The future of 4K revealed

IBC saw much discussion on the likely prospects for 4K transmission, how the technology might be implemented, possible costs for broadcasters, timetable of likely events that might trigger early adoption and how low prices of 4K flat panels might need to fall to gain consumer acceptance.

In other words, the assorted Plus and Minus points of the usual challenges. As a result of IBC’s coverage we now know that Sky Deutschland is keen, but BSkyB is not so enthusiastic about 4K. We know that the Rio de Janeiro Olympics will certainly have 8K coverage from NHK, but as to 4K much will depend on the influence of players like US rights-owner NBC and the EBU.

We also know that FIFA will not do much – if anything – in 4K/8K for their Brazil World Cup in 2014, although they have confirmed that 3D coverage will be provided for ESPN, and others. However, CAMERON | PACE Group’s announcement at IBC with BSkyB to provide 3D coverage of the upcoming Ryder Cup golf is another sign that 3D is far from dead. In fact, BSkyB’s John Cassy told IBC delegates that the recent Isle of Wight pop festival was shot in 3D at only a modest increase in costs.

So 3D is certainly alive and well, yet there’s little doubt that the industry is looking forward to the ‘next big thing’ as far as TV is concerned. SES tied in with Sony to use a giant 84” Bravia display to pump a live 4000-line satellite feed into IBC.  SES used the Astra 3B craft and a DVB-S2 signal, encoded in ‘ordinary’ MPEG-4 at 50 Mb/s. SES’ target next year is to use HEVC/H.265 encoding and  get the signal down to 20 Mb/s, which means a pair of channels could be carried on a single transponder. Good business for the satellite operators, and not too costly for broadcasters.

The general consensus seems to be that the pioneering pay-TV players will start with a single U-HD channel, probably with a couple of sports events per week, plus movies, plus some nice travelogue-type footage to showcase the technology. These could be in a repeating programming block to both raise awareness of the technology and to provide content for retail stores and showrooms.

Certainly, if the IBC demonstrations are any guide. The 4K satellite play-out generated huge interest, and a great deal of highly favourable comment. Now all that’s needed is for the assorted missing links to be engineered, and for prices of the displays to start falling to affordable levels.

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