Beyond 4K: what now?

We can almost hear the groans from deepest Kent: “On no, we have only just introduced 4K, and you are already talking about ‘beyond’?” There is a common misconception that 8K is just a better version of 4K. Neither, some argue, is 8K something for the remote future: it’s here and now.

“On the one hand, many traditional networks are still thinking in terms of HD, but the demand for media server systems capable of playing out uncompressed 8K is already here, right now,” said Helmut Protte, Global Business Development Manager at AV Stumpfl.
If you despair at the prospect of yet another resolution standard for the AV community, it’s important to understand the rationale of CE panel developers behind succeeding generations of flat panel displays. Full HD was introduced in response to a demand created by consumers for a format that suited their newly acquired 40-inch plus flat screen. The introduction of Full HD, according to the influential CNET newsletter was “inevitable”, but 4K?

In a leading article called “Why 4K TVs are stupid,” pointed out that the eye has a finite resolution, and at the distance that most people sit from their TVs, it’s unlikely you’d be able to tell the difference between 720p and 1080p, let alone 4K. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that, despite these reservations there is no doubt that the escalations in resolution to date have been introduced as boosters for a flagging market for consumer TVs.

Viewing distance

With most consumers sitting between 3 and 4 metres from their television, at which distance the eye cannot distinguish individual pixels even at a resolution of 720p, and the average viewer would only begin to experience problems with pixel visibility with a screen size bigger than 70 inches diagonal

Pro AV applications, including videoconferencing, public information and digital signage, viewing distances can be significantly shorter than 3 metres. Here, a pixel free display is obviously desirable. With a 50-inch 4K display, each pixel measures approximately 0.011 of an inch wide, way beyond the ability of the eye to discern. You would need a 2,160p display with a size of 154 inches diagonal before the pixels would be visible.

Therefore, Wolfgang Haunschild, Product Marketing Manager for NEC Display Solutions Europe argues that: “NEC Display Solutions Europe already addresses customer needs in pixel-free visualisation with a full line-up of UHD Large Format Displays with screen sizes of 55”, 65”, 84” and 98”.

Nonetheless, and despite all of the above, Haunschild: “expects to see more and more 8K consumer TV screen popping up, driven by the upcoming IFA consumer electronic fair in Berlin this month.” He goes on to say that: “In the area of professional large format displays (LFD), the Ultra-High Definition (UHD) resolution is in main focus for the next 12 to 18 months. NEC expects to see the short-term market trend towards further development in the displayable UHD colour space and improvements on the contrast.
So why is there a groundswell of demand for 8K? The point is that 8K is about more than more detailed images. Other advantages of 8K include glasses-free 3D, the end of interlaced scanning, and pixel-free viewing when large screens are viewed up close. Associated benefits of the technology include 22.2 multi-channel audio, to carry for example. Multiple languages. While not directly related to higher resolutions, the frame rate frequently associated with 8K, 120 fps, produces less blur in images and fewer motion artefacts.

Tim Brooksbank, CEO at Calibre argues that demand for 8K technology is driven by market demand for ever larger display formats:

“The HQUltra4000 is the perfect solution for connecting to the new and extremely large LED and flat panel videowalls as well as for projection applications. HQUltra4000 models offer optimised scaling with per-edge pixel accurate custom sizing for LED videowalls. The scaled image can be distributed across all four outputs, perfectly aligned and synchronized, allowing the HQUltra4000 to drive a surface area up to true 8K/Quad-UHD. That is an incredible 8,192 x 4,340 pixel area!”

Showing off?

These shows of technical virtuosity are becoming ever more frequent MMD, for example, is prepared to grab the limelight at the forthcoming IFA show:: “As 4K moves more into the mainstream, Philips monitors with an even higher resolution are now on the horizon: 8K. The future 8K UHD resolution has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 4K UHD, with four times as many pixels in total.” The company will show the Philips-branded 328P8K monitor which has a stunning frameless design to package its 8K resolution technology. LG. has already unveiled 8K displays (7680 x 4320 pixels) equivalent to four times the resolution of the 4K models – even though, at 27-inches diagonal. it’s impossible to detect the differences between an 8K and 4K display (and, frankly, even a 1080p when viewed at a distance).

But do the capabilities of the panel makers exceed the needs and desires of those who bring these technologies to market? Jeff Singer, Executive Director of Product Marketing at Crestron thinks so:
“The market is still catching up to and adopting 4K, I don’t think that there’s a big demand or interest in 8K outside our industry. In terms of signal/content evolution, the next big thing is probably HDR rather than 8K. Interest and demand in the market is more focused on infrastructure rather than content, it’s about networked AV: how to scale it; secure it, manage the audio on it; and eliminate latency on it.”

And yet…

You don’t want to be so far ahead of the game that customers see you as unworldly, but you can’t afford to miss the start of something big. Scala has hedged its bets by deploying its digital signage technology in KPN’s brand new in-store experience. It enables customers to explore the store as if they were physically inside the KPN website, putting discovery and testing at the centre of the customer experience using the latest technologies.

Leading Dutch telecommunications and ICT service provider, KPN, worked with local systems integrator QYN to develop and bring the concept to life, rolling out Scala’s digital signage technology, including Scala Content Manager and Player. Scala’s digital signage technology supports a wider multichannel store pilot formula, built around islands of products connected to “smart” 2 x 4 large format interactive video walls, RFID, electronic price labels (ESLs) and sophisticated queue management, while also integrating other customer contact points such as online shopping and customer contact centres.

“In this store of the future, we were forced to stretch the abilities of technology far outside the envelope of digital signage,” said Matthijs Buijs, CTO at QYN. “The way Scala is set up makes for easy integration of triggers like RFID tags and Kinect inputs. The Scala player isn’t scared of an 8K multitouch, Kinect-powered video wall setup with multiple content layers and interactive sessions, while Scala Content Manager is used to streamline the different content channels in the store.”
KPN’s ‘store of the future’ pilot is a sophisticated IT and communications project that also includes audio technology, smart wall controls and other IT systems including climate control, all designed to maximize every aspect of contact with the customer.

“QYN has defined KPN shoppers’ needs as the starting point for all interactive communication within the KPN store,” explains Harry Horn, GM EMEA & VP Marketing Global, Scala Inc. “This has resulted in a unique, Scala driven store concept optimizing hyper targeted communication and personalized “guided selling”. KPN and QYN have clearly raised the bar for effective 1 on 1 digital shopper communication with this project.”

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