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Eight reasons why #8K does matter

Is #8K yet more hype to push TV set sales to unsuspecting viewers or an unstoppable new trend that is already coming? For over a year now I’ve been itching to get to off the fence.

However, ever since I read Daniel Kahneman’s Think Slow Think Fast(thanks for the recommendation @Arnaudb92) I lost faith in expert predictions on any subject including my areas of expertise and especially in my own predictions. However, I’m nevertheless going to stick my neck out because I see so many wrong reasons used to dismiss 8K. I know I’ll look foolish if you out dig this blog in a decade, and 8K is still nowhere, but I’ll take that risk because I believe 8K will be bigger well before then, and many will have joined NHK that has had been running a commercial service since December 2018. Here are eight reasons why:

1. TV manufacturers have always been incredibly efficient at pushing any new tech to consumers (ask any 3D set owner) — this doesn’t imply that the tech is viable, just that the market will try it, if set-makers put enough effort into marketing it, and CES 2019 announcementsand demos confirmed that this would likely happen.

2. Is 8K enough of a differentiator over 4K to justify the expense? From a resolution-only point of view, the enhancement of 4K over HD has a subjectively lower impact on user experience than the move from SD to HD had at the turn of the century. Moving from HD to 8K will provide at least as big a wow factor as moving from SD to HD did in its time.

3. Indeed, resolution is only one of many dimensions that create Video User Experience. So even if alone it does not move the market, user enthusiasm may come with a combination of factors such as High-Frame rate (above 100 fps) and 8K.

4. Even if it takes a few years to reach mass-market, early opportunities already exist in niche areas like, for example, in luxury stores.

5. Screen size and viewing distance are only a blocking point in traditional TV viewing experiences. This issue will recede as growth in average screen size remains unabated at around an extra inch of screen-size per year in most markets.

6. Furthermore, having whole walls made from screen is no longer science fiction. Samsung has been pushing modular screen technology for several years where modules are simply plugged into each other. At the same time, LG has brought screen thickness downto just a millimetre over three years ago so screens can be stuck onto a wall. In this context, overall screen resolution will need to be significantly higher than any single item it displays, including a video stream.

7. Experts are not yet consensual on this, but much of the considerable 35mm film archive around the world can be rescanned delivering resolutions higher than 4k, 70mm film can be rescanned at at least 8K.

8. 3D-video in the living room is a failure many would like to forget. It turned out just too complicated, needing special glasses and new content for a few fleeting moments of a wow effect. More 3D would make people sick. A major driving force that got so many people excited was the immersive effect. If you haven’t yet seen an 8K demo up close, you need to get to a store where they have one. If you just let your senses take over, it is a truly immersive experience. The extreme level of detail gives a sense of depth that regular video cannot compete with. It has the potential to do this for any piece of content for however long the filmmaker wants.

But will 8K offer another hype wave to ride?

Like most industry observers I believe the hype cycle exists, but I have also observed occasions where it didn’t materialise. I became a software engineer in the 80s. Relational databases had taken over the corporate world. In the 90s, Java became the next best thing, well since coffee. It was based on object-orientation (OO), and I expected OO to become the next upwardly mobile hype cycle to ride. I proudly pushed the concept on my CV assuming that was my career path. Nothing happened. OO penetrated the whole of IT, but slowly, without the buzz and hype I expected.

When HD changed the world of video, it was a massive hype generator. It’s looking like 4K is a significantly less potent marketing tool than HD was. I guess that 8K will be even more of a damp squib in terms of hype. That doesn’t change the fact that it will permeate through video workflows, just a bit more quietly.