a new report from Futuresource Consulting reveals that 8K’s successful implementation and adoption are walking a tricky tightrope.
While Japan’s NHK launched the world’s first 8K TV channel in December of 2018, 8K broadcast is still very limited beyond the borders of Japan and China. Proof of concept transmissions have taken place for recent sports events, and YouTube and Vimeo have an 8K video catalogue, but major streaming platforms are yet to offer any 8K streaming.
“Despite 8K being far from a mainstream video format, 8K is already a reality within some areas of the industry, such as content acquisition,” says Chris Evans, Head of Pro Video, Futuresource Consulting, “and its adoption is set to grow. At the same time, we’re now seeing a widening range of 8K-capable TVs available in the premium segment of the market, coupled with an upsurge of high-end smartphones. However, we’re still a long way from mass adoption, with our forecasts showing global 8K television shipments will represent around 3% of the market by 2025.”
While there is a general trend towards purchasing larger TV screens, in excess of 65-inches, 8K sets have struggled to capture the imagination of consumers. Futuresource cites a lack of content in the short term as a key barrier to growth, although 8K resolution can have applications beyond the traditional broadcast and streaming uses. These include gaming, virtual reality and user generated content, yet these are in their relative infancy and further uptake is not set to happen in the medium term.
“At the moment, we’re essentially seeing 8K TV uptake driven by consumers who are looking to futureproof their investment,” says Evans. “And that decision is largely resting on the price delta between 4K and 8K screens. Ultimately, the transition to 8K is likely to hit an insurmountable wall if there isn’t a compelling library of content.”
To date, several major productions have been captured in 8K, yet their final delivery has been provided in a lower resolution. Futuresource expects progress to be made over the next five years, though 8K resolution will not become the industry standard for video content mastering in the short to medium term.
“For sports broadcast, the amount of bandwidth needed for 8K within production is still the bottleneck,” says Evans, “though the move to IP within live production will enable widespread 8K sports coverage to become a reality. The availability and cost of broadcast equipment is also an issue. There have been some great examples of successful 8K workflows, though they’re still few in number and typically tied to prestige events or sports fixtures.
“Post-production is where we’re seeing the video content supply chain benefit from 8K video technology. However, this is to enable more creative techniques for projects that will be mastered in lower resolutions, typically 4K. Oversampling higher resolution video enables more control of composition and reframing, along with better outcomes when applying visual effects.”
Looking to commercial applications, the flat panel display market echoes the consumer TV market, as the same panel manufacturers supply both industries. This allows B2B displays to take advantage of the associated economies of scale.
In terms of the verticals, Futuresource expects healthcare, digital signage and collaboration displays to derive the most benefit from the higher resolution offered by 8K. However, the B2B arena is in a similar situation to consumer applications, with hurdles such as the lack of content and high cost of 8K equipment currently creating barriers.
“From glass to glass, from acquisition to consumption, there are a lot of moving parts that need to be aligned for the full potential of 8K to be realised,” says Evans. “To really succeed those with 8K products or services need to emphasise that 8K is more than just another iterative increase in display resolution. The amount of visual information captured in every frame of 8K video is so much greater than HD that it opens the door for many more creative and technical innovations to be achieved in how the video is used, especially when we begin to consider the accuracy of computer vision, object recognition and machine learning that can be applied onto high fidelity 8K video to begin using it as a data source for video analytics.
“Compared to the migration from Full HD to 4K, the drivers for 8K are trickier to set in motion as while the benefits are amplified so are the costs. 8K adoption will be a slow burn process, but it will inevitably happen as the we have already seen the very same challenges overcome before with the adoption of 4K.
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