4K/8K Video

Harmonic Drives New Ultra HD Group

CHICAG0 -- Big Telecom Event -- Aiming to foster the development and deployment of 4K video, Harmonic and six other major video industry players have formed a new group to ease the path for the next-gen Ultra HD (UHD) format.

The new, rapidly growing group, known as the Ultra HD Forum, is seeking to "stimulate widespread consumer adoption of UHD and enhanced HD by enabling the availability of compelling content from many sources, including feature films, scripted and live television content, and its distribution through all current and emerging avenues of delivery to consumers," according to its vision statement. With 4K's progress slowed down by a lack of common standards in several areas, leaders of the Ultra HD Forum hope to spur new momentum by resolving at least some of the key issues. (See Live From Vegas, It's 4K TV.)

In particular, the group is focused on coordinating the "adoption of standards and best practices for signal delivery and production. It intends to achieve this goal by facilitating interoperability tests, plug-fests and trials to demonstrate the usability and comprehensiveness of Ultra HD and related media standards and by creating a central repository for relevant Ultra HD and related media workflows, as well as its members' products and solutions," among other things.

"We're solving the Ultra HD workflow problem" for both live and on-demand content, said Bart Spriester, senior vice president of video products for Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT). Speaking on a 4K panel here at the BTE Video Summit on Tuesday afternoon, he said there's "definitely a need" for the group because of the workflow issues caused by the massive amount of compression required to deliver a UHD signal over today's video networks.

Besides working on 4K workflows, the Ultra HD Forum is also seeking to "promote and organize Ultra HD media applications, deployments and successes," according to the group's vision statement. It aims to accomplish this goal by organizing industry-wide promotion events, producing white papers, organizing informational "master classes" at major industry events and demonstrating end-to-end solutions and proof-of-concept systems with common content created through diverse workflows.

In addition to Harmonic, the founding team of seven major industry players includes Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Dolby Laboratories Inc. (NYSE: DLB), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , NeuLion Inc. and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE). Formed earlier this year, the group has already held two meetings and recruited about 75 other companies in the 4K ecosystem as members. But it doesn't intend to start promoting its cause more publicly until the IBC conference in Amsterdam in September.

Check out all the news and views from the 2015 Big Telecom Event at Light Reading's dedicated BTE show news channel.

With six working groups set up so far, the Ultra HD Forum aims to develop guidelines for "the implementation of end-to-end systems for the generation, distribution and rendering of next-generation content" and demo the first implementation at CES in Las Vegas next January. Plans call for a live technical trial of the implementation in July 2016.

The Ultra HD Forum is not to be confused with the Ultra HD Alliance. Unlike the new group, the older Ultra HD Alliance is a closed group of major content providers and consumer electronics manufacturers working on standards for 4K content.

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

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