NHK will transmit its annual New Year’s Eve music programme in Super Hi-Vision. The ultra-high-definition format has 16 times the resolution of normal high-definition television. It follows test transmissions during the London Olympics and suggests that such ultra-high-definition broadcasts could be regularly available well before the end of the decade. In other countries, broadcasts that have four times the resolution of current high-definition television may be a more immediate prospect.

The popular NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen or red and white song contest features invited star performers and has become part of the national New Year celebrations over its 60-year history. Two teams compete, with women making up the red team, taking on the white team of men.

This year there will be special coverage in Super Hi-Vision. Public viewings will take place on 31 December at the Tokyo Tower and a local NHK station in Yokohama.

The International Telecommunication Union has recommended both a 7680×4320 pixel format, commonly referred to as 8K, and a 3840×2160 format, commonly known as 4K, for future television production and delivery systems. These respectively have 16 or 4 times the resolution of conventional high-definition television.

The Japanese national broadcaster NHK has led the development of the 8K format, which it calls Super Hi-Vision, with the support of other broadcasters like the BBC.

It has been assumed that the ultra-high-definition standard would not be ready for introduction into regular service until the end of the decade. Tokyo is competing with Madrid and Istanbul to host the 2020 Olympic Games. The Olympics often serve as an introduction for new television technology.

NHK is considering bringing forward its schedule for experimental broadcasts in the ultra-high-definition format to 2016. The government is keen for the format to help Japanese electronics companies, which have been losing market share to competitors from South Korea.

Meanwhile in South Korea, an initiative has been launched to test terrestrial broadcasts in the 4K standard. 4K displays are already on sale, albeit at a considerable premium, with very little to watch in that format.

Korean display manufacturers are gearing up to produce 4K panels in volume, initially using LCD technology. They consider that consumers are more attracted to larger, higher-definition displays than slimmer screens using the latest AMOLED technology, which are currently more difficult to manufacture.

SES Astra has demonstrated satellite transmissions of 4K signals in conjunction with Sony. It plans to launch a showcase channel for Europe in 2013. The first commercial broadcasts could begin in 2014.

Sky Deutschland recently recorded a football match in 4K. It is seen as the first of many tests which could lead to the introduction of 4K coverage, enabling pay-television operators to maintain momentum in driving innovation.

It seems only a matter of time before current high-definition television is surpassed. The question remains whether 4K will be an interim solution and whether it will eventually be superseded by 8K.