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12 months to 4K
T by Bob Pank
he closer you look at 4K UHD the more you see what needs to be done
to make it work from scene to screen. Until that pipe is complete no
practical service can flow to the consumer. The parts that are working
and available now are the cameras, recorders and post production. Beyond
those there are a few satellite transmission services and very few television
screens able to show the pictures. The first reported 4K set-top box was shown
at IBC receiving a Sky Deutschland 4K test feed from the Astra 2 satellite.
This from Technicolor STB is believed to be ready for delivery in about a year
– around IBC 2014 time. So UHD material is being produced, but mainly for
tests. This is only a trickle compared with the vast flow of SD and HD material
With the industry news being full of 4K stories, you might think that 4K TV is just
around the corner but we are a long way from a widely viewed UHD TV channel.
However this is no bad thing. HD started the same way, with the production and
post in place and in use for a considerable time before the delivery system and
TV sets were there in numbers.
Looking at home delivery, satellite transmission appears to be in the lead.
Eutelsat scored a first with the launch of its UHD channel in January 2013.
Its website says it is designed to benefit all actors in the broadcasting chain
who want to acquire expertise in 4K, including production companies, pay-TV
operators, rights owners and TV-set manufacturers. It is broadcasting in 50P
in four Quad HD streams at 40 Mb/s with MPEG-4 coding. A second channel
followed in September with HEVC encoding, operating at 30P. There is also a
third channel on the same Eutelsat 10A satellite dedicated to a partnership with
Samsung to promote UHD at point-of-sale outlets. That must be what I saw at
Currys! With the evolution in video compression from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 and now
to the upcoming HEVC, each change has roughly halved the data required for
48 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 84 DECEMBER 2013
TV pictures. Also DVB’s advanced
transmission systems T2, S2 and
C2 (terrestrial, satellite and cable) are
at least 30-percent more efficient at
carrying data than their predecessors.
Combined these allow over five-times
more video to be carried over the
same bandwidth. So, for example,
on a UK terrestrial Freeview multiplex
that typically now carries five Standard
Definition TV channels (MPEG-2,
T(1)) there could be, theoretically, 25
channels with HEVC compression and
T2 transmission! As 4K UHD images
are only 20 times the area of 576-
line SD, then there would be ample
room to carry one channel on one
multiplex... assuming 25 frames per
second, but many would argue that
50Hz is required.
Of course people will want to watch
UHD in the same ways as they do
with SD and HD, so some form
of download or recordable media
(DVD) is needed. Taking a typical
movie which is usually run at 24 f/s
it is estimated that this would require
somewhere about 100GB of storage.
Well, cometh the hour, cometh disc!
Right on cue the German company
Singulus Technologies recently
announced its development of a
new Blu-ray Disc. Dr.-Ing. Stefan
Rinck, Chief Executive Officer,
commented: “Just in time for the
market introduction of the new ultra-
high definition television technology,
we completed the development of the
production technology for the new
triple-layer Blu-ray Discs with 100GB
storage capacity”. The company also
states that the triple-layer Blu-ray
Discs with 100 GB storage capacity is
the preferred playback medium for the
new 4K technology.
Of course providers of on-demand
Internet streaming media think they
have the best way to deliver UHD
movies to homes. I would agree and
I’m delighted with my Virgin Media
connection that runs at 4 Mbits/s – but
slower in the evenings. But now I’ve
done the maths I see that would take