Speakers at a MIPTV 4K Ultra HD Conference session on ‘The New Ultra HD Broadcasters’ have expressed their confidence in the prospects for the format, admitting their roles in launching such services has enable many valuable lessons to be learned.
Dr Michael Schiffer, CEO EnStyle/pearl.tv noted that although there is widespread availability of 4K capture devices – even down to the level of smartphones – the reality had been that when the company planned it April 2015 launch of its 4K shopping channel in Germany, the industry was not at all ready for 4K. “They might be ready for playout, they might be ready for demonstrations, but they are not at all prepared for a bigger amount of hours of material.”
pearl.tv is currently producing around eight hours of live material per day, rising to 15 in May, having produced to date 1,600 hours of live material. Storage of the content had proved problematic, as well as transmission from one office to the next. “Today we physically carry around SSD drives because its faster than using the network,” he admitted.
Stuart Smitherman, President of Vivicast Media, suggested that in a world where broadcasters were increasingly worried about losing millennial viewers to online, UHD was one innovation that would help bring them back. “The reality is that millennials are watching more, not less TV. What I want them to do is watch it in UHD,” he declared, suggesting that broadcasters had an advantage over OTT players. “Broadcast is the only way for content creators to show their 4K content in the resolution intended, with no spinning wheels and no degradation of picture quality because of bandwidth limitations in-home.”
He said that working the broadcaster’s UHD-1 service had enabled it to learn and continue to learn about audience expectations, and revealed plans to survey its audiences later in the year to find out what type of content and what type of genres actually fit in and what they are actually interested in.
Peter Alexander, SVP/CMO at broadcast infrastructure specialist Harmonic, noted that in view of a lack of suitable material for trade show demoes, the company was using other people’s footage, which was branded to such an extent that it was difficult to see what the equipment did and what was in the content. “One of my first decisions [on assuming the role] was for Harmonic to start generating its own content … and do it all in 4K.” Harmonic is now licensing material to 100 companies.
He said that Harmonic had invested considerable sums in developing systems that will be used for UHD, and had discovered that the industry was moving very slowly. “Consumers are way ahead of us,” he suggested, admitting that very few people were buying it. “UHD is only successful ultimately if the major broadcast networks such as HBO and those who carry the European Champions League and the English Premier League are using it. It’s not successful if you can’t get those things in UHD, and that’s really quite a way off,” he added.
Accordingly, Harmonic had thought about how to accelerate such developments, and one such initiative was to build channels that would demonstrate how it’s done and how problems with technology had been addressed. “Having built the equipment we thought ‘let’s exercise it’ …and showcase it.”
Alongside such efforts, it had launched a number of demonstration channels across the continents and discussions with NASA regarding footage had led to the creation of NASA TV UHD. “We believe it is the lowest bandwidth channel out there. We use 13.5 megabits per second. Most of the channels out there are 20 to 50 megabits per second.”