In an unprecedented intercontinental transmission across the web, BBC has broadcast an ultra-high-definition video feed from the United Kingdom to Tokyo using an experimental display technology developed by Japan’s national public broadcasting organisation NHK.
Dubbed “Super Hi-Vision” by NHK, the ultra high-definition video format boasts a mind-boggling resolution of 7680 x 4320, i.e. offering 16 times the number of pixels as that found on current “full HD” televisions with resolutions of 1920 x 1080. At present, no HDTV set in the world is capable of displaying “Super Hi-Vision” (also known as SHV, 4320p, 8k, or UHDTV) video at its native resolution, which means that the signal must be downscaled to fit on screen.
Using a customised SHV camera (one of only three available worldwide) supplied by NHK, BBC recorded a live performance by British alternative rock band The Charlatans for its digital radio station 6 Music on 29 September 2010, while next door another set of audience watched the resulting Super Hi-Vision video (down-converted) on a 103-inch plasma TV prototype which can only deliver a quarter of the resolution of SHV signal.
To stream the Super Hi-Vision recording over the internet from UK to Japan, BBC’s research and development team had to work closely with NHK to compress the SHV video signal to transmissible proportions. Even then, at full resolution a bandwidth of 24Gb/s is required, which is humongous considering that HD broadcasts usually consume only 8 to 15 Mbit/s. Fortunately, JANET – Britain’s education and research computer network that boasts up to 40Gbit/s of bandwidth – came to BBC’s rescue to transmit the compressed video via fibre-optic cables to Japan. There, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) handled the feed, and NHK broadcast the video on a super-large screen to an audience in Tokyo.
The original aim of this feat is to demonstrate to BBC Sport the most advanced broadcast technologies available at its disposal for London 2012 Olympics. Following the success of this demonstration, it’s understood that BBC is keen to use Super Hi-Vision technology not only to show the games on giant screens for the public, but also for archiving purposes.