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Japan's display makers aim at 'ultra' HD displays

Posted: 18 Dec 2006     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:HDTV  DCI format  JPEG200  JVC  Sony 

As the rest of the world grapples with its "first" transition to HDTV, demonstrations of third- and fourth-generation "super" or "ultra" high-definition (HD) displays, with resolutions eight to 16 times Sharper than current offerings, were all the rage at recent electronics and display trade shows in Japan.

Full-HD resolution (1,080 x 1,920pixels), often described as "2k" because of its horizontal resolution lines, is already the norm in Japan, where flat-panel display companies are fiercely competing to promote their products.

But for Japan's electronics industry, determined to preserve its lead in the next-generation display market, 2k is rapidly becoming obsolete. At two trade shows in October, Ceatec Japan 2006 and FPD International 2006, Japanese exhibitors said that they are aiming for "supreme picture quality," by offering 4k: 2,160-by-4,096pixels.

These vendors regard the Digital Cinema System Specification (DCI) format, which was defined by Digital Cinema Initiatives LLC in July 2005, as their target spec. Digital Cinema Initiatives—a joint venture of Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal and Warner Bros. Studios—was formed to promote an open architecture for digital cinema.

DCI for home

At FPD International, Sadayasu Ono, a professor at the Research Institute for Digital Media and Content at Keio University, said that the DCI format will be used not only for delivering movies to theaters, but also for online-content distribution to a variety of places, including the home. Ono, one of the originators of DCI, predicted that the format will enter the home market in less than 10 years.

The DCI format specifies 4k resolution and a 12bit grey scale with XYZ colour space. It uses Motion JPEG200 for video compression and has a data transfer rate of 250Mbps.

DCI-compliant display?

Sharp Corp. has already developed and demonstrated a 64-inch LCD display prototype with 8.84 million pixels that complies with the DCI specification.

To date, the industry has developed displays in tandem with the progress of the broadcast or package media format, said Mikio Katayama, corporate executive senior director of Sharp. "But that's changing now," he said. "Display technology evolution is surpassing content and infrastructure evolution."

The two display technologies that deliver high-resolution images based on DCI are SXRD, from Sony Corp., and D-ILA, from Victor Company of Japan Ltd (JVC), currently in a number of digital cinema trials.

As display engineers gear up for DCI, they face challenges in upgrading input devices—cameras—for DCI resolution. "It is technically possible to build a camera capable of DCI resolution. But the initial demand for such a camera will be limited to professional use," said Ono.

At present, Olympus Corp.'s camera captures images in 4k resolution, but it does not comply with the DCI spec. Today, the DCI format is limited to motion picture films.

A project that the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) launched in the mid-'90s for next-generation displays, dubbed Super Hi-vision, sought a resolution of 4,320-by-7,680pixels (or 8k, counted by horizontal resolution). That resolution is 16 times sharper than present full-HD displays (1,080-by-1,920pixels).

NHK's proposal was submitted to the International Telecommunication Union and was approved in July as ITU-R BT.1769, an extension to Large Screen Digital Imagery.

"NHK's goal is to develop the Super Hi-vision system for future broadcasting. It's not aimed at replacing cinema," said Yuji Nojiri, a senior researcher at NHK's Science and Technology Research Labouratory and the leader of the Super Hi-vision project.

The big challenge in developing Super Hi-vision is the camera. NHK is shooting video footage on a camera with four (RGGB) 8Mpixel CMOS sensors, each of which captures images in red, green1, green2 and blue at 60fps. Micron Technology supplied 1.25-inch, 8-Mpixel CMOS sensors for the cameras.

"We need a 32Mpixel sensor to build a full-specification camera," said Nojiri.

Although NHK may not start broadcasting Super Hi-vision for 15 to 20 years, the technology is already being implemented in other applications in Japan. Two museums last year introduced Super Hi-vision systems to display art collections normally kept in storage.

In pursuit of high-resolution display technologies, JVC has been working on its D-ILA microdevice-based projectors. The company supplies its projectors to NHK for the Super Hi-vision project. Separately, JVC demonstrated realistic 3D images using two DCI-class projectors at Ceatec.

When 3D images are created, the original resolution is reduced 50 per cent because images are split to generate right- and left-eye images. But in JVC's demonstration, in which two 4k projectors were used, the company employed 4k images for each eye, offering double the resolution of current, 2k-based HD images. The two 4k projectors generated 3D images that looked very natural, defying the conventional wisdom that 3D images tend to look artificial.

Anticipating commercial potential in 4k-class image-creation systems, JVC has already developed and tested a corresponding 4k-resolution video camera. The camera uses three 8Mpixel CMOS sensors for red, blue and green.

"We successfully captured natural 4k images with our new camera," said Takashi Kuriyama, senior staff engineer at JVC's Innovative Imaging Unit.

- Yoshiko Hara
EE Times

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