Super Hi-Vision: the future of HD



Ovum attended a BBC screening of London 2012 Olympics footage transmitted in Super Hi-Vision, the Ultra-High-Definition TV (UHDTV) technology format developed by the Japanese public service broadcaster NHK. The two broadcasters’ R&D departments collaborated to stage an experimental run of live coverage from both the opening ceremony and a section of the swimming events, transmitting these to five appropriately equipped venues in the UK, Japan, and the US. NHK loaned its Super Hi-Vision cameras (of which there are only three in existence), sound equipment, editing facilities, and relevant personnel to the BBC, which hosted the experiment from its TV Centre broadcasting location in London. Other partners involved in the project were Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS) and Janet, a publicly funded, high-capacity broadband network serving UK research and education organizations.

The combination of ultra-sharp picture resolution and 3D sound is something consumers could get used to

In its current “8K” format, Super Hi-Vision provides a pixel resolution 16 times greater than regular HDTV, as well as 22.2-channel surround sound. Their combined impact is both emotionally engaging and highly immersive. Big international sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup and in particular the Olympics tend to act as catalysts for innovation milestones in TV broadcasting technologies, and the BBC/NHK Super Hi-Vision project is no exception. The experience of viewing and listening to live sports and entertainment coverage is dramatically enhanced by Super Hi-Vision, and Ovum envisages it representing the logical next step in TV transmission technology, following on from regular HD. In our view, it is a far more significant development than 3D, which offers a limited range of use-cases.

A number of obstacles remain before Super Hi-Vision can become a mass market reality

Naturally there are several hurdles to overcome before Super Hi-Vision can start to filter beyond the broadcasters’ labs and into the mainstream of TV distribution. Not least of these is the transmission capacity required to deliver the video and audio signals. The three streams used for the Olympics experiment were transmitted uncompressed via fiber from the venue to the BBC’s broadcast facility, at a rate of 85Gbps. They were then coded into a single 280Mbps stream using eight H.264 AVC encoders. The five individual streams, converted into IP packets and with added sound, were sent to the public viewing venues at 350Mbps via a 10Gbit connection on the Janet network. NHK is participating in the development of the new MPEG HVEC coding standard, which is expected to cut the bit rate used for the experiment by at least half. The longer-term aim is to drive down the bandwidth requirement for delivering an individual Super Hi-Vision stream to around 70Mbps, enabling the signal to fit into a single transponder for satellite delivery.

The broadcasters’ current estimates put the arrival of Super Hi-Vision into consumers’ living rooms at around 2020. Between now and then further developments in video codecs, along with wider expansion of high-capacity FTTx networks carrying faster broadband speeds to consumers, will help improve the viability of investing in Super Hi-Vision distribution and reception technologies to an extent that will bring economies of scale. If 2020 seems a long way off, it may be worth remembering that “regular” HD technology was piloted at the 1984 Olympics, when it was at a similarly experimental stage in its development to that of Super Hi-Vision today.



Jonathan Doran, Principal Analyst, Consumer


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