The audio-visual experience of the future

Beyond HD

For consumers still living with a standard-definition television, DVD-quality video is generally accepted as good enough. For the latest whiz-bang high-definition plasma, Blu-ray or HD-DVD is optimal. But what does the future hold?

One possibility is Ultra High Definition Video, a standard proposed by Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

UHDV operates at a video resolution of 7680x4320 pixels, which is 16 times the pixel count of today's most advanced Full HD screens (which operate at 1920x1080 pixels). Don't get your hopes up just yet, however; the technology is still in its testing phase and it will be years before it receives any kind of mainstream release.

One key problem is that the vast majority of cameras are unable to record at such high resolutions, although there are products like the RED range of professional cameras that can handle 3K, 4K and even 5K resolutions. These aren't quite up to the UHDV standard, but they're far closer than the majority of cameras.

With video covered so impressively, it would be anti-climactic for the standard not to include a sound standard that's out of this world. This is achieved by the Hamasaki 22.2 standard, which involves 24 speakers arranged in three layers around the listener. Nine speakers are above the listener's ear level, 10 are directly at ear level, and five speakers, including the two low frequency effects subwoofers, are placed below ear level. This system is designed to give the highest possible level of immersion and enable more complicated surround sound effects than current systems can handle.

The only downside is that a system like this would be incredibly difficult to set up and would more likely than not require bespoke installations, restricting it to commercial enterprises and incredibly wealthy consumers.

UHDV is due to become a hot topic again with the upcoming International Broadcasting Convention, which will be held in Amsterdam in mid-September. NHK is in talks with the BBC, which is reported to be interested in adopting the technology in the future.

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Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

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