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First look ... Super Hi-Vision

With the latest generation of LCD televisions at under £300, high-definition sets are now within the reach of almost everyone.

And with HD programming becoming more widespread, broadcasters are already starting to look at the next generation of ultra-high-definition technology.

I was invited to a special screening of the Olympics at the BBC's Glasgow studios to demonstrate the latest technology, known as Super Hi-Vision. Pioneered by Japanese research organisation NHK, this standard promises images with 16 times the detail of current high-def broadcasts.

Sound also gets a boost – while most televisions pump out two-channel stereo or, at best, six-channel surround sound, the new technology boasts 24 sound sources. The speakers, located in front, behind, above and below the viewer, put the audience in the middle of the show.

The Pacific Quay demo pushed the limits of technology on several fronts. The cameras, which cost close to £1 million each, have viewfinders that can show only a fraction of the detail the camera is recording. It's therefore left to an operator in a truck watching a 85in screen to control the camera's focus remotely.

The volume of data generated by these cameras is incredible, filling a massive 64GB memory card every four minutes. To get that data from London to Glasgow in near-real-time required a concerted effort from the BBC and Janet, the UK's dedicated education and research network.

Displaying the end result is also no mean feat – while regular HD televisions are commodity items, the ultra-HD projector required for Super Hi-Vision is one of just a handful of hand-built prototypes reportedly costing close to £1m a time.

Although the technology is undoubtedly impressive, I was left slightly underwhelmed by the demo. The static, wide-angle view imposed by the bulky prototype cameras was less engaging than the mobile, close-up views we've come to expect from standard high-def technology.

Ironically, despite the level of detail on offer, you could see less of the action and athletes' emotion than you'd see on a regular television. The effect was more like having a good seat in the stadium than being in the heart of the action.

Perhaps most tellingly, everyone I spoke to after the event was raving about the sound rather than the picture. While I too was blown away by the audio, I'm unconvinced that most families will be willing to festoon their living rooms with 24 speakers in order to recreate the effect at home.

I have to congratulate the BBC, NHK and Janet for pulling such a cutting-edge demo together, but I suspect that by the time this ultra-HD content reaches our homes in 10 to 15 years, it will have little in common with the technology demonstrated today.

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