Japan launches first 'Ultra HD' broadcast - is it the future?

Rob Waugh

The Japanese government is to launch the first '4K' broadcasts this year - also known as 'Ultra HD', a new level of hi-def around four times sharper than current 'Full HD' sets.

Televisions which offer '4K' resolutions are already on sale in the UK - Sony offers a £17,000, 84-inch set  - but Japan's move is the first broadcast to offer the format.

The 4K 'Ultra HD' satellite broadcast will show the final of the 2014 World Cup, according to Japan's Asahi newspaper.

Download services from companies such as Sony will soon allow viewers to watch films in the format. Technology companies hope that 'Ultra HD' sets will replace 'Full HD'.

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The screens offer similar resolutions to the ones used by professional cinema cameras such as the Red One - so can show video as it was first captured.

The most common resolution of 'Ultra HD' is 4K, which has four times the number of pixels as HD - but companies such as Panasonic and Japanese broadcaster NHK are already experimenting with 8K.

A 4K resolution is 3840x2160 against the current 1920x1080 HD standard - around four times as sharp.

'Ultra HD' won't come on discs - instead, home users will download the films via broadband. Sony is to launch a download service in the U.S. this summer.

Sony claims that chips in its flagship television can scour normal Blu-Ray films for 'extra' detail, producing pictures far sharper than normal sets. In demonstrations, films looked stunning in the new resolution.

Not to be outdone, Panasconic teamed up with Japanese broadcaster NHK to create an ‘8K’ set - four times higher than its rivals, and 16 times sharper than Full HD.

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