TV-BAY Magazine

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CONNECTED 4k streaming and the future of 8k by Keith Wymbs, Elemental T here is little doubt that 4k and Ultra HD video will take hold over the next three years. These higher-resolution video types are a genuine advance from traditional HD – and they likely will progress more quickly than their HD predecessor given the solid digital foundation now in place and advances such as high-efficiency video coding (HEVC/H.265). A recent Elemental customer survey bears this out with 74% of respondents – who represented a broad cross-section of broadcasters, pay TV operators, sports programmers and over-the-top service providers -- reporting that they are likely or very likely to adopt 4k technology by 2016. In the same survey, 88% of respondents said they were likely to adopt HEVC. 88% Likely to Adopt HEVC by 2016 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 Elemental Customer Survey, Dec 2013 (n=232) 134 70 12 16 Don't know Not at all likely Possibly Very Likely 74% Likely to Adopt 4K/UltraHD Delivery by 2016 Elemental Customer Survey, Dec 2013 (n=231) 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 89 82 Possibly Very Likely 48 12 Don't know Not at all likely As 4k content, services, chips and STBs become more available and consumer demand ramps, content creators are beginning to future proof productions for higher- resolution formats. Given the more fl exible time constraints for on-demand video, online streaming services will likely be the fi rst to offer 4k UHD TV content. Netfl ix and Amazon have both announced original series shot in 4k and at CES 2014, even GoPro featured 4k content (much of which was encoded with Elemental video processing software). When consumers are able to produce stunning content like this from a camera mounted on their head or bike or skateboard, there clearly is a bit of momentum in play. 62 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 87 MARCH 2014 In the shorter term, 2014 will be known as the Year of 4k and Ultra HD Trials. Broadcasters, sports programmers and pay TV operators are now in intensive investigation mode, testing acquisition, production, and delivery workfl ows. We’ve seen that over the past few months with high-profi le live sports events such as the Super Bowl in the U.S. (CBS) and the Sochi 2014 Olympics (Comcast NBC and multiple Russian state broadcasters, including Channel One and NTV-PLUS). In terms of 8k, while Japanese national broadcaster NHK has set a 2020 date to begin satellite broadcasts of 8k content in alignment with the Olympics taking place in the country that year, there’s some doubt about its in-home applicability. Advancing the art of the possible: Streaming in 4k and UHD With any major technology advancement, there are equally signifi cant challenges. In terms of 4k and UHD, the most signifi cant of these may well be streaming higher-resolution content. Ironically, it also may be the area in which we’ve seen the most progress in terms of technology advances and key milestones achieved. To start, bandwidth required to delivery UHD is signifi cant, and there are only two fundamental ways to cope with this: have more bandwidth or reduce bandwidth required. The HEVC compression codec is a key enabler for 4k services. With four times the resolution of high-defi nition (HD), 4k content will require signifi cant upgrades to current MPEG-2 and advanced video coding (AVC/H.264) infrastructures. The bandwidth required for H.264 compressed 4k content (35+ Mbps) is prohibitive. Designed to deliver an average bit rate reduction of up to 50% compared to H.264, HEVC shrinks bitrates required for 4k to potentially less than 10 Mbps. However available bandwidth, particularly with streamed content, varies greatly. It differs by operators, devices, regions, countries and even on a neighborhood-by- neighborhood basis. For live streamed services, the