Paying Close—Really Close—Attention

Last time I talked about my vision quest—or more specifically my HDR quest—at NAB. With over 100,000 attendees and myriad exhibit halls, it really helps to set out specific topics to focus on.

It’s pretty much a given that anyone buying a TV set these days is choosing from a selection of UHD displays (manufacturers can’t make money building HD TVs anymore). So, of course, I wonder what these manufacturers will see as the next new technology.

At CES this year, TV introductions were about size, OLED and HDR, but there were 8K UHD displays showing up here and there. So I thought it might be interesting to spend some time watching an 8K UHD display at NAB.

NHK, Japan’s national public broadcaster, is a big proponent of 8K UHD. They regularly have a large booth at NAB. This year they had several stations related to 8K UHD broadcasting. These included a 240 fps high-speed camera and a compression system for transmitting 8K UHD over IP networks.

After visiting all the 8K UHD broadcasting displays, I finally found what I was looking for: a place to watch 8K UHD. Not in a dark room with a large projector, but a simple flat screen on a wall with a place to sit.

I sat down at one of the three setups they had. Even though the content wasn’t that long, I told myself I had to spend at least 20 minutes sitting there. Fortunately, I picked a time when traffic through the booth wasn’t heavy.

The content included a ballet and nighttime aerial shots of Tokyo. I watched both several times. The detail in the content was pretty amazing; it certainly showed off the resolution that 8K UHD offers.

But now for the spoiler alert:

I was sitting two feet away from an 85-inch display. No, I’m not visually impaired—well, I do wear glasses, but they properly correct my vision. It’s just that if you want to take advantage of the detail that 8K UHD offers (versus 4K UHD or HD) that’s how close you have to sit to a screen that size.

Spending 20 minutes sitting that close to a screen that large was a pretty uncomfortable experience—once I got past the initial amazement at the detail.

So I wonder: As a presentation format (production is a whole other story), is 8K UHD going to be just for large venues with very large screens or will it start to replace 4K UHD even though viewers won’t be sitting close enough to see the difference? CES 2019 is less than a year away.