Michelle Clancy | 15-09-2013
With over eight million pixels, four times the resolution of today's full-HD displays, UltraHD enables viewers to sit closer to the screen and benefit from a much higher immersion. However, a lack of 4K content something that’s been a big obstacle to adoption of 4K TV sets and general uptake by consumers.
At IBC 2013, several satellite ecosystem players and vendors announced significant investments aimed at breaking the logjam.
Eutelsat Communications and Samsung announced that they’re launching a dedicated UltraHD satellite channel that can be received directly by Samsung's latest UltraHD TVs. Also, HISPASAT, which provides satellite capacity to Latin America, Spain and Portugal, is launching its own 4K channel at the show. And satellite broadcaster SES has used IBC to unveil its bullish plans to expand its UltraHD services and to fulfill potential in Africa and Latin America.
At the show, SES demonstrated UltraHD demo channels in the new high efficiency video coding (HEVC) standard broadcast via the prime European orbital position of 19.2 degrees East. One of the channels was delivered through a partnership with Sky Deutschland and Harmonic to the first actual UltraHD consumer set-top boxes – from Humax and Technicolor – connected to a Sony 84" 4K TV screen; the other was set up by SES and Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute to broadcast UltraHD content in the new HEVC standard, but at higher frame rates.
“By showing these two demo channels [we have] demonstrated how it collaborates with the industry to make UltraHD a commercial reality. We also have immediate plans to use these UltraHD transmissions to provide our industry partners with live satellite signals to demonstrate devices with the 50/60Hz frame rates that the new HDMI 2.0 interface will be capable of,” said Thomas Wrede, vice president of reception systems at SES.
He added, “As technologies for UltraHD mature, SES will continue to work with partners to make UltraHD the ultimate television experience for consumers, not just with more pixels but with better pixels that also deliver brighter, smoother and more colourful pictures.”
Meanwhile, HISPASAT is demoing UltraHD content delivery using the HEVC compression capabilities in Thomson Video Networks’ ViBE VS7000 multi-screen encoding platform, following a 4K trial this summer, using the HISPASAT 1E satellite platform. Thomson and HISPASAT also have signed a wider cooperation agreement to promote UltraHD TV jointly.
"This demonstration plays an important role in our plans to promote the deployment of the most cutting-edge compression and delivery formats - giving our customers the ability to offer their viewers the absolute highest-quality viewing experience," said Ignacio Sanchis, chief commercial officer at HISPASAT. "With the Thomson Video Networks technology, we are hoping to create awareness within our customer base and deliver live UltraHD streams that can be used in many different ways, such as demonstrating interoperability among manufacturers of TV sets and set-top boxes."
And finally, Eutelsat and Samsung’s UltraHD channel has been launched on the EUTELSAT 10A satellite, which provides full European coverage, enabling Samsung to reach exhibitions, industry shows, point-of-sale outlets and other promotional venues for demonstration on its expanding range of UltraHD consumer displays.
"UltraHD is the future of television because, not only offers a superior user experience but also creates exciting new opportunities for the whole TV industry. The UltraHD technology is now a commercial viability and we hope that our collaboration with Eutelsat will become the tipping point for a wider cooperation across the industry for the acceleration of the standardisation and deployment of UltraHD TV services," said Vassilis Seferidis, director of European business development for Samsung.
Samsung continues to work on getting UltraHD 4K TVs to the commercial market, with the recent launch of 98-inch and 110-inch sets that blow away the 85-inch monster that it unveiled at CES last January. It also is showing off a prototype of a 4K OLED TV, and has taken the wraps off of the first curved TV with UltraHD resolution. The curvature is said to enhance the higher screen resolution so that the pictures look more realistic.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the future is not flat," said Michael Zoeller, Samsung's European marketing director for TV and audiovisual products, during the launch event. "Its curve makes the perceived size of the image larger," and the OLED technology means "there is life in every pixel."
The real blockbuster however is the UltraHD OLED prototype. UltraHD quadruples the number of pixels typical with the HD format, to 4,096 x 2,160—hence the “4K” designation. Unfortunately, with typical displays, viewers need to be very close to the set to tell the difference from regular HD—which has made it difficult to justify the purchase when prices range into the tens of thousands of dollars. OLED uses a higher-contrast color palette than the industry-standard LCD panels, with deeper blacks that really make the 4K resolution more visible from farther away. There have been very few UltraHD OLED movements however, because the technology is difficult to implement.
The prototype "demonstrates our technology leadership," Zoeller said.
He added, "UltraHD is the future of TV, and the technology is now commercially viable with regards to affordability of products and processing power,” Zoeller said. “With this world-first UltraHD channel broadcasting direct to a consumer TV via satellite, Samsung is once again reinforcing its technical leadership in UltraHD displays. UltraHD broadcasting standards are expected to be finalized soon and our products are future-proof thanks to the Evolution Kit that supports current and future transmission standards."
For its part, Eutelsat is also working with Ericsson, Globecast, Newtec and Sky Italia have announced that they have successfully completed a series of live tests proving the reliability of an end-to-end satellite-based delivery chain for the contribution of live images in 4K.
The 4K feed was produced by Sky Italia in Quad HD format (3480x2160) at 60 progressive frames per second (fps) using different camera brands and video mixers. The live sequences from the mixers were then delivered in the form of a quadruple 3G-SDI signal to Ericsson's Content Acquisition solution. Using Ericsson AVP 2000 Contribution Encoders, which are able to provide true 4K UltraHD contribution feeds, the signal was compressed in MPEG4 AVC at 60 progressive fps and 10-bit, 4:2:2 resolution.
The signal was then modulated by the Newtec AZ110 Satellite Modulator, using DVB-S2 16APSK Modulation, making 89 Mbit/s of throughput available over a conventional 36MHz Ku transponder on board the EUTELSAT 5 West A satellite located at 5° West. The satellite uplink was performed and monitored by Globecast from one of its HD SNG trucks, equipped with a 1.5m antenna and 400W amplifier.
The feed was received in Milan and in Southampton with 2.4m antennas. Signal availability was higher than 99.97%.