When the session program at IBC 2014 last week turned to future television systems, a trifecta of image improvements took center stage: more pixels, better pixels and faster pixels.
With all of the attention being paid to 4K and 8K these days, the concept of more pixels is self-explanatory. A full HD image is 1920 x 1080; 4K is 4096 x 2160 (or 3840 x 2160, but I don’t want to get into that here); and 8K is 7680 x 4320.
Better pixels might require a little more explanation, but anyone who went through the transition from analog to digital, in particular HDTV, has heard ad nauseam about greater color space. So it should be no surprise that 4K, for instance, will blow past the color space of HD. High dynamic range, HDR, too, which makes the bright portions of a scene brighter and the dark portions darker –meaning that viewers can see more detail in an image– is another important aspect of better pixels.
What was a bit surprising –but nonetheless quite logical- at IBC was the faster pixels discussion. Faster pixels, another way of saying a higher frame rate, is particularly of interest for coverage of fast moving action, such as sports. One example on display in the Future Zone at the gathering in Amsterdam was NHK’s technology showing of 8K Ultra HDTV at 120Hz.
Yan Ye, senior manager, InterDigital Communications, who presented on High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) during the “Future Television Technologies” session Sept. 13, was asked by someone in attendance how much more data will be required in an HEVC-encoded 4K video to support 120 frames per second.
Ye responded that for talking-head sorts of clips, where there is little change from frame to frame, there would only need to be 1.1x the amount of data for an HEVC-encoded video at 120Hz compared to 60fps. For a sports clip with lots of movement, the amount of data still seemed comparatively low -only 1.5x, she added.
More, better and faster pixels for a guy my age conjures up another technology introduced to American TV viewers so many years ago, a bionic man who was “better, stronger, faster.”
I just hope the TVs that ultimately take advantage of 4K with HDR and higher frame rates –those that truly offer more, better, faster pixels- don’t run $6 million.