The next generation of high-definition television once again stole the show at the IBC convention in Amsterdam, with a demonstration by Japanese broadcaster NHK in conjunction with the BBC, showing live pictures from London on an extraordinary 85-inch screen developed with Sharp Corporation. At 16 times the resolution of current high-definition television, the public will get a chance to see Super Hi-Vision coverage from the London 2012 Olympics, although the first regular broadcasts are planned for 2020.
The 8K4K Sharp liquid crystal display has a resolution of around 33 megapixels, which is 16 times that of 1080p high-definition and is fed by as many HDMI inputs. After drawing the crowds at the earlier IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, the Sharp screen was also a star of the show at the IBC broadcasting convention in Amsterdam.
It is the first flat panel display that has been able to show the output of the Super Hi-Vision system developed by NHK. This has now moved beyond a research rig into something more capable of being used in practical production, with a more compact camera, eight-channel vision mixer and slow-motion recorder. These were used to present live pictures delivered over a fibre-optic link, from BBC Research and Development in London.
Also being shown were extraordinary images of the last launch of the Space Shuttle, accompanied by thundering 22.2 channel surround sound. There was also coverage of a football match, shot from above the half-way line with a wide angle view of almost the entire pitch, giving the impression that you were actually watching from a seat in the stadium.
The BBC is planning to show selected events from the London 2012 Olympic Games in Super Hi-Vision, on public screens in London, Bradford and Glasgow.
Consumer electronics companies are meanwhile hoping that plans by Olympic Broadcasting Services to produce more than 200 hours of stereoscopic coverage, including the opening and closing ceremonies, will provide a boost to the prospects of 3DTV.
Although 3D may have its advocates, the sheer detail of Super Hi Vision is more like looking through a window on a world that appears convincingly real, conveying what NHK calls a sense of presence. Even when viewed at relatively close range there is no apparent pixel structure. While previous demonstrations of Super Hi-Vision have been projected on large screens to audiences in theatres, the aim is to broadcast services to 70-100 inch displays in homes, as well as for viewing on hand-held displays.
NHK Science and Technology Research Laboratories received the award for best paper at the IBC Conference. The paper outlined the limits of human visual and aural perception as the basis for determining the technical parameters of the Super Hi-Vision system. This suggested the optimum specification of 7680 x 4320 pixels, with a frequency of 120 frames a second, and a colour depth of 12 bits per red, green and blue channel.
It may be 2020 before such pictures are seen in the home, but higher resolution surely represents the next step in the evolution of television. As an interim step, a resolution four times that of high-definition represents an image of just over 8.2 million pixels, which is still less than that of most current consumer digital stills cameras. By comparison, conventional high definition looks decidedly low resolution.