What did you think of the coverage at Sochi? From the excitement of the U.S. team’s performance in Snocross to the disappointing hockey defeat, the entire event was filled with ups and downs for loyal U.S. sports fans. Where did you watch the Olympic games? Did you stay home? Gather at your favorite sports bar? Visit a friend’s house with a bigger TV and complete home theater system?
Wherever you watched, you didn’t experience the Olympics exactly as they were recorded. At best, you viewed them in 1080p. But this year’s games were shot in 4K, with some footage actually captured in 8K. Japanese broadcasting company NHK captured the opening ceremony, figure-skating events, and more, in 8K resolution, which is 7680 x 4320 pixels or 16 times better than 1080p.
Unfortunately, with no 8K TVs on the market and few venues running 4K yet (although that’s changing), the games weren’t broadcast publicly in 8K, or even 4K, and this viewing experience wasn’t available to the general public. It was broadcast at special, invite-only events to VIPs. (Talk about an experience better than any you can get at home!)
Additionally, NHK built a viewing theater inside the International Broadcast Center. The venue boast a 145-inch Panasonic plasma screen (See? It’s not dead quite dead yet…) and 22.9 surround sound speakers. How long before that type of viewing experience hits your local sports bar?
A Testing Ground for Tech
The Olympics has traditionally been a testing ground for new technology, with the Olympics broadcast in color for the first time in 1964, a year before color TVs achieved mainstream popularity in homes. The Olympics also rolled out 1080p in 2008, several years before most people buying a new TV opted for 1080p and well before content became widely available.
8K on the Horizon?
Just as people, including sports bar and restaurant owners, began to accept the inevitability of upgrading to 4K for new systems to keep pace with what their customers can see at home, now there’s resolution that’s even better. It’s almost unimaginable to visualize how much better 8K will be. Let’s look at it this way.
If you’re watching a 65-inch monitor mounted above the bar and many feet away from your booth at your favorite sports bar, you won’t see the difference between 1080i or 1080p. Depending how many beers you’ve had, you may or may not notice if the venue is only showing the game at 720p.
But take that same image and blow it up onto a 100-inch display or, even a 145-inch plasma like the one in Sochi. Now, when you’re close enough to reach out and touch the players, you will start to see pixels. That’s where UltraHD comes in handy. The bigger the screen or the closer you get, the higher the resolution needed for a crystal clear picture.
Studies Show There Is A Difference
HDTVtest.com, a review site out of the UK, did a study that surprised us. Regular people, watching a 55-inch monitor from 9 feet away, detected a difference in 1080p and 4K. While it’s not irrefutable proof, it is evidence that 4K offers a noticeable improvement. Keep in mind, these are two screens, side by side, where the viewers are focused on making a comparison. That doesn’t mean they can see the pixels in the 1080p screen, just that they noticed improved picture quality in 4K.
It will be the same thing with 8K, and the next resolution to be rolled out after that. (16K, anyone?) Is that the stopping point? Time will tell and also depends on how far prices continue to drop for larger size screens.
One thing is certain: Sports bar owners will have quite the job trying to keep pace with changing technology and to continue to offer an experience better than viewers can get from home. Having an audiovisual consultant and integrator you can trust by your side can help you make the right decisions to create the viewing experience your customers want within a budget you can afford.