Several recent developments are helping to bring more 4K (or "more-K") to your television screen than many of us might have anticipated, even a year ago. RED has big ideas for your home theater (pictured left), consumer electronics companies are starting to roll out some screens with very high pixel densities, media mega-vendors YouTube and Netflix will (or already do) support 4K, and to bring just about everything together, H.265 will be dilating streaming efficiency on 1 billion devices near you. 4K will likely find its way to you via the web a lot sooner than it will through your cable subscription -- unless, of course, you live in Japan. To reinvigorate the country's (somehow) floundering consumer electronics economy, its ministry of communications will be making 2014 the year of 4K in Japan. And perhaps beyond, not long after that.
This comes as a surprise to me, especially with (or despite?) the news of H.265's acceptance as the next great encoding standard still hot off the presses. Here's CNET's Crave Asia reporting the story, which originally broke on the Asahi Shimbun:
Having been one of the pioneers of 4K technology, Japan is set to become the first country in the world to broadcast in 4K resolution come July 2014. This is almost 2 years ahead of the original plan in a bid to revive its ailing domestic consumer electronics industry, according to the Japan communication ministry. The launch of this 4K broadcast service is timed to coincide with the knockout rounds of the FIFA World Cup 2014 football tournament.
To mitigate the bandwidth limitation of existing digital broadcasting systems, dedicated communication satellites will be used initially. However, the 4K transmission will eventually encompass both commercial broadcasting satellites and terrestrial channels in the future. This TV service is unlikely to be free for viewers, although the Japanese government is said to be funding the overall running cost.
Dedicated communications satellites? Wait, did they not hear about H.265, which halves the bandwidth strain necessary to achieve a given level of quality as compared to H.264? Or maybe, they don't even want to wait for universal support for the codec to begin rolling out? Given that some kind of standard is going to be necessary to implement anyway, something's a little strange about all this -- if not kind of exciting. Just as art can imitate life of the reverse, so too can spec drive tech, and vice-versa -- and there's a lot to be said for the changes a 4K transition could bring to Japan's TV media, not to mention the world over.
But wait, there's more. And it gets better:
As if this is not enough, the ministry might also be bringing forward Japan's experimental 8K broadcasts to 2016, just in time for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Could this be a hint for the arrival of 8K TVs in about three years time?
Compare with the text from the source story (just to make sure we're all reading this right):
Work is also in progress on 8K technology, which would have 16 times the resolution of the current high-definition TV broadcasting. Ministry officials are also considering pushing up the start of experimental 8K broadcasting by two years to 2016 when the Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro.
I realize that spec can drive tech and all that, but 8K? In 2016? 8K in any time-frame is simply amazing, there's nothing else to say about it -- but in just three years? Pretty unbelievable stuff, even if it doesn't materialize: the push alone is going to make waves. Of course, 4K TVs may be (well actually, they pretty much are) pointless at certain distances / screen sizes, but apparently that isn't stopping Japan, nor does the fairly considerable lack of 8K content in existence seem to be affecting their disposition on all of this res-upping business.
What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you think 4K by 2014 is reasonable, likely, or worthwhile? What about 8K, how could this affect the industry if it moves forward? Can you imagine what the 8K "RED fish" would look like to swallow those below it?