Tucked away in the "Future Zone", a kind of dead-end appendix in the labyrinthine RAI exhibition complex, it hardly seemed fitting for what will very likely be the future of television.
I took a picture on my phone, complete with poor focus and colour-balance issues, more in irony than in any expectation that you could see even a fraction of the detail on this incredible screen. (Note that this is heavily cropped. It's probably showing less than 50% of the actual screen area).
Looking at 8K is looking at the future
Essentially, 8K video makes today's best HD broadcasts look like Baird's 240-line system from the 1930s. HD is around 2.5 Megapixels. 8K is 33 Megapixels.
NHK’s Science and Research Laboratories can hardly be accused (no pun intended) of a lack of vision. The specification of the SHV (Super Hi Vision) format looks more like the resolution of a top-end digital still camera than a moving image format: SHV’s 12-bit, 8k x 4k moving images generate 90 GBytes/sec, which compresses to a mere 350 bit/sec for transmission. It takes 16 HD SDI cables to get a signal into this leviathan.
Not only are the images incredibly sharp, but they are meant to be seen on very large screens, which means that ultra high-quality lenses will be needed to bring out the full potential of the system.
So, how do you watch SHV?
The first LCD 8K screen
Until very recently, with great difficulty. You’d need to cobble-together several conventional screens to form a tiled matrix. But recently, Sharp unveiled their first true SHV display with an astonishing 7680x4320 crammed into an 85” screen; probably the smallest sensible size for this resolution of video.
All of which begs a very big question: Is SHV going to be the saviour of 3D or will the overwhelming sense of realism simply make it completely unnecessary?