Ultra HDTV: Threshold of a new age

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has announced a new recommendation that represents a major advance in television broadcasting that will create an entirely new television broadcast environment with the advent of ‘Ultra High Definition Television’ or UHDTV.

ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) has developed the standard – or recommendation – in collaboration with experts from the television industry, broadcasting organizations and regulatory institutions in its Study Group 6.

The quality of television pictures that viewers see has improved dramatically since it was invented in the 1930s. A dim black and white screen in the corner of the room has become the sparkling “high definition” color picture that we see on today’s large “flat panel displays”.

But technology does not stand still. ITU-R Study Group 6 has now agreed a draft new recommendation on the technical details for UHDTV which is now being submitted to administrations for approval.

The ITU-R recommendation lays out the quality standards for UHDTV in two steps.

The advances made with each of these quality steps are roughly similar to the step from the old ‘standard definition television’ to ‘high definition television (HDTV)’. HDTV pictures today have the equivalent of between 1-2 megapixels.

The first level of UHDTV picture levels has the equivalent of about 8 megapixels (3 840 x 2 160 image system), and the next level comes with the equivalent of about 32 megapixels (7 680 x 4 320 image system).

As a shorthand way of describing them, they are sometimes called the ‘4K’ and ‘8K’ UHDTV systems.

Ultra high definition picture quality is accompanied by improved color fidelity, and options for higher numbers of pictures per second than for today’s television systems.

Hamadoun Touré, ITU secretary-general, described UHDTV as 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,” he said.

David Wood, chairman of ITU-R Working Party 6C (WP 6C), which developed the draft new 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 die is now cast, thanks to the untiring efforts of the international experts participating in WP6C.”

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