Intel demos 8K HDR streaming during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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Intel has successfully tested the first 8K HDR stream, broadcasting the Tokyo Olympics from Tokyo to Los Angeles. It was the first stream of its kind, and showed the Olympics in an unseen level of quality, including 60fps playback. 

The special stream was achieved using Intel’s technology, so don’t expect to see 8K streams become the regular just yet. Intel accomplished the feat with 4 primary steps, capture, compress using Intel Xeon, distribute and then display across compatible devices.

How is this possible?

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So, this is going to get quite tech heavy. Please bear with me. Japanese broadcaster NHK captured the footage at 7680x4320 and 60fps with a 10-bit HLG high dynamic range. The captured footage also used a 4:2:2 chroma subsampling which was done by the Sony F65 CineAlta cameras which captured everything. 

Unsurprisingly, all that captured footage required a lot of data. The raw data for the broadcast required a 48Gbps bandwidth, which was then converted to a 4x12G SDI electrical signal through the Olympic Broadcasting Service. Just for comparison, the average bandwidth in the UK according to Ofcom last May was 71.8Mbps. 

From here, the raw data was encoded in real-time using Spin Digital Enc Live V1.0 HEVC codec on a server with four Intel Xeon CPUs for a total of 112 cores. The output signal was 250mps, while the distribution signal was somewhere between 50 and 100mbps thanks to 4:2:0 subsampling. That real-time encoding and impression was performed with a latency of only 250 to 400 milliseconds. 

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Intel demonstration

Intel demonstrated the 8K stream to a number of press members, including TechHive. Even the set up streaming the broadcast required a pretty impressive set of specs. Intel used a PC with a Xeon processor that had 18 cores alongside 64gb of RAM. Intel displayed the stream on a 75-inch 8K using a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. 

The stream of the Tokyo Olympics used around 42% of the CPU’s capacity and 32% of the GPU’s performance. Reporter Scott Wilkinson described the broadcast as “amazingly sharp with loads of detail”. He could even see minor details like names on badges. 

8K streaming won’t be commonplace in the UK soon, but users in Japan and Brazil have been able to access 8K content for some time. 8K TV adoption is still relatively low in the UK, with a Gfk report in 2019 estimating that fewer than 1,000 sets had been sold nationally. 

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