The 4K Conundrum


Eric Achtmann TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
by Eric Achtmann
Issue 108 - December 2015

2015 has confirmed once more that 4K remains the TV industrys Holy Grail. While 4K TV screens are becoming more affordable and Netflix, Amazon Prime and even YouTube are beginning to offer some 4K content, mass adoption is still sluggish as the increases in bandwidth required for distribution make 4K business models difficult to stack-up.

For instance where a traditional HD broadcast requires around 2.7Mbps, 4K consumes between 10Mbps and 18Mbps depending on a number of factors. This bandwidth increase impacts all modes of delivery from available radio spectrum to broadband bandwidth and requires increased investment in core network infrastructure to support mass consumption levels of 4K video.

According to data from Akamai, less than 14% of the global broadband connections can support 15 Mbps, the midpoint bandwidth for 4K delivery. As many broadband networks use contention, this figure would undoubtedly drop if multiple users started to continually stream 4K content. Another inhibitor is the transition in revenue stream for telecoms providers from minutes of voice to units of data transfer. Where the phrase unlimited in reality turns to capacity limits of 30GB per month from a provider like BT, the UKs largest ISP, a customer would hit the monthly bandwidth limit by viewing a single 4K movie a week. Even more generous providers such as AT&Ts u-verse service with its 250GB cap would make it impossible to binge on a season of House of Cards in 4K without hitting usage ceilings and incurring charges.

One way to make 4K a viable option is to use more efficient compression to reduce the bandwidth requirements. This is particularly important as Ciscos research suggests that 80% of all consumer internet traffic will be video by 2019. Although 4K is effectively 4 times the resolution of HD, newer compression technologies ensures it does not consume 4 times the bandwidth. In the same way that technology has advanced to make microprocessor smaller with lower energy consumption and more compute power per nanometre, modern compression technologies have evolved to take advantage of the immense processing power at hand.

However legacy block-based codecs such as AVC/ H.264 and HEVC/ H.265 are built upon fundamental principles based on the technology from 30 years ago to achieve the delivery of SD video at 2 to 4 Kbps per frame. Because of the limitations caused by these underlying fundamental principles, these legacy block-based codecs cannot take advantage of all the greater power within modern CE devices. Todays TV landscape requires compression technology that can deliver Ultra HD content in 10 Mbps or less, which means that a new video compression paradigm is now a necessity for operators looking to deliver UHD at lower bitrates to extend the reach of their video offerings.

Using parallelism, newer codecs break compression into discreet tasks that can be processed simultaneously to solve the fundamental issue of 4Ks staggering bandwidth consumption. Our new codec PERSEUS exemplifies this shift. The technology is built around the current generation of processors on a newer set of mathematical transforms designed for the visual characteristics of 4K and beyond, all the while running on existing off-the-shelf hardware to reduce costs. Critically, PERSEUS is also designed to work over todays infrastructure and workflows and even enable operators to use PERSEUS in combination with legacy MPEG codecs.

The issue of squeezing increasingly high bandwidth video down small pipes is even more pressing for the burgeoning mobile video market. Delivering HD content over crowded 3G and fledgling 4G networks is an initial challenge that the new era of compression technologies need to solve. In a recent trial using PERSEUS, British telecom giant EE streamed 4K quality video live over its 4G network without disruption, whether in central London at rush hour, or in rural areas such the New Forest. This demonstrates that compression technology can help operators deliver any type of content to any device over any network seamlessly and without interruption.

The new compression technologies such as PERSEUS also solve the bandwidth issue by reducing the number of streams needed to serve audiences with different quality requirements. By virtue of its hierarchical format, PERSEUS is natively multi-scale, meaning that all levels of quality for any given content may be contained in a single file or stream. For example, content may be distributed to set-top-boxes (STB) in 10Mpbs UHD while the stream can then be stripped off and viewed on mobile device quality at SD rates as low as 0.125 Mbps.

This combination of advanced compression and multi-scale delivery offers the potential to improve the bandwidth demands in future applications such as immersive TV, glasses-less 3D, High Dynamic Range broadcast and the relentless rise of video gaming.

Compression technology will play a crucial part in solving the 4K conundrum, and utilising new codecs that address the business, bandwidth, picture quality and workflow challenges will enable operators to offer better content across a larger range of devices to any type of consumer.


Tags: iss108 | v-nova | codec | akamai | Eric Achtmann
Contributing Author Eric Achtmann

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • BOXER showcase AJA, Newtek, Grass Valley, Qumulo, V-Nova and Telestream at BVE 2019

    BOXER showcase AJA, Newtek, Grass Valley, Qumulo, V-Nova and Telestream at BVE 2019

  • Cinegy Daniel 2 Codec shown at IBC 2018

    Cinegy Daniel 2 Codec shown at IBC 2018

  • Cinegy 8k daniel2 workflow from glass to glass at IBC 2019

    Cinegy 8k daniel2 workflow from glass to glass at IBC 2019

  • Glensound Dante at IBC 2014

    Glensound Dante at IBC 2014

  • JVC GY-HM650 upgrade at NAB 2013

    JVC GY-HM650 upgrade at NAB 2013

  • ATOMOS at BVE North 2012

    ATOMOS at BVE North 2012

  • Telestream at NAB 2012

    Telestream at NAB 2012

  • Prodys at IBC2011

    Prodys at IBC2011


Related Shows
  • The KitPlus Tv Guests of Season 2

    The KitPlus Tv Guests of Season 2


Articles
Sennheiser MKE 400 hands on review and test
KitPlus

Sennheiser have just released two products aimed at simplifying audio on the move, the MKE400 shotgun microphone and the XS Lav Mic, in this review we’re looking at the MKE400.

Tags: sennheiser mke400 | sennheiser mke 400 | sennheiser mke 400 quality | best microphones for youtube | mic for youtube videos | sennheiser mke 400 hands on | microphone review | iphone videography | microphones | sound for video | camera microphone | microphone for iphone | microphone for youtube | video microphone | shotgun mics | smartphone microphone | vlogging mic | best microphone for video | shotgun microphone review | mke 400 | sennheiser mke 400 hands on review | sennheiser mke 400 test | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read
A Broadcasters Guide to Microservices
Roger Persson

The word “microservices” has been creeping into the conversation about software-centric systems recently. Is it really a different approach, what does it mean, and what are the advantages?

Tags: nxt edition | microservices | modular software | Roger Persson
Contributing Author Roger Persson Click to read
Streaming Technologies Explained
Bruce Devlin - new

The word streaming can relate to different technologies from different manufacturers in different scenarios and in this short article we are going to take a little tour of what it all means. 

Tags: mr mxf | streaming | hls | dash | cmaf | mpeg | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read
REVIEW - Hollyland MARS 400S PRO Digital Wireless Transmission System
Phil Vinter

Built by Hollyland and costing around £600 the Mars 400S is an easy-to-use wireless video transmitter/receiver system – it will be right up the alley of anyone who, like me, considers an instruction manual to be nothing more than box padding.

Read Phils Full review here, and link to the video review.

Tags: HOLLYLAND | MARS 400 | wireless | tx | rx | Phil Vinter
Contributing Author Phil Vinter Click to read
HOLLYLAND LARK 150 Review
Phil Vinter

The exponential growth of video supercharged a technological revolution that began in the early noughties with the advent of DSLR cameras.
The cinematic-style shallow depth of field image video quality from DSLRs was a revelation, but, back then audio was the big drawback. As demand has grown so the technology has improved and today’s one-man-band small rig set ups can capture pretty good sound into a DSLR style camera.

Phil Vinter reviews the latest release from HOLLYLAND and it's a thumbs up from us.

Tags: HOLLYLAND | radio mic | audio | LARK-150 | CVP | Phil Vinter
Contributing Author Phil Vinter Click to read