Editor’s Note: This content is contributed by Rob Green, Senior Manager - Pro AV, Broadcast, and Consumer.
8K has emerged as the latest standard in ultra-high definition (UHD) video, offering four times the resolution of 4K and sixteen times the resolution of Full HD (Figure 1). While it may have seemed like overkill at first, 8K video is gaining traction in professional media and emerging in consumer applications. In this blog series, we'll explore why 8K video is being adopted, its benefits and potential drawbacks, the technical challenges of connecting, processing and compressing 8K content, and how AMD platforms are enabling the next wave of immersive viewing capabilities.
Figure 1: Increasing resolution with the move to 8K
One of the key reasons for the adoption of 8K video is the growing demand for high-quality video content, particularly in the professional media industry. As imaging and sensor technology continue to advance, cameras can capture more detail than ever before. 8K resolution (or more) is now commonplace in high-end broadcast and cinema cameras and is particularly useful in applications such as sports broadcasting, where viewers want to see every detail on the field, and in movie production, where the ability to zoom in without losing detail can be a huge advantage. The fact that most professionals buying video cameras today will choose models with 8K or higher resolution drives videographers to buy 8K editing, switching, and display products. And large format displays and video walls for public installations such as arenas, museums, and commercial installations greatly benefit from 8K.
On the other hand, consumer adoption of 8K has so far been poor. Annual shipments are under 500K units of the 200+ million TVs sold annually (source: Omdia). Historically consumers did not move to HD (720p), FullHD (1080p), or 4K until the price was right. When 4K rolled out, it took over the market because panel manufacturers built 4K into 100% of panels larger than 55” worldwide. There simply were no 55” 1080p screens to be purchased. This has not yet happened with 8K, but 8K will come when TV makers have more compelling, larger-format products. When we can see football or movies in our living room on a screen that’s two meters high, 8K will be an amazing product! And of course, mobile phones, which are the camera choice for millions of everyday users, are even now capturing and uploading content in 8K.
However, there are also potential drawbacks to the adoption of 8K video. One of the main concerns is that it requires significantly more bandwidth and storage space than lower-resolution video formats. This can pose a challenge for content creators and distributors, as it can be expensive and time-consuming to store and transfer large 8K files. This is driving the adoption of compression codecs to reduce bandwidth and storage requirements. Whether it is mezzanine or lightweight codecs such as JPEG XS or HTJ2K, RAW codecs, or high compression codecs such as H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC, or AV1, compression technology is being used at more stages in the content creation, production and delivery workflow to enable a higher quality video experience. Alternatively, the use of AI/ML “super-resolution” upscaling is also being used in some cases, taking in HD or 4K content and upscaling to 8K using video context/content awareness rather than traditional scaling techniques to dramatically improve results.
AMD solutions have always been at the forefront of new video technology waves, enabling the transition from analog to digital video, from SD to HD, to 3D (remember that?) and 4K. Now AMD devices, such as the UltraScale+™ family and Versal™ adaptive SoCs, can offer flexible and reprogrammable platforms for 8K video routing, switching, processing, streaming and presentation, integrating connectivity, video processing, codecs, and more. This means that they can also handle many channels of HD and 4K, but it also means that the hardware is ready for 8K when you want to make the move.
The adoption of 8K video is rapidly gaining momentum in both professional media and consumer applications. While there are challenges to overcome, the benefits of 8K, including unparalleled image quality and an immersive viewing experience, make it a technology that is likely to continue to grow in popularity in the years to come. Are you ready for 8K?