HD of the future offers 16 times as many pixels

The United Nations has approved a standard for an ultra-high definition TV format described as like looking through a window. But don’t expect to see it in your living room any time soon.

The International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency, has now confirmed there were no objections to its proposal to formally confirm the standard.

Officially the format is called Ultra High-Definition, though its commercial developers NHK are using the brand name Super Hi-Vision. The format is also called 8K for short, a rounded-up reference to the fact that it has a 7,680 x 4,320 pixel resolution. That’s around 16 times as many pixels as existing “full” HD.

NHK has tested the format using cameras that capture 60 frames (not fields) per second compared with 25 or 30 frames per second in current TV. They say they are working at getting that up to 120. In theory that means an even smoother picture, though the benefits may only be noticeable when watching very fast moving action such as motorsports on a particularly large screen.

Only three TV cameras currently support the format. One was tested at the Olympic games, with the footage shown around the United Kingdom on 145 inch screens.

NHK has earmarked 2020 for the first full-scale broadcasts in the format, though it could be several years after that before sets become anywhere close to affordable for consumers. Even then, the format likely won’t reach a wide audience as it is likely to take a screen of around 55 inches before the full effects are visible.

It’s more likely the format will find a home in movie theaters and on giant TV screens in public places. It’s particularly suited to large groups of viewers as it has a much wider viewing angle. It could work well for broadcasts of sporting events and other major outside broadcasts that would benefit from the image being “life size.”