The Reality of 8K

By Jonathan Brawn, CTS, DSCE, DSDE, DSNE, DCME, ISF-C

It seems like just yesterday we saw the launch of the new 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) spec that was set to revolutionize the display industry. Boasting four times the effective resolution of our then state-of-the-art 1080p FHD (full high definition), this new technology was supposedly going to rapidly overtake our existing displays and drive a whole new era of image quality. I’m sure half of you are already laughing to yourself, as we look around at the preponderance of 1080p display products that still make up the core of our display applications — but we all must acknowledge that as of now, 4K is starting to take over. It’s become the de facto request (until price gets discussed, but that’s a whole different discussion) for many new projects. Some display manufacturers are phasing out 1080p solutions and 4K products are becoming parity in cost (with some occasional sweet incentives to switch to them from 1080p).

And now… enter 8K! Sure, we’ve been seeing “higher than 4K” tech demos for a while, but manufacturers are starting to tell us that those simply aren’t good enough, and we need to look towards the coming 8K REVOLUTION! Incredulity aside, does 8K really matter? What will make it better than 4K? Why would we use 8K? My personal answer… Why not? 8K delivers four times the resolution of 4K (yeah, you’ve heard that one before), but also consider WHY that matters. The concept here is not just resolution, but pixel density. This matters because the pixel density defines how close a viewer can sit to how large a display while seeing a totally smooth image. This is a function of resolution versus display size — the reason UHD looks so good at the same size versus FHD is that you are packing more pixels in, with smaller pixels. Simple enough, right? And we are all using larger and larger display devices (regardless of type) and sitting closer to them than ever before, hungry for bigger images. 8K represents an opportunity to get close to the original premise of the retina display – enough pixels that your eye won’t be able to discern them, even close up. This also means we can continue to deploy larger displays (with Samsung launching the first 8K commercial LFD later this year, no surprise it’s going to be coming in proposed 82″ and 98″ sizes). This can matter!

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Of course, one final comment springs to mind… BUT WE STILL HAVEN’T FIGURED OUT 4K CONTENT! What are we supposed to do for 8K? Well, the answer right now, in native resolution, is play the one or two files that YouTube can stream in 8K. However, don’t dismiss scaling… Samsung is touting its new AI and machine learning based upscaler to eliminate issues in obtaining 8K content. This is actually pretty impressive and a good use of the technology (at risk of using too many buzzwords). The principle is surprisingly simple – take a traditional scaler, which has limited algorithms that cannot adapt dynamically and replace it with a cloud-based service. The display reads samples of video and scaling algorithms from the cloud service and can report back on its success. Take this across all the TVs and LFDs that will be using the service and now you have dynamically optimizing and updating algorithms based on millions of samples and reports that will learn and do better.

All told… does this make 8K more appealing? For home theater enthusiasts, I would say yes. For the average user – maybe not on day one, but ultimately also yes. Delivering the concept of images that match what our eye can naturally perceive has been the goal of displays since we invented them. 8K both is able to be, and deliver, that reality.

To learn more about 8K display solutions available today, contact Almo Pro A/V.