NEW YORK – London 2012 Olympics has offered an epic event – great athletes, thrilling games and the record number of viewers. Unfortunately, though, it has done nothing – absolutely nothing, when it comes to generating buzz on new broadcast technologies.
For broadcasters, the London Olympics is the first to feature extensive 3-D coverage (NBC has been broadcasting 12 hours of 3-D programming every day!), while testing-ultra HDTV (also known as 8K). And yet, the U.S. market has seen virtually no uptick in 3-D TV sales. Similarly, UHDTV is drawing scant media attention. Thus, no consumers seem inclined to ask what on earth UHDTV is.
Most U.S. consumers today have already got a big-screen HDTV at home. Nobody wants any more new TV sets. Besides, a big-screen flat panel TV isn’t the only screen they are looking at for the Olympic Games. There are iPads and there are smartphones.
For the industry, London may have proved that depending on the Olympics as a launch-pad for new broadcast technologies has become a thing of the past. In that light, let’s take a closer look at what has just happened with UHDTV and 3-D TV at London 2012.
Here comes Ultra HDTV
Some events in London Olympics have been shot in Ultra HDTV for the first time in history. Broadcast engineering teams from NHK and BBC have been working together in London to shoot the Games with 32-Megapixel images, with a 24 (or 22.2) channel sound system. According to NHK, UHDTV offers images that are 16 times current HD quality.
During London Olympics, two UHDTV cameras were used at set positions. Uncompressed signals are sent over dedicated optical fibers to the BBC Television Center, West London, which are then recorded and edited daily into short programs at BBC. These are then compressed and sent to public viewing theaters around the world at a data rate of 280 Mbit/s video coding rate using eight H.264 AVC encoders working in parallel. Once 24-channel sound is added and put into IP packets, the total bit rate becomes about 350 Mbit/s for the demonstration.
UHDTV’s public viewings are, however, rather limited. Demonstrations are set up in cities including Bradford, Liverpool, London, Tokyo, and Fukushima. In the United States, UHDTV demo has been held at Comcast-NBC Universal’s office in Washington, D.C.
Considering that UHDTV won’t become a commercial reality until 2020 (estimated by NHK), the almost non-existent public awareness of UHDTV is understandable.
But then again, in the high-tech world where everyone eats up – ad nauseam – every rumor about an upcoming iPhone 5 or iPad mini, it’s surprising to see no hype built around this broadcast technological feat at the Olympics.
At press time, I found -- in the entire twitter universe -- exactly two tweets about UHDTV. One was posted by the Geneva-based European Broadcast Union, understandably touting the UHDTV broadcast from London as a “Giant leap (for television technology) at the Olympic Games.” Another tweet was from a multimedia visual artist: “I can't wait. My computers are nowhere near ready to handle editing and fx in 8k. It'll take 16x to do anything with 16x the pixels.”
Seriously, though, only two tweets? Come on, people!
As display resolutions get bigger, we begin to approach the fundamental limit of human vision. This requires a shift in the way we record and display imagery
Some quick calculations..
Using Sun's definition of human resolution (28 arc-seconds), we determine that a human can discern objects of 0.135 mm at one meter. Note that this high-resolution field only applies to the centre 2 degrees of vision.
Assume we have an 8K TV that's 55" diagonal, so each pixel is about 0.149 mm wide.
So to actually exploit the resolution of that TV, the average human would need to sit about 1.1 metres in front of it.
But at that distance, the TV is taking up over 100 degrees of the field of vision, and only a small part of that field is viewed in full resolution. So part of the shift to higher resolutions will require increasing the angle of view of the source imagery.
As a side note, sitting one metre in front of a TV would bit a bit awkward, so this level of resolution is probably better realized using something along the lines of a head-mounted-display.
I am working on an archiving project and I wanted to produce a 4320p video that would push the envelope for video card and display technologies. I was day dreaming about my video appearing at the olympics...
Stereoscopic vision works by comparing the 'disparity' of corresponding image elements in left and right views. There is no question that sending all the pixels will produce a palpable 3d experience. It is also possible that the half images could tolerate some form of lossy compression, but it would take an enormous amount of psychophysical research to establish the parameters. As you suggest, the makers want to sell these RIGHT NOW.
Re 55" TV for 8K hi def:
Estimates for optimal viewing distance for 1080p are all over the map. Using Sun Microsystems's estimates for human visual acuity (twice as high as most sources) you must view a 55" TV at no more than 13' to fully exploit the resolution of a 1080p image. Since the 8k tv has a linear pixel density 4X that of 1080p, you would have to sit roughly 4 times closer. Other acuity estimates put you even closer. Keep plenty of aspirin on hand. See wikipedia article on optimal tv viewing distance.
From all these discussions i feel that 3D tv is not attracting most of the viewers at this time.Even though this is the prime area of R&D ,till a attractive solution is not found. So a real 3D projection in space will attract every one, provided affordable.
3-D is all about content.
NBC being idiots and exclusively broadcasting US athletes' activities is not a reflection of the technology and is something I am glad I did not have to watch.
Even in 1-D NBC's Olympic coverage smells of arrogance and feeds American xenophobia and ignorance.
I watched it for hours each day in another country...how refreshing it was, and I don't spectate sports.
@Junko: Does Panasonic have UHDTV resolution projection system? It will be interesting to know what kind of DLP/DMD projection chip they use for this. Panasonic's high lumen projection looks quite impressive.
And I think many of us do agree that the Ultra HDTV won't make sense unless you have a HUGE wall size screen.
Looking back on how long it took for HDTV to get off the ground, I see UHDTV something we may see in one or two decades from now.
Still, I actually think what UHDTV can bring to us in terms of realism is something really remarkable. Sure, we won't be able to afford it any time soon; but it does amaze me.