Last Saturday, singer IU’s newest live performance video was revealed on YouTube. It was a landmark event since the video was formatted in 8K resolution, which easily outperforms 4K display.
A small number of those who purchased the prohibitively expensive and visually expansive 88-inch OLED TV from LG Electronics were lucky enough to get a glimpse of what the 8K technology could offer, thanks to the stunning image featuring IU’s equally exquisite live performance.
Just in case you have no idea who IU is, let me introduce her a bit. IU (whose name is Lee Ji-eun) is a top singer-songwriter and actress and has a huge fan base here -- so much so that a lot of Korean music fans helplessly stick to home-grown streaming music services largely because Apple Music, apparently due to copyright and contract issues, does not provide her music in the Korean market.
The 8K video uploaded on YouTube, in which IU belted out her hit song “You & I” on “You Heeyeol’s Sketchbook” music program, garnered more than 500,000 views, and is now deemed as a reference to check whether your 8K display works properly.
I watched the video with a new 4K computer monitor I bought recently. It was immensely impressive, even on 4K display. When I raised the resolution setting from 4K to 8K (fully aware that my screen is not designed to support 8K) on YouTube, the screen froze. It seems that my computer system, even with high-end options, found it hard to handle the enormous amount of digital data needed to stream 8K video.
What should be noted is that KBS, a state-run TV station which aired the special program, recorded IU’s performance in 8K resolution but opted for YouTube to distribute the showcase piece. Under the current TV infrastructure, local TV stations are ill-equipped to broadcast 8K video seamlessly. I reckon that this is why KBS decided to let those who have 8K TVs and top-end desktop computers check out the eye-popping quality of the video through YouTube.
For 8K TV makers such as LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics, IU’s live performance video is a blessing. Thanks to the high-profile video whose view count is likely to go up on the strength of IU’s popularity, TV makers can expect that the next-generation TV would be more readily accepted in the market, accelerating the shift from 4K to 8K.
A similar technological shift is underway in the gaming industry. Both Microsoft and Sony are now getting ready to launch their next-generation video consoles later this year, promising better graphics and performance. The new machines support 4K video at 128 frames per second, a clear upgrade from today’s mainstream gaming systems.
Microsoft, in particular, pins high hopes on Xbox Game Pass, a video game subscription service, which is “Netflix for video games.” Many Korean gamers at major online communities are talking about whether such subscription services could succeed, especially after Microsoft surprised the market this week by acquiring renowned US-based game developer Bethesda for $7.5 billion.
Some users are considering PC-based gameplay after buying a Xbox Game Pass, while bypassing the purchase of the new console. The reason is the much-awaited debut of next-generation graphics cards, namely Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090 series.
On Wednesday, two US tech YouTubers -- Marques Brownlee and Linus Sebastian -- rolled out videos introducing the sizzling appeal of 8K gaming powered by RTX 3090 graphics cards. Both videos were based on LG’s 88-inch OLED TV, whose retail price in Korea is set at more than 44 million won (about $37,000).
To enjoy watching IU’s live performance in 8K format on a big screen, you would have to spend a lot of money upgrading your desktop computer system. The full-fledged 8K video, whether it’s a live performance on YouTube or gaming, requires the latest CPU, graphics card, TV set and other related components for a powerful desktop PC.
Is it worth it? If you watch IU’s performance in 4K or lower resolution and find it good enough, a pricey upgrade to the 8K computer system could be premature. After all, 8K technology will eventually replace 4K in the coming years. Until then, many IU fans will likely feel that their smartphone screen is big enough as long as they can watch her impeccable performance.
By Yang Sung-jin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Yang Sung-jin is the multimedia editor of The Korea Herald. -- Ed.