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Ultra HD TV: the future of 2D TV in two parts

The next – maybe final – stage of high definition 2D TV will be delivered in two stages that will boost today’s HD to the limit of human eyesight.

HDTV today has settled around images that are 1,920 pixels across and 1,080 pixels high, but Ultra HD TV will be 7,680 pixels by 4,320 pixels.

The International Telecommunications Union, which sets standards for broadcasters worldwide, has settled on a two-step introduction of Ultra HD.

David Wood of the ITU explains Ultra HD TV

The first is known as ‘4K’, and it’s about the resolution of an 8-Megapixel digital camera, with 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. The second is called ‘8K’ and is about the same as a 32-Megapixel camera – 16 times more detailed than today’s HDTV.

ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré said: “UHDTV is an earth-shaking development in the world of television. Watching UHDTV in the near future will be a breath taking experience, and I look forward to it.”

Ultra HD TV was developed by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK to match the resolution of human vision.

David Wood, chairman of group which developed the draft UHDTV recommendation, said, “This is the dawn of a new age for television that will bring unprecedented levels of realism and viewer enjoyment.

“It’s a historic moment. Some years will pass before we see these systems in our homes, but come they will.”

The new standard will also run at 120Hz instead of the 50Hz and 60Hz used today, to make sure that details run smoothly across huge Ultra HD screens.

NHK last week unveiled a new imaging chip that runs at 120Hz but is smaller and uses less power than previous systems – pushing out 51.2Gbps of data as it records.

NHK's new 120MHz Ultra HD camera

British audiences will get their first chance to see Ultra HD in public this summer, with the BBC screening selected Olympic events in London, Bradford and Glasgow.

Panasonic and Sharp have both debuted prototype Ultra HD screens, and Panasonic’s 145in Ultra HD prototype screen will be on show at the International Press Centre at the Olympic Village in London.

Satellite operator SES has said it expects Sky to launch 4K Ultra HD TV within the next three years, probably relying on films which are now produced digitally in the 4K format. 

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