8K – Have we had enough?

The September issue of the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal is given to an industry progress report, and an article titled Display Technology 2020: The Winds are Shifting https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9184289 by Peter Putnam caught my eye.  In it he states “… 8K television sales have not lived up to market forecasts; presumably, consumers cannot see any real advantage to upgrade from big, cheap UHD models.”  Though this is just one observation at one moment in time, is it possible that we’ll be able to briefly catch our breaths in this seemingly endless technology chase? 

Professional A/V came to terms with the consumer display market years ago, as we moved away from projectors and into LCD flat panels.  The size of the home television market dwarfs us.  And so things like content protection and HDMI connectors have entered the professional space.  There’s been some benefit in places (carrying media on a single cable, for instance), but mostly these features target other interests – manufacturers, content producers, early-adopter home theater junkies.  In our line of work, we’ve just had to accept them.  And clients want them; it’s not unusual to hear “My system at home can do this; I want to do it here.

Advances in display technology have been a mixed blessing for my projects.  Increasing display performance only achieves so much; the human eye isn’t getting any better.  More pixels in an image requires more involved signal distribution and switching, and support for high dynamic range only increases the challenge.  Systems become more complex, standardization suffers, and costs don’t drop as rapidly as they might.  Yes, we are able to achieve more lifelike images, but how does this translate into decision-making in the conference room, or learning at school?  The goal after all is not the technology itself.

I have no doubt that 8K displays are in our future, but I’m in no hurry.  Steerable loudspeakers, unified communications (UC), networked video: there are plenty of other technologies to keep up with.  And I’m heartened to know that consumers do at times take a step back; look at what happened with 3D.