It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the industry was shifting gears from SD to HD production and
telecasting; however, those 720 and 1080 resolutions are now fast becoming passé as ultra-
high-definition (UHD) television departs the laboratory and moves into consumers’ homes.
Actually, this may happen sooner than expected as it’s difficult to find a “big box store” or even a
“mom and pop” retailer that isn’t featuring 4K receivers. Neither the U.S. broadcasting system, nor
cable providers can accommodate the extra scanning lines, but that isn’t stopping set owners or the
content producing community from gearing up for TV’s next quantum shift.
And if the consumer side of the television equation is gearing up for higher line counts, it behooves
content producers and broadcasters to start getting ready for the next wave. Many of the larger
production companies and a good number of savvy smaller outfits have already been testing the 4K
waters, as having UHD content “in the can” translates to money in the bank when 4K distribution to
the consumer is enabled on a large scale.
However, converting to this higher resolution standard isn’t as simple as just purchasing a new camera
from one of the many companies offering such technology. Storage, viewing, signal monitoring,
editing, effects, graphics generation and more must be taken into consideration. And sneaking into
most any discussion about television’s next advance are such terms as wider color gamuts, high
dynamic range (HDR) and higher frame rates (HFR).
GETTING UP CLOSE
NAB Show is the perfect place to judge for yourself where UHD stands today and where it’s headed. In
addition to getting “hands-on” time with 4K gear from scores of manufacturers on the exhibit floor,
there are more than a dozen technical and production seminars and presentations targeted in whole
or in part toward this next seachange in television.
Sara Kudrie, who is product marketing manager at Grass Valley (a Belden brand), is one of those
presenters and believes that IP technology will be a part of the UHD picture when it becomes
universal. Her session “4K and IP Converge” ran yesterday.
“Broadcast and content production chains are increasingly using UHD and IP technologies,” said
Kudrie. “Capturing high value content in the highest resolution, including HDR and HFR, is essential
to protecting future residual value of content, but can require higher bandwidth than SDI supports.
Growth in IP technology and the introduction of software-defined networks allow broadcast
equipment vendors to incorporate IP into their products and manage them in ways consistent with SDI
workflows, providing a smooth, familiar operator experience.”
Bob Caniglia, senior regional manager for Eastern North
America at Blackmagic Design, also believes UHD is well
past the starting gate. His company has been developing
and marketing 4K products for some time now.
“It’s great to see more and more users discovering that
broadcasting in 4K can be affordable,” said Caniglia.
“Web channels like YouTube and Vimeo are already
delivering 4K content, and it’s only growing from there.
We’re seeing increased demand for 4K and UltraHD
products as a result, and here at Blackmagic Design, we
now offer more than 30 4K products that can handle SD,
HD and 4K content now or when customers need it.
Technology doesn’t wait for anyone, and by investing in
scalable affordable products like these, customers can
prepare themselves for the future of broadcasting.”
GETTING UHD TO THE VIEWER
Caniglia did hit on one slightly sore spot associated with 4K content — that’s the limited availability of
this product to consumers, as present-day cable and over-the-air broadcasting technologies just can’t
yet offer enough bits to make home delivery possible.
This potential bottleneck is being addressed by the U.S. Advanced Television Systems Committee, or
ATSC. That group was responsible for the digital HD broadcasting standard that became universal in
2009 and is hard at work in putting the finishing touches on the “next gen” standard, ATSC 3.0 that
will provide a sufficiently wide conduit to deliver 4K video directly into viewers’ homes on a wide-scale
NAB Show organizers believe ATSC 3.0 will play such a significant part in broadcast television’s future
that they have scheduled 10 sessions addressing this transmission technology, including a special
three-hour Sunday afternoon tutorial session that featured presentations from some of the best and
brightest in television engineering circles. Richard Chernock, chief scientific officer at Triveni Digital,
chaired the session and offered his comments about the role of ATSC 3.0 in developing UHD.
“Through the use of advanced coding technologies and a more efficient and robust physical layer,
ATSC 3.0 will give broadcasters the opportunity to provide improvements in video and audio quality in
their programming,” said Chernock. “For video [the standard will allow] UHD to be enabled, which
includes resolution of 4K (possibly 8K in the future), higher dynamic range, wider color gamut and
higher frame rates. The broadcaster will have the option of using any or all of these UHD tools.”
The ATSC Technology Pavilion, located on the exhibit floor in
the North Hall, features technologies related to new and
emerging ATSC standards including audio loudness, non-real
time, ATSC 2.0 and ATSC 3.0, mobile DTV, broadcast 3DTV
and other areas of interest.
4K CONTENT PRODUCTION
The other side of the UHD equation is generating 4K content to fill these planned new pipelines to the consumer’s 4K set. However, UHD production is not quite as simple as purchasing a new camera.
Production aspects of UHD are being addressed by a special
day-long Post|Production World session on Wednesday that
examines 4K production and post-production techniques and
challenges. The session “4K Workflows” will be conducted by
Studio 47’s Gary Adcock, and special guests DPs Geoff
Boyle and Art Adams. The seminar is designed to provide attendees with a basic overview of 4K/UHD technology and then rapidly drill down into such workflow specifics as the best way to accommodate the massive amount of data generated by 4K cameras, an explanation of the differences between
broadcast and cinema 4K formats, 4K bit depths and frame rates, the best cameras for 4K content
capture, options for editing and animation, UHD content delivery options and much more.
There’s little doubt television is headed for increasingly higher resolutions. This has been a truism
ever since the British government launched the world’s first high-definition television service in 1936.
That was nearly 80 years ago and line count was 405. Any guesses as to where we’ll be in another 80
years or even five?