[opendtv] TV Technology: What is the reality of UHDTV/4KTV today?

  • From: "Manfredi, Albert E" <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 9 Jul 2013 21:36:32 +0000

My thinking is that in an initial period, broadcasters wouldn't need to 
transmit 4K at all, not even upconverted 4K. In the early days, any 
upconverting is done in the TV set itself.

Before 4K content is actually broadcast, it's best to wait for H.265 or VP9. 
And if all content were to be broadcast that way, not just the 4K content, then 
broadcasters could conceivably need even less bandwidth than they do now, 
assuming that the current HD streams migrate to 4K, and that the SD streams 
become compressed 4 times better than now.



Tom Butts / From the Editor in Chief 07.08.2013 12:00 AM
4K: Ready or Not
What is the reality of UHDTV/4KTV today?
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF tbutts@xxxxxxxxxxx

With much less fanfare than when HDTV was introduced in the market 15 years 
ago, the first UHDTVs started appearing in major consumer electronics retail 
showrooms this spring. Looking for a modest 55-inch set to replace your current 
one? You can drop a cool $5,000 on the Sony XBR55X900, which it announced at 
the NAB Show. For even less than that, you can purchase a Seiki Digital 50-inch 
screen for $1,400. A digital cinema enthusiast can splurge for a $17,000 LG 
84-inch UHDTV.  
Apart from a lighter wallet and neighborhood tech bragging rights, what are you 
really getting for all that? If you're expecting what the marketers tell you, 
you're getting state-of-the- art display technology but you're also in for some 
frustration if expectations don't meet reality.

What is the reality of UHDTV/4KTV today? A lot like it was in the early days of 
HDTV; that is, beautiful displays that looked nice on the wall but very little 
to no content. But unlike 15 years ago, expectations weren't as high as they 
are today either. Back then, showing an analog picture side-by-side with HD was 
an eye opening experience for many consumers who were just beginning to enjoy 
digital quality imaging via DVDs (one could argue that it was DVDs that 
influenced consumers' attitude about picture resolution more than HDTV). Today, 
with a TV life cycle replacement of 6-8 years, many viewers are just beginning 
to replace their first HDTV sets and many of them became disillusioned with the 
rapid rise and fall of 3DTV and are understandably skeptical about the next 
generation of TV technology.

A few of the major consumer electronics companies are aware of this and are 
trying to dampen enthusiasm. Several months ago, a Samsung executive told a 
gathering in Europe that when it comes to content, the current crop of UHDTVs 
are not market-ready. "No UHD TV today will be compatible with UHD standards to 
come," said Michael Zoeller, Samsung's senior director of sales and marketing 
for the company's Europe market, according to TV Technology sister publication 
TWICE. Zoeller added that although Samsung's line of UHDTVs offers an 
"Evolution kit" that keeps its S9 85-inch UHD backlit TV updated, even that 
will not last beyond four or five years.

With major manufacturers bleeding red ink over declining profits from TV set 
sales, the early decisions will go to those who also own the content. Sony, for 
example, is offering three 4K mastered 4K Blu-ray discs with the purchase of a 
new Sony 4K Ultra HDTV. For others though, the road to 4K content will be a 
long hard slog.

Some primetime television programming is being shot in 4K and that's only 
expected to increase as production costs decline. Such future-proofing includes 
the ability to distribute that content to consumers, but simply put, the lack 
of infrastructure and evolving standards are standing in the way.

There are intermediate solutions, however. Upconverting 1080P content sounds 
promising except when you consider that very little of it is being broadcast to 
consumers already due to bandwidth constraints. Sharp's new Ultra HD set offers 
advanced upscaling technology but early reviews have been mixed. Broadcasters 
are still years away from sending 4K pictures over the air, although the 
pressure of spectrum auctions and market demand could put pending standards 
such as ATSC 3.0 on the "fast track." Ericsson recently demonstrated the first 
successful end-to-end transmission of true 4K UHD via satellite to Turner 
Broadcasting's facilities in Atlanta. Netflix's anticipated launch of 4K 
programming will present an interesting look at how such files are handled in 
an increasingly crowded broadband environment. And new standards such as 6G-SDI 
and HEVC and the increasing use of fiber in the facility make the future 4K 
facility inevitable.

As recently as a year ago, there was a high degree of skepticism in the 
broadcast engineering community about the future validity of 4K for the 
consumer market. That has subsided somewhat with the introduction of 4K-ready 
production gear introduced at this year's NAB Show and the even more rapid 
market introduction of UHDTV. But as we report in this issue's cover story on 
the format, putting all the pieces together for a true end-to-end 4K 
production/distribution workflow will take a bit longer. If content is the 
lifeblood of the media facility today, we're going to need larger, more 
efficient arteries.

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