Super Hi-Vision compared (Source: Digital World Tokyo)

The latest prototype sensor (Source: IDG)

Circuitry with a view (Source: IDG)
Super Hi-Vision makes 1080p HDTV appear as clear as a Vaseline smear

Although high-definition formats HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc are the bleeding edge of technology in the current consumer market, a new technology from Japan makes the latest HD movies specifications look simply archaic. Last week, engineers at NHK's (Nippon Hoso Kyokai) Science and Technical Research Laboratories demonstrated Super Hi-Vision technology capable of a 7680x4320 resolution, reports IDG.

At 7680x4320, over 33 million pixels make up the image – this represents 16 times the resolution of a 1080p image. To get a picture of the bump in resolution, a Super Hi-Vision image could be approximated by tiling 16 of today’s best HDTVs together. In comparison, a 1080p picture represents a six-fold jump in resolution over standard-definition television.

Unlike current HD cameras, which are hitting the hands of consumers, the Super Hi-Vision camera sensors are not yet able to capture a full color picture. The latest prototype Super Hi-Vision sensor is monochrome, but NHK plans to incorporate three sensors – one for each primary color – in order to capture color images. The prototype is super-fast too, able to capture data at a rate of 4,000 frames per second.

NHK is also working on a sound system to complement the improved image. While today’s best home theaters have 7.1 setups, the audio component paired with Super Hi-Vision is 22.2.

However, it may be quite some time before such an image is delivered on media, let alone broadcasted, as an uncompressed signal requires a bit-rate of 24Gbps. A single minute of Super Hi-Vision footage would require 194 GB of storage.

To help ease that burden, NHK is enlisting the help of ATEME, a provider of MPEG-4 and H.264 solutions, to compress the 7680 x 4320 "Ultra HD" video – creating a new video standard. ATEME says that it is currently cooperating closely with NHK Labs in the design and development of this next-generation standard using existing MPEG-4 AVC compression technology.

"We are very excited to be partnered with NHK - the leading broadcaster in the world for advanced technology implementation - for Ultra HD," said Benoit Fouchard, Vice President of Sales, Broadcast and Broadband for ATEME. "ATEME's MPEG-4 AVC encoding has always been accepted as the world's best, and NHK's sole reliance on our technology proves we are fully capable of scaling to the ultimate in bandwidth and quality requirements for HD. We are very proud to be working with them and look forward to a continued partnership with NHK."

Super Hi-Vision cameras, recorders, encoders and projectors are under development and the introduction of a new Ultra HD standard is planned for 2009. NHK estimates that satellite transmission tests will begin in 2011, and by 2020, Ultra HD will be ready for broadcast to households.

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