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Elemental Shows Off 4K

Preparing to make a splash with 4K Ultra HD video encoding at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Elemental Technologies is showing off its latest technical capabilities and boasting about the progress that it's making with 4K.

An aggressive upstart in the video encoding market, Elemental Technologies Inc. (ETI) , staged an event in London on Tuesday to demonstrate how it can encode 4K sports programming at a bit rate of 60 frames per second. While lower frame rates might be suitable for movies and other video programming in 4K, 60 frames per second is considered the "full frame rate" for fast-moving sports action.

Elemental -- which competes against Envivio Inc. (NASDAQ: ENVI), Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), Media Excel Inc. , Thomson Video Networks , and other vendors in the encoding space -- said it achieved the 60-frame rate using the new high-efficiency video coding (HEVC)/H.265 codec. The HEVC standard, which is about 50 percent more efficient than MPEG-4/H.264 codec, is considered crucial for encoding 4K video, which consumes four times as much bandwidth as standard HD programming.

"Unlike cinema, live sports are best viewed at higher frame rates," said Aslam Khader, chief product officer for Elemental, in a prepared statrement. "In 2014, we expect live sports to drive 4K Ultra HD adoption by those programmers and pay TV operators seeking to deliver a more compelling sports entertainment experience."

In particular, Elemental executives, who count such major sports programmers as ESPN and Eurosport among their customers, seem to have their eye on the two major quadrennial sports events coming up in 2014 -- the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia in February and soccer's World Cup tournament in Brazil next summer. Although they haven't disclosed with whom they might be working to deliver 4K programming from either event, company officials have been pointing towards both events for a while.

In 2012, Elemental teamed up with the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) , Eurosport, Canada's Broadcast Media Consortium, and Latin America's Terra to deliver HD coverage of the Summer Olympics in London. Besides ESPN, current Elemental customers include the BBC, Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) , Japan's NHK, Spain's Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), whose NBC Universal unit will feature wall-to-wall coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics in the US.

Elemental, which has been touting its 4K HEVC capabilities at broadcasting and cable industry events all year, is also claiming to be the global market leader in multiscreen and over-the-top (OTT) video processing. It cites a report issued last week by SNL Kagan that ranked the company first in transcoding both live standard digital and live HD streams in a majority of regions around the world.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

albreznick 12/12/2013 | 11:57:02 AM
Re: Who Will be First to do 4K? that's a great question, Karl. Wish I knew the answer. I'll bet that the bandwidth caps will only be raised grudgingly, and probably later than consumers would like. Next year should be a very telling time for the future of 4K. 
KBode 12/11/2013 | 7:07:36 PM
Re: Who Will be First to do 4K? Interesting post Alan. Very curious to see the technical specifics behind Netflix's 4K streams next year, and just how much users have to sacrifice in terms of stream quality. 4K more than anything else seems like it's on a collision course with bandwidth caps. Wonder if those caps will scale accordingly when the time comes?
albreznick 12/11/2013 | 5:41:48 PM
Who Will be First to do 4K? Elemental seems to have to deliver 4K programming for somebody at the Winter Olympics in February. So the question is who will go first? A broadcaster? A satellite TV provider? Or even a cable operator? Place your bets here now, 
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