By Tom Coughlin
Higher resolution content is becoming the norm in today’s media workflows, but pixel count is not the only element that is changing. In addition to the pixel density the depth of image, color gamut, frame rates and even the number of simultaneous streams of video will be important. At the 2015 IBC in Amsterdam there was a clear picture of a future that includes UHD 4K and 8K video, as well as virtual reality, as the future path to more immersive video and entertainment experiences.
NHK, a pioneer in 8K video hardware and infrastructure development has given more details on its introduction of this higher resolution format. They will start test broadcasts of their 8K technology in 2016, followed by significant satellite video transmission in 2018 and widespread deployment in 2020 in time for the Tokyo Olympic Games. The company is looking at using HEVC compression to put a 72Gb/s video stream with 22:2 channel audio into a 100Mb/s delivery channel.
In the Technology Zone at the IBC there were displays of virtual reality, 8K video developments, (mostly by NHK), as well as multiple camera set-ups for creating virtual reality video and various ways to use panoramic video. Sphericam 2 is a Kickstarter-funded product that provides 60 frames per second 4K video capture for creating VR content. This six-camera device is compact and can be placed on a stick and used like a selfie camera to capture a 360-degree view.
At the 2015 Google Developers Conference, GoPro demonstrated a 360-degree camera rig (our main image) using 16 GoPro cameras to capture panoramic video. At the IBC, GoPro displayed a more compact 360 Hero six-camera rig for 3D video capture.
In the Technology Zone, Al Jeezera had an eight-camera rig for 4K video capture (made using a 3D printer) and were using software to create panoramic videos. There are many such videos on YouTube that can be viewed as panoramic videos, which change perspective when viewed on a smart phone that has an accelerometer that will create a reference around which the viewer can look at the panoramic activities. The Kolor software actually provides a number of different ways to view the captured content.
While many viewing devices for VR video use special split-screen displays, or even use smart phones with a split screen image while using the phone’s accelerometers to give the sense of being surrounded by the viewed image — like the Google Cardboard — there are other ways to create an immersive experience. As mentioned earlier, panoramic videos with a single (or split screen) are available on YouTube. There are also spherical display devices where the still or video image can be rotated by moving your hand across the sphere like the one shown below.
Higher resolution content is becoming mainstream, with 4K TVs set to be the majority that are sold within the next few years. 8K video production, pioneered by NHK and others in Japan, could be the next 4K video by the start of the next decade, driving even more realistic content capture and higher bandwidth and higher storage capacity post.
Multi-camera content is also growing in popularity to support virtual reality games and other applications. This growth is enabled by the proliferation of low cost, high-resolution cameras and sophisticated software that combine the video from these cameras to create a panoramic video and virtual reality experience.
The trends toward higher resolution, combined with a greater color gamut, higher frame rate and color depth will transform video experiences by the next decade, leading to new requirements for storage, networking and processing in video production and display.
Dr. Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates, has over 35 years in the data storage industry. Coughlin is also the founder and organizer of the annual Storage Visions Conference, a partner to the International Consumer Electronics Show, as well as the Creative Storage Conference.