8K resolution refers to an image or display resolution with a width of approximately 8,000 pixels. While 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) has become commonplace in recent years, 8K represents the next frontier for ultra-high definition displays and content. However, 8K is still in its infancy and there are questions around whether there is a meaningful amount of 8K content available today. In this article, we’ll examine the current state of 8K content creation and availability.
What is 8K resolution?
8K resolution has a resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels, which equates to approximately 33 million pixels in total. This is four times the resolution of 4K and 16 times the resolution of Full HD 1080p.
Such a high resolution results in extremely clear and detailed visuals, with pixels being virtually indistinguishable to the human eye in many display scenarios. As a reference, 8K allows for a screen size of over 100-inches while still retaining the pixel density to deliver a visibly sharp image.
8K is the highest resolution defined in common consumer display and content standards. Beyond 8K there is currently no established format, although proprietary formats beyond 8K are in development.
8K display technology
While 8K content availability remains limited, 8K capable displays are becoming increasingly available to consumers:
- Major TV manufacturers like LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL and others now sell 8K TV models.
- 8K computer monitors are also coming to market, like Dell’s $5,000 32-inch 8K monitor aimed at professionals.
- Projectors capable of 8K are also beginning to emerge, although remain prohibitively expensive for most consumers.
So the technology exists to make use of 8K content, at least for those willing to pay a premium over mainstream 4K screens. But having an 8K screen is only worthwhile if there is 8K content to view on it.
Availability of 8K content from streaming services
Streaming services offer the most convenient way to access 8K content. However, native 8K content selections remain very limited at this stage.
YouTube supports uploading and streaming 8K content. While YouTube does not yet specify how many 8K videos are available, searching “8K” reveals a growing selection of demo clips and nature/cityscape footage shot in 8K. However, major Hollywood movies and TV shows are not available. YouTube uses the AV1 video codec that helps reduce the high bandwidth demands of streaming 8K.
Netflix experimented with streaming a few selections of demo and nature documentary 8K content, but no longer seems to offer any native 8K content. Their 4K streaming bitrate is currently not sufficient to support a quality 8K streaming experience.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video does not support any native 8K content streaming at this time.
Vimeo also supports uploading and streaming 8K videos. A search for “8K” again reveals demo clips, test footage and some limited travel/nature content, but no major commercial releases.
Other streaming services
No other major consumer streaming platforms are currently offering native 8K content. Services like Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Apple TV+ currently top out at 4K resolution for supported titles.
However, in the future, streaming services are expected to offer select 8K content for users with sufficient internet speeds and bandwidth. But for now, options are very minimal.
8K Blu-ray discs
Physical media like Blu-ray discs can support 8K resolution. However, commercially available movie titles on 8K Blu-ray remain scarce:
- In late 2021, Sony released a limited 8K Movie Collection box set aimed at showing off 8K TV technology. It included 10 films remastered in 8K such as Ghostbusters, Spiderman: Far From Home, and Jumanji: The Next Level.
- In early 2022, major Hollywood studios began releasing some theatrical films on 8K Blu-ray discs including American Gangster and Passengers.
- A few dozen 8K movie titles have been released to date, but mainstream adoption by studios remains extremely limited.
The advantage of physical discs is they avoid the bandwidth constraints of streaming 8K, which can require up to 100 Mbps speeds. However, the niche availability and inconvenience of discs makes this an impractical source of 8K content for most.
While developing slowly, 8K broadcast technology is being trialed by a few players:
- During the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japanese broadcaster NHK aired select events in 8K.
- In late 2021, Rakuten TV broadcast a selection of soccer matches in 8K in Europe.
- Chinese state broadcaster CCTV plans to air the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in 8K.
However, 8K broadcasts remain highly experimental and are not yet offered by any mainstream broadcast or cable channels. The massive bandwidth requirements are a key technical and infrastructure barrier.
8K user generated and specialty content
Beyond commercially produced content, users can find a selection of specialty 8K content created by prosumers and specialty content producers:
- YouTube features various 8K demo reels, tech product reviews and footage, though most are not dedicated video creators.
- Vimeo has a category of staff-curated 8K videos showing travel, cityscape, nature and artistic footage.
- Specialty sites like Harmonic’s 8K UHD Content Demo offer art and nature clips.
- Some videography sites offer 8K sample footage to highlight camera capabilities.
While interesting for demo purposes, this user generated and specialty footage represents a niche amount of content relative to mainstream consumer demands.
Challenges for wider 8K content adoption
There are a few key challenges currently slowing mainstream adoption of 8K content:
- Production costs: Capturing footage, editing, post-production and visual effects at 8K resolutions remain costly for studios and creators.
- Bandwidth limitations: Streaming or broadcasting 8K requires major infrastructure investments to support the massive data throughput.
- Limited customer demand: With 4K adoption still ramping up, there are questions whether consumers want or can discern benefits of 8K currently.
- Monetization difficulties: The tiny user base makes recouping costs of 8K content production difficult for commercial studios.
For niche professional and demonstration purposes 8K makes sense, but the business case around mainstream 8K content remains uncertain for commercial players.
The outlook for 8K content
While native 8K content remains scarce, looking ahead there are a few factors that could spur greater 8K content creation and adoption:
- As 8K screens decline in price and become mainstream, consumer demand will grow.
- Network and broadcasting infrastructure upgrades will enable wider delivery.
- Production costs and complexity will decrease over time as technology improves.
- Movie studios and streaming players will use 8K to differentiate and compete for customers.
However experts estimate it will likely take at least 3-5 more years before 8K content begins achieving meaningful penetration. Until then, 4K will continue dominating as the leading premium resolution for displays and content.
While 8K represents the future plateau for video resolution, native 8K content remains extremely limited today, outside of some demo clips, specialty footage, and a selection of physical media. Significant technical and infrastructure barriers around distributing and streaming 8K at scale remain. And major commercial studios are still hesitant about allocating resources to an unclear market. However, as prices come down and more consumers adopt 8K displays, content creators will gradually shift focus and 8K will become the new cutting-edge benchmark. But for now, 4K continues satisfying the resolution needs of most viewers and there is only a niche amount of native 8K content available.