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Episode 5 – The 8K Revolution in Pro AV

8K isn’t on the horizon — it’s here! Matt and JK will break down how 8K works with HDMI, enabling pro AV designers to deploy the highest resolution video systems ever. Guest Chris Chinnock will shed light on the rollout of 8K in pro AV and elsewhere.

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Episode guest

Chris Chinnock
President, 8K Association

Episode transcript

Justin Kennington (00:09):

Hello everybody. Hello again. And welcome back to SDVoE LIVE! I am your host, Justin Kennington, and this, this right here, this is TV for Pro AV. A very interesting, very exciting, a little bit nerve wracking episode coming at you today. We’ve got a special guest Chris Chinnock, president of the 8K Association. To be perfectly honest, I’ve known Chris a little while, I like Chris. We’ve only met a handful of times. Our last two guests have basically been family as far as Matt and I were concerned. So this is the first time that we might screw it up and with somebody who might not love us afterwards, so wish us all the best. We have some really exciting stuff to talk about. It seems like only a few years ago, we were making the transition to 4K in this industry.

Certainly 4K as a transport is ubiquitous everywhere. 4K displays are available everywhere. There’s even a question of is 4K needed everywhere? Maybe, maybe not, but we’re going to open this up to Chris and say, holy cow, why are we heading to 8K? What’s that going to do for us? And I think the answers are actually really interesting and exciting. So we’re going to get some education first on 8K. We always like to make sure everybody’s on the same page before Matt and I start blabbing too much with each other. I want to remind you as ever – after the 30-minute show, please stick around for the aftershow. Stay right where you are and don’t click anything, and as soon as those end credits finish rolling, you’ll be in our studio with Matt, with me, and with Chris.

Ask your questions using the chat box or on Twitter at hashtag #sdvoelive. The next person you’ll see is my cohost, Matt Dodd, who will introduce today’s educational piece.

Matt Dodd (02:46):

I’m going to show you a course from SDVoE Academy “8K and HDMI 2.1”. It sets the stage so we can ask Chris a bunch of questions later on.

In the “How HDMI Signals Work” course, we learned how each of the individual wires contained within an HDMI cable work together to allow resolutions up to 4K60 4:4:4 to be transmitted from a source to a display. This course will take a step further into the world of HDMI and show you how HDMI version 2.1 is meeting the demand for 8K and beyond whilst continuing to provide vital support for devices that are not 8K compatible. The transition from 4K to 8K isn’t a simple one. As the demand for higher resolutions and greater bandwidth grows, it’s vital to oversee how this growth meets the demands of every industry, not just those affected by HDMI. The 8K Association is a collaboration of working groups who exist to push the 8K standard across multiple industries and technologies. And while we are focusing on HDMI, this represents only a part of the mandate of the 8K Association. The very existence of the 8K Association reaffirms just how complex this transition really is.

Let’s take a look at what 8K really means. This diagram shows how display resolutions have increased in the early 2000s. The first HDMI versions gave us display resolutions of 1920×1080, and then by 2013, the next version of HDMI, HDMI 2.0, increased this to 4K, giving us four times the amount of pixels across the display, to provide greater color space and depth to make the images clearer and more defined. 8K takes this to the next level giving us four times the amount of pixels used by 4K, to introduce us to a visual experience that has never before been possible. And this is thanks to HDMI 2.1 technology.

While HDMI 2.0 technology was able to support 8K resolutions at 30 frames per second, this was at the limit of most HDMI 2.0 compatible devices and cables. To allow strings of 8K at 60 frames per second and beyond, HDMI 2.1 introduces a new signaling technology called Fixed Rate Link or FRL. And in order to ensure backwards compatibility, it implements this in rather a clever way.

Before we explain FRL, let’s take a quick look at how bandwidth is affected by 8K. This chart shows us that an uncompressed 4K60 4:4:4 video stream uses 12 gigabits per second of bandwidth. As we move into 8K resolutions, look at the bandwidth requirement. It shoots up to 48 gigabits per second for 8K60 resolution at 12 bits per color. (You can learn more about “Color Space and Color Depth” in another SDVoE Academy course.) In order to be able to meet these increased bandwidth demands, we need Fixed Rate Link.

FRL uses a packet-based protocol, which doubles the signaling rate over each pair of wires from six gigabits per second to 12 gigabits per second. The new HDMI 2.1 cables, defined as category three cables, are designed specifically to support this. To achieve the 48 gigabits per second bit rate needed for 8K, there has to be four FRL cable pairs with each pair being defined as a lane. In order to support backwards compatibility, the FRL lanes use the TMDS channel wires already present in an HDMI cable. Lane zero uses TMDS channel zero, lane one uses TMDS channel one, lane two uses TMDS channel two, and lane three uses the TMDS clock wires. So, when an 8K source is connected to an 8K display with a compatible HDMI 2.1 cable or category three cable, FRL will instead be used to stream the content.

If however, the same 8K source is connected to an older 4K display, then FRL cannot be used and TMDS will be used as before. It’s entirely possible that even greater bandwidth is required to support higher 8K color depths and resolutions up to 10K, and HDMI 2.1 also includes a feature called Display Stream Compression or DSC, to allow for this. For example, an 8K60 4:4:4 stream with no chroma subsampling applied would require 60 gigabits per second, higher than the 48 gigabits per second limit of our FRL lanes, so now, DSC is used. Display Stream Compression is a visually-lossless, low-latency algorithm approved for HDMI 2.1, allowing 8K60 4:4:4 and resolutions up to 10K to be transmitted. While we shouldn’t concern ourselves too much about making provision for 10K displays just yet, this is a huge enhancement for certain industries like gaming.

It’s important to remember that HDMI 2.1 is a suite of optional elements. Just because the device says it’s 2.1 compatible, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s able to support every feature available. It’s unlikely we’re going to see a sudden influx of devices which support the full range of HDMI 2.1’s feature set. However, there are some key additions which will allow for the next generation of gaming platforms and video distribution technologies, such as Auto Low Latency Mode for optimal pixel processing, Variable Refresh Rate to reduce or eliminate lag or frame tearing with fast-moving images, Quick Frame Transport to further reduce latency by bursting individual frames of video across the connection ahead of the stream itself, or Quick Media Switching to eliminate any blank screens when switching content.

It’s fair to say that 8K is not just around the corner anymore. That corner has already been turned, and HDMI 2.1 has introduced features and functionality to support this ever evolving display technology. Who knows what’s around the next corner. But one thing is for sure, it won’t be too long before we’ll find out.

Justin Kennington (11:45):

Matt you’ve done it again.

Matt Dodd (12:41):

This is going great guns, and we’re loving it. Who’s this?

Justin Kennington (13:00):

This is Chris Chinnock, president of the 8K Association. I told you I’m nervous, but nerves can be good. Controversy can be good. See, I’m afraid we’re going to have our first guest-to-guest battle here. If you remember back to our last episode, Stéphane got on screen, and he said, “Well, the reason that HDR is so important is because better pixels are more important than more pixels.” And now what do we have? We have the more pixels guy. I’m not taking a side in this fight, but maybe we should do like a Saturday SDVoE LIVE! pay-per-view like a Stéphane and Chris – this corner, that corner. An octagon, maybe UFC and stuff.

Matt Dodd (13:42):

I kind of wish we had Stéphane here now. Can we get another one of these screens? Can we afford another one of these screens?

Justin Kennington (13:49):

Let’s just save it for the pay-per-view. That’s not for the free show, come on.

Matt Dodd (13:54):

Justin Kennington, optimism. Out now in paperback. So, we get another one of these screens, but later in the spring we’re building a whole new set and there’s a great big panel thing. So once we have enough friends, we should do that. We should get Chris and Stéphane and maybe someone else and have a big “guest off”. That’d be great, wouldn’t it?

Justin Kennington (14:21):

Let’s do it. Come on let’s bring him in. Let’s talk about this.

Matt Dodd (14:24):

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives us the greatest pleasure to welcome Chris Chinnock. Here he is.

Chris Chinnock (14:44):

I’m here.

Justin Kennington (14:45):

Hi Chris.

Matt Dodd (14:46):

Hello Chris, how are you?

Chris Chinnock (14:47):

Hi guys, thanks for having me. I’m great.

Justin Kennington (14:52):

Just to be clear, you haven’t been listening to the last 15 minutes correct?

Chris Chinnock (15:06):

I was listening for the last few seconds. The controversy of more pixels versus better pixels, that’s a false controversy. All the 8K content and all the 8K displays are better pixels.

Justin Kennington (15:28):

That’s what I wanted to hear.

Chris Chinnock (15:30):

So, you get everything, plus more pixels.

Matt Dodd (15:36):

Talk us through why 8K is important within pro AV, because obviously there’s the world inside, which is the world we live in and there’s the world outside of pro AV. What does it bring to the table apart from the obvious of course?

Chris Chinnock (16:11):

Well, actually, before I talk specifically about the pro AV market, let’s talk about display trends in general. If you look at the resolution transitions since going from SD to HD and then to full HD and then to 4K and now to 8K, there’s a very clear, consistent pattern. This is data, backed up by some of the market research firms. What they’ve published and found, from the start of the introduction of a new resolution to 50% of sales, is seven years, consistently.

Chris Chinnock (16:50):

All the pieces of that ecosystem – the content, the switching, the distribution, the bandwidth, storage, all those elements – everything kind of moves in lockstep. Everyone’s obviously improving their products along the way as well. Now, not all the pieces of the ecosystem have caught up with this. For example, it’s very common, in each transition, for the displays and the capture sides of the ecosystem to lead first. Various parts of production, film, broadcast, distribution are slower to adopt. We know this. But the technology is on a pretty steady path. In other words, the train has left the station; it’s going to continue to move. So to deny that 8K is going to come; I think is just not realistic.

Justin Kennington (17:49):

Here in SDVoE land we hear a lot about 10 gig networking versus one gig networking and people say, “Oh, one gig is enough.” And that’s true in some applications, but I very much feel you. I always say, “Look, we’re not going to look back one day and say, ‘Oh, one gig. That was enough. We stopped there and that was it,’ just like we’re not going to look back on 4K and say, ‘You know what? That was all the pixels we ever needed.'” That’s just not how it works. Is it?

Chris Chinnock (18:14):

Exactly. Every company in the ecosystem is always trying to push their next generation product. It’s faster, it’s better, it’s cheaper, it’s more whatever. So now to answer your question, Matt, in the pro AV space, well, take a look what’s happening in signage, right? That’s a huge market, and you’re seeing bigger and bigger canvases that are out there – 4K even for a small sign is fine. But if you start to do anything outdoors, you’re talking 8K, 12K, 50K, 150 megapixels. You can see these announcements almost every day of these giant canvases that are out there. It needs a lot of content. So capturing at 8K, 12K, it’s almost a starting point, isn’t it?

Matt Dodd (19:08):

Sure, sure. And, this ties in the video that we just saw there, that we showed, which introduced these guys to the 8K HDMI 2.1. When you look at the tables and we get to the higher frame rate at 120 frames per second, we’re into 50, 60 gigabits per second requirements. It’s just not going to stop. The guys watching this and the guys who come to SDVoE Academy, they are looking for all of the resources and education they need to be confident and comfortable enough to be able to sell the next generation to their customers. That’s fair to say Justin, right?

Justin Kennington (20:12):

I think so. And speaking of that Chris, what is the 8K Association doing specifically with regard to pro AV?

Chris Chinnock (20:22):

That’s a good question. To date we’ve primarily focused more on the entertainment space of films, primarily films, and to some degree broadcast, but we actually now are starting to take a little bit more of a look into the professional AV market because of the applications that are out there. It’s not just giant video walls. You can clearly see people will want to put 8K displays in corporate environments, smaller video walls, museums – great applications for sure. There are medical applications out there because they actually have 8K endoscopes now. We’re kind of in the exploratory phase right now of what’s going on in the 8K market. We want to understand if there’s a value proposition for how to certify products or to help move information forward, communicating information about 8K or liaising with various standards organizations if we hear that’s needed.

Justin Kennington (21:28):

Are there ways for our audience who are interested to get involved or to just be able to learn more? What do you have for them?

Chris Chinnock (21:35):

We have two websites. Discover8k.com is more consumer focused, 8kassociation.com is more professionally focused and we’re going to be refreshing that website in the coming months with a focus on capture in 8K, master in 8K, distribute in 8K. That will include a whole bunch of white papers, use cases, best practices, flow diagrams, articles, all kinds of stuff to lower the fear factor for doing things in 8K. Then we’ll have a YouTube channel with other resources, with interviews and seminars and webinars like this as well.

Matt Dodd (22:23):

Awesome. Chris, will you do us the honor of sticking around?

Chris Chinnock (22:26):

Of course.

Justin Kennington (27:26):

An important programming note here. We told you about the aftershow. Those of you who are watching us live right now know what to do. Stay where you are for the next two minutes, and the aftershow will start. For those of you who might be catching this on demand on YouTube. the aftershow is only available in SDVoE Academy. Just sign up for a free account, and then you’ll be able to access all the aftershows on demand.

Matt Dodd (27:57):

We love the aftershow because there’s no script. We can just say what comes into our head, and talk to you lot.  Coming up in episode 6 we have “Why Samsung Chose SDVoE over a Matrix”. We have some fantastic visuals on that. But for now, take care people. We’ll see you very shortly for the aftershow.

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