No sooner had 4K started to become popular than the potential of 8K also became a talking point. But whilst it could soon be an option for large displays in transport hubs and control rooms, it’s likely to be some time before (if?) it takes off elsewhere, writes Ken Dunn for Installation Magazine.

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As a consultancy and technology solutions provider, Three Media is ideally placed to predict the potential of new technologies. In the case of 8K, CTO Craig Bury indicates that its long-term prospects are some way from being established.

As with 4K, broadcast is set to be the earliest adopter of 8K, “but while there are some multi-camera shoots being done in 8K, the [amount of 8K work occurring] beyond post in the aggregation and distribution aspects is really limited. Simply put, at this point there is no practical means for consuming 8K content with any affordable consumer tools.”

While Bury agrees that more 8K screens are beginning to reach the market, the distribution challenges remain: “What I am referring to here is the issue of the ‘last mile’ in terms of getting an 8K stream out to a designated device, whether it be a PC or a screen of some kind. Our experience with 8K [to date] has been with compressed 8K in a broadcast MCR [Master Control Room] environment that is running between 500 and 600 Mbits p/s.” That would not currently be viable for other environments, indicates Bury.

David Radoczy, COO of Three Media, shares these reservations. “I don’t think there is a great driver commercially [for 8K at present],” he says. Real-world applications at present would mainly entail a greatly compressed form, and “when the resolution is what it is, there is a law of diminishing returns. It can be a great gimmick to go up to 8K, 16K and so on, but as with 3D there is likely to be a point where the value and the cost of the delivery don’t add up.”

Indeed, there are some industry commentators who believe that the improvement in the visual experience offered by 8K, when compared to 4K, simply does not justify the investment required in delivering the format. From a pure broadcast perspective, it is instead felt in some quarters that High Dynamic Range (HDR) – in conjunction with 4K or even HD – constitutes a better roadmap.

Then there is the impact of other industry trends. In both AV and broadcast, there is an increasing reliance on the cloud for operations and storage. If 4K is already a challenge in this regard – both in terms of usage and cost – 8K is only going to be more problematic.

“When you get to 8K you are talking about very large streams, and gigantic files to manipulate and store,” remarks Bury. “Expenses can be high for manipulating content in the cloud for HD, let alone 4K. Depending on where you are storing the [8K content] you could be looking at very high costs.”

Click here to read the full article in Installation Magazine.