Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Like the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup offers a fantastic stage to show off new technologies, given its international scale. The recent Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, showed the potential of 5G networks, and now, the 2018 World Cup, taking place in Russia, is being used to demonstrate the next-generation of video.
Intelsat, the Luxembourg-based satellite operator, is working with Brazilian broadcaster Globo to demonstrate live 8K video transmissions in Brazil during the football tournament. The initiative is part of an exhibition at the Museu de Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow), Rio de Janeiro's science museum. For perspective, 8K has about four times the number of pixels in the same space as 4K and 16 times that of full high definition.
For Intelsat, this is a trial of things to come, and an opportunity to boast that it's well ahead of the curve. Intelsat's vice president and general manager of media services, Robert Cerbone, said that "While 8K technology is still evolving and further advancements in compression technology standards are needed, Intelsat's premier video neighborhoods have proven that they are equipped to distribute 8K content to millions of viewers around the world".
Mr Cerbone summed it up well. Much more work is needed to bring 8K to mainstream audiences. Broadcasters around the globe are still only beginning to offer content in 4K resolution, and consumers are still in the process of adjusting their hardware to display this video format.
Anyone who has seen video in 8K can understand the technology's appeal. Even at very close distances, it provides images that are so sharp, it can be difficult to distinguish video content from the real world. But for this to happen, the infrastructure has to be in place. Tons of data must be moved to deliver 8K content to its destination.
The technology is slowly trickling into the market, but it's out of reach for most consumers, because of the cost of hardware to record and display content. Thus, the immediate commercial applications won't be in the traditional broadcast of video content, but in high-end entertainment and specific enterprise uses, for example, advanced training simulators.
Although 8K is at least five years from breaking into the mainstream, as with most new technologies, a few service providers are eager to move a bit faster. In addition to Intelsat, Japan's national broadcaster, NHK, has completed its testing of broadcasting in 8K and plans to begin a nationwide roll-out starting in December 2018. Again, this comes back to sports: the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be captured and broadcast in 8K in Japan.
It may be early days for this new image technology, but the natural evolution of resolution means that 8K will eventually firmly establish itself in people's living rooms and in computers, tablets and smartphones.
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