With all the fanfare about new 8K projectors at CES 2024 and other announced models like the Hisense 120LX and Samsung 8K Premiere, the future of projection seems destined for 8K. Currently only the JVC NZ projectors support 8K content. But that will likely be changing in the near future. That's why we wanted to learn more about 8K projection. So we went to the experts at the 8K Association. The 8K Association (8KA) is an organization that has been created to educate, promote and evangelize on the many aspects of the rapidly evolving 8K ecosystem. From content creation and production to distribution and consumer consumption, their mission is to ensure the 8K ecosystem thrives as we help to accelerate industry-wide adoption of 8K content, products, and services. The 8KA is composed of key technology companies in the consumer and professional 8K ecosystem. To accomplish their mission, the 8KA has established Work Groups to help provide information about the state of the 8K ecosystem to consumers, organizations, and standards development groups. We got in touch with our new friend, Bob Raikes of the 8K Association. Bob is an experienced technology journalist with 40 years in the display industry! He was the editor of Display Monitor newsletter for 25 years and the publisher and editor of Display Daily for eight years until the end of 2022. With his intimate knowledge of displays he was the perfect person to answers our questions about 8K resolution and the future of ultra high res projection. What is 8K Resolution? 8K resolution is the next standardized resolution step after 4K and provides four times as many pixels (level of detail) than 4K and 16 times more than 'FullHD". One 8K screen has the same number of pixels as 64 standard definition TVs! 8K was chosen as the top level of TV performance after extensive testing in Japan that showed that viewers could not distinguish high quality 8K video from 'reality'. What is the difference between 4K Resolution vs 8K Resolution? 8K is 7680 x 4320 resolution (33 megapixels) whereas 4K is 3840 x 2160 (8 megapixels) Is 8K resolution the same as IMAX? It's hard to compare IMAX to 8K as IMAX uses 70mm film rather than digital projectors in most of its large theatres. Film is an analogue format so definition can be very tricky to quantify. IMAX is a member of the 8K Association and has certified a number of 8K digital cameras for content creation. IMAX has some smaller 'IMAX Digital' theatres that use dual 2K projectors. What is the purpose of the 8K Association? The short answer to this is to promote and support the use of 8K, but also, crucially, to work with technical organizations to develop the standards and best practices to make 8K easier and cheaper to capture, process, transmit and display. When buying an 8K projector or 8K TV, why should consumers look for a device that's 8K Association Certified? At the moment, the 8K projection labelling programme is still in development (and the 8K Association would welcome additional companies as members to support that programme). The 8K Certification programme is for TVs and ensures that users will experience the true quality that comes with 8K content. Certified 8K TVs are guaranteed to meet a rigorous set of specifications that consumers should demand. This includes minimum specifications for visual performance as well as interfaces to ensure 8K signals can be properly displayed. It ensures, as an example, that an 8K TV is capable of fully supporting the resolution (and is not just, for example, a set of 4K electronics with an 8K display panel), 4K resolution is also referred to as UHD. I'm seeing mixed sources saying that 8K will also be known as UHD though some are saying it will be called FUHD (Full Ultra High Definition). Does the 8K association have a preference? UltraHD has been formally standardized by the ITU (an international standards body for broadcast) to ensure that systems around the world were compatible. The definition of UltraHD includes both 3840 x 2160 and 7680 x 4320 formats. The aim of a single term UltraHD is that the lower resolution provides the full experience for small and medium displays, while 8K does the same for larger displays. The EBU defines UltraHD Level 1 and Level 2 for 4K & 8K respectively. Some say that people can't tell the difference between anything above a 4K resolution. Is this true? Fundamentally, this depends on the viewing distance and the size of the image. The human visual system is complex and often such comments are based on a very simplistic calculation of visual acuity that ignores this. 8K was developed to provide a sense of reality but really comes into its own at screen sizes of 65” and above. The difference is more obvious as the screen size gets larger. Professional TV reviewer, John Archer, recently said, “At the same time, though, the best 8K TVs actually can deliver better picture quality, even with 4K and good quality HD sources, than the best 4K TVs, at least when it comes to detail, depth and image density”. When can we expect to start seeing 8K content in movie theaters? When can we expect 8K streaming content? Movie theaters have a real economic challenge in upgrading to 8K. The switch to digital cinema was enabled by the cost savings to move from film production and delivery. No such cost savings are available to fund a move to higher resolutions. Many theaters are just 2K at the moment. There is already 8K content on, for example, YouTube, but in recent times, the streamers have moved away from promoting better quality to advertising-supported free channels (FAST). This kind of business model is challenging when you want to improve quality. However, there are opportunities for streamers to differentiate themselves with 8K, so over time, we believe they will adopt it. This move will be made easier by the success seen already in the development of technical standards that allow the delivery of a ‘base layer’ with enhancement layers for 4K and 8K. That will reduce the bit rate needed and help the economic case for higher resolutions Will there be 8K Blu-rays? Or do you think as media storage drives become more prevalent and internet speeds increase, will there not be a need for 8K physical formats? Although there has been something of a boost for packaged media because some content has been ‘taken away’ from consumers recently, there are no plans to develop 8K physical formats that the 8K Association is aware of. Why should someone spend extra on an 8K projector when there isn't much content available? One of the big technology trends has been the development of fantastic upscaling technology in recent years. This has been further boosted by AI and so upscaled 4K can look almost as good as ‘native’ 8K. There will only be further improvements in the near future. High quality upscaling helps with the ‘chicken and egg’ challenge of better quality content. Right now, all 8K projectors are using 4K chips with pixel shifting technology. Are you aware of any native 8K chips that are available or in the works? No, we are not aware of any. There are very substantial cost and technology barriers to be overcome to put 8K imaging on a display as small as is economic in projectors. We wrote an article about it. However, there is nothing inherently wrong in ‘pixel shifting’ if it is well done and properly exploits the persistence in the human visual system. It really is about the viewer’s perception, not just simple ‘pixel counting’. How can people futureproof their home theaters so they're ready for 8K? Ideally, look for products that can support the full bandwidth of 48Gbps that is available in HDMI 2.1 and also look at using fiber technologies that effectively get away from bandwidth limitations altogether. Textureless projector screens will also be needed to accurately render the tiny pixels since any surface that isn’t perfectly smooth will distort the pixels. Screen Material Texture Comparison (photos taken 2ft away) UHD / 4KTextureless Surface Textured / Matte SurfaceType A Textured / Matte SurfaceType B Pixel Geometry Degradation Test (photos taken 2ft away from projected pixels) UHD / 4KTextureless Surface Textured / Matte SurfaceType A Textured / Matte SurfaceType B Do you need special cables to handle 8K content? HDMI certified cables are a key way to ensure compatibility and reliability. There is no ‘special magic’, but good quality materials and manufacturing will eliminate hassle and incompatibilities. HDMI® Specification HDMI 2.1b is the most recent update of the HDMI® specification and supports a range of higher video resolutions and refresh rates including 8K60 and 4K120, and resolutions up to 10K. What are you most excited for with regards to 8K? I’ve been involved in display technology for four decades and it has always been the case that at any particular time, most people think ‘whatever we have now is good enough’ because it is probably better than what was around previously. However, displays are a means of communication and so for the best communication possible, we need the best matching between displays and human perception. 8K is a key part of that (along with HDR, WCG, HFR and other acronyms!) Want to learn more about 8K projectors and 8K resolution? Just from speaking with Bob we're thrilled for where 8K projection is headed. There's so much potential for mind-blowing movies and TV shows that will fully immerse you into the stories and action with lifelike detail. You can learn more about the 8K Association by visiting their website. And if you have any questions for Bob Raikes and the 8K Association, leave it in the comments below and we'll get the answer for you.Also be sure to check out our article about projector resolution.