With 4K, 8K Broadcasting on Japan’s Horizon, CEATEC Provides Peek into Future
Much like CES, NAB, IFA, IBC, and nearly every other video-industry trade show in 2014, CEATEC Japan is all about 4K this week in Tokyo. After several years of lead-up in the Japanese market, 4K-mania looks to have reached critical mass following the trial launch of a dedicated 4K channel in June by Japan’s Next Generation Television and Broadcasting Promotion Forum (NexTV-F). Channel 4K, as it has been branded, is set to begin commercial service in 2016. In addition, Sky Perfect JSAT announced its plans to launch two premium 4K Ultra-HD channels in March 2015.
Meanwhile, NHK has moved up its timeline for test- broadcasting its 8K Super Hi-Vision service, saying that it will start trials in 2016 rather than 2020 as previously announced. The goal is to have an 8K-broadcasting service in full swing in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
With that in mind, tech vendors Panasonic, Sharp, Mitsubishi Electric, and BOE (Sony is conspicuously absent from for the first time since CEATEC launched in 2000) took to the show floor at Japan’s largest consumer-electronics and IT trade show with plenty of 4K and a handful of 8K treats.
Panasonic Renews 4K Push
Leading the 4K charge at the Makuhari Messe this week is Panasonic, which is featuring a cavalcade of both B2C and B2B 4K products as part of its “4K World” booth.
Panasonic is exhibiting its full line of 4K VIERA TV sets, ranging from 40 in. to 85 in. Also at the booth are 4K-capable LUMIX cameras: the DMC-GH4, DMC-LX100, and FZ1000. Panasonic is highlighting these cameras’ ability to extract 4K still photos of a “decisive moment” from 4K-video footage. The 4K-compatible DIGA can store 4K-quality still pictures and video on its hard disk and play them back. Also on display is a 4K-compatible RF/IP hybrid set-top–box prototype, which is among the first to support the forthcoming 4K cablecast, according to Panasonic’s Public Relations GM Atsushi Hinoki.
Most notably for the broadcast sector, the company is displaying the new 4K Varicam 35 pro camera/recorder, which garnered plenty of hype at IBC in September and began shipping worldwide this month. The 4K camera/recorder incorporates a new Super 35mm MOS image sensor and Panasonic’s AVC-ULTRA codec, which is likely to be seen on future live 4K-sports productions.
Speaking of live sports, the company is also touting its long-standing partnership with the IOC and its role in producing the Olympic Games. Having been involved in nearly every Games since 1992 in Barcelona, Panasonic has a TOP (The Olympic Partner) sponsorship deal through 2024. Having played a key role in the advance of HD and 3D technology as a result of Olympics productions, Panasonic is likely to play a key role in development of 4K at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Pyeongchang, and Tokyo in the coming years.
Panasonic’s 4K aspirations go beyond just the broadcast and consumer sectors, however, with several items at CEATEC geared toward the business sector, including a TOUGHPAD 4K tablet (targeting architecture, medical, and other industries) and a massive 85-in. 4K touch-panel–display prototype that offers high picture quality and a smooth touch experience even under strong sunlight or during simultaneous operation by multiple users.
Although the new ProXStream EX is not located at the “4K World” exhibit, Panasonic is also showcasing the HEVC decoder with a single-chip solution for 4K/60p, 10-bit-color-video playback. The decoder, which is expected to ship in December, is capable of 160 Mbps and up to eight simultaneous HD channels. For those not yet ready to take the 4K plunge, the unit also supports conventional codecs, including H.264 or MPEG-2. Other features include a 2K-to-4K upconverter, video playback without need for an external DDR memory, HDMI 2.0/DisplayPort 1.3 (SST) functionality, and PCI Express Interface.
Sharp Splits Efforts Between 4K, 8K
Sharp has taken a dual approach in terms of 4K vs. 8K, highlighting its established line of AQUOS 4K LCD TVs as well as its proprietary AQUOS 8K full-spec LCD.
Among the 4K sets on display in Sharp’s “4K World Zone” are flagship model LC-70UD20 (released in June in Japan) and its latest addition, the LC-60US20 (released this month in Japan). Also on hand is the latest QAUOS Quattron Pro (known as Quattron+ in the Americas), the LC-60XL20, which plays native 4K content through HDMI and upscales lower-resolution content to 4K (to be released to the Japanese market in November). Sharp is also exhibiting its 4K VOD-ready recorder, the TU-UD1000.
The 85-in., 120-Hz 8K prototype seems to be generating the most buzz among CEATEC attendees (the demo is swamped seemingly at all times during the show). The set matches the spec required for 8K Super Hi-Vision broadcasts to a tee, a fact that Sharp Tokyo Public Relations Manager Miyuki Nakayama says will put Sharp ahead of the 8K curve as NHK and others work to make 8K broadcasting a reality by 2016.
Mitsubishi Brings Laser-Centric Approach to 4K
Mitsubishi is on hand at CEATEC showcasing the REAL LS1 Series 65-in. and 58-in. 4K-compatible laser LCS TVS. According to Takeshi Sato, Manager of Sales and Marketing Dept., Kyoto Works, Mitsubishi Electric, the 4K LCD sets are the first in the industry to use red lasers and cyan LED backlighting. He says the technology allows these sets to deliver more-vibrant red, blue, and green colors than traditional 4K LCD screens.
The LCD TVs are also outfitted with a DIAONE sound system, which features a pair of standalone aluminum speakers located on each side.
Mitsubishi plans to release the sets on Oct. 30 in Japan, with the 65-in. model priced at approximately ¥700,000 (about $6,400) and the 58-in. version at approximately ¥200,000 (about $1,800).
BOE Partners With NHK on 8K
At the always impressive NHK booth, the Japanese public broadcaster is showing a wealth of 8K content on a variety of displays. Although the full Super Hi-Vision theater experience (including full 22.2 surround sound) is not to be missed, sports fans are being treated to highlights from NHK’s 8K production of nine matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup on a trio of 98-in. BOE 8K TVs.
The 98-in. displays, which feature BOE’s ADSDS super-hard-screen technology, are the largest 8K displays currently available, according to BOE Japan Sales Manager I.H. Song.