Television at 16 times the resolution of today's HDTV is inching ever closer -- and now it's in color.
A recently-developed 33-megapixel image sensor has helped Japanese public broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) take the step from black and white in its Super Hi-Vision system.
The latest version of the next-generation technology was on display at NHK's Science and Technical Research Laboratories (STRL) in Tokyo alongside a new signal processing circuit, an ultra high-resolution lens and a thinner optical cable that combine with the sensor to produce the clearest and sharpest images yet seen from Super Hi-Vision (SHV).
At 7,680 pixels by 4,320 pixels, a single SHV image is equal to 16 tiled HDTV screens. It's exactly that enormous size that makes it difficult for the image to be captured, processed, and displayed.
Last year, engineers used four 8.3 megapixel image sensors -- two sensors for green and one each for red and blue -- in order to reach full resolution. While the combination produced a 33 megapixel image, it only allowed a black and white display.
This time, NHK was able to create a prototype of a single 33 megapixel image sensor, which enabled engineers to use one chip per color. Now each color sensor operates in full resolution, allowing the image to reach its full potential -- having colors so bright and a contrast so sharp that one is able to read the fine print on a tag positioned a couple of meters away from the camera.
Having the proper lens for the job was also a hurdle, so NHK collaborated with lens manufacturer Fujinon to create an ultra-high-resolution lens for the system.
It also showed prototypes of an upgraded signal processing circuit, which can now work at a higher speed, and an improved optical transmission device. Instead of using 16 coaxial cables to transmit the images to the display device, it was able to reduce it to only one 12-core cable, with smaller connectors at a width of 9mm and height of 14mm.
Although they were able to solve the challenge of capturing a colored image at full-resolution, the hardware is still does not yet exist to display it.
As with other devices, the future goal is to make the system smaller.
"We plan to shrink everything in order to make it more portable, and of course, more practical for users," said Kohji Mitani, a senior research engineer from NHK. "This will probably take five to 10 years."
One of the few broadcasting companies to heavily invest in R&D, NHK began work on Super Hi-Vision technology in 2002 -- a technology it views as the successor to today's HDTV, which is now only gaining wide acceptance. NHK was the pioneer in HDTV technology, beginning work on it in 1964.