How far are we from 8K?

The world is just beginning to embrace 4K as understanding of the subject deepens, but the industry is already testing the waters with 8K content production and delivery
 From L-R: Muki Kulhan (moderator) Maria Rua Aguete (IHS Markit); Mike Zink (Warner Bros), and Gail Jenkinson. Pic: IBCTV
From L-R: Muki Kulhan (moderator) Maria Rua Aguete (IHS Markit); Mike Zink (Warner Bros), and Gail Jenkinson. Pic: IBCTV


At IBC 2019 market analysts and experts from major studios gathered to discuss the enigmatic topic of 8K. Content consumption in 4K is picking up while networks and studios are considering the move to 8K.

In a study compiled by IHS Market, Maria Rua Aguete put consumer electronic shipments trends into perspective to shed light on the penetration of 4K TVs in the world.

“Things are going well with 4K in terms of hardware, most people have a 4K TV or at least majority of TVs sold now are 4K. That is particularly true in North America, Western Europe and in Japan, the figure also stands at 50% (of TVs purchased being 4K),” Aguete said.

Aguete was part of a panel discussion that was also comprised of Michael Zink, VP of technology, Warner Bros. and Gail Jenkinson, a director of photography, who works as a content creator in natural history and documentaries. The panel discussion was chaired by Muki Kulhan, a former BBC producer.

Meanwhile, sales figures of 4K TVs in Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin and MENA are below 50% .
Gail Jenkinson, a DOP based in the UK, shoots a lot underwater. Pic:

China leads in shipments of 4K TVs but a huge number of households in the country means the shift to UHD is taking time. “It’s expected that 42% of households in China will have 4K TVs by 2023,” she added.

But when we talk about 8K “Japan leads the race, they even have 8K TV sets but in terms of 4K they are still behind North America and Western Europe”. Only 19% homes are expected to own UHD TVs by 2020 and that number is expected to rise to 32% households by 2023.

She adds: “This means when the Tokyo Olympics 2020 is broadcast in 8K only 19% of Japanese households will be able to watch it in 4K. 80% of the country’s households will watch the games on HD or standard definition TV.”

According to IHS Markets’ data the move towards 8K is an important one for the industry as the quality of content produced is far superior but only a tiny number of people own 8K TV sets.

“Staying with Japan, for example, 62,000 of people out of 51 million people will have an 8K set next year — that translates to 0.1% of its population watching the Olympics in 8K,” Aguete adds.

China is leading the race in 8K, by 2023 its expected that 1.4 million people will own 8K TV sets.

“It’s funny because at least they have something to watch in Japan, but in China they have nothing to watch (in UHD or 8K),” Aguete humours.

In terms of content being generated, 4K delivery has been steadily on the rise especially in Europe followed by North America, while Japan and Asia Pacific has launched a few 4K channels in the last quarter.

“China has almost no content being produced in 4K. In terms of 8K, the channel that broadcasts the Olympics will be the only one in 8K, we will not have other channels,” she predicts.

OTT service providers have also been increasing and promoting UHD (4K) content. They are, however, yet to figure out a mechanism to monetise it. “Netflix, for instance, charges double the cost of its subscription fee for UHD content streaming.

On the other hand, the soon to launch Disney+ is set to include 4K and up to 4 simultaneous streams for no extra cost at $6.99, Aguete adds.

She revealed the extensive study was commissioned because several major studios and service providers such as Disney, Warner and Netflix are trying to figure out the amount of content that’s consumed in UHD since its production is expensive. “It’s important for us to know from a consumer electronics point of view what the penetration of UHD content consumption is,” she says.

Meanwhile, Zink was astonished with the figures from the report especially with the low penetration of 4K TV sales.

He says: “The numbers were quite surprising because we have migrated to UHD from a content side, at least for movie and television production. The only exception being broadcast and live programming which isn’t done in UHD as yet. For the vast majority of places we release our films they will be in 4K with HDR and that is driven by a quest to provide a premium experience to consumers.”

From a content creator’s perspective Jenkinson shed light on integrating 8K workflows into her repertoire.

Maria Rua Aguete.

“We film in remote locations trying to get to 8K, as close as we can for a number of reasons, and most of it is future proofing from when we are there. I film underwater and we have all sorts of issues with focusing on the subject, and we need to act like feature filmmakers instead of natural history filmmakers which is not any easy task when you take into consideration the small teams we work with.

“It’s a good thing if we are going to make more content in 8K which is being broadcast or consumed in 4K because it gives us a safety net for stabilisation. Filming content in 8K can make for quite brilliant imagery, some of it can pack quite a punch (even if it’s going to be watched in 4K),” she added.

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