4K/8K Video

Harmonic, Intelsat Unveil UHD Test Channel

Harmonic and Intelsat are taking to the skies with satellite transmission of a new Ultra HD test channel for North America. Launching with UHD footage produced by Harmonic, the new channel will allow pay-TV operators to test delivery of 4K broadcast content over their own distribution systems.

Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) and Intelsat Ltd. are showcasing the HVN Intelsat UHD demo channel at IBC 2015 in Amsterdam this week with a temporary satellite uplink in Europe for on-site demonstrations.

The UHD test channel builds on the foundation that Harmonic has already created with its Harmonic Video Network (HVN). As the company explains it, Harmonic developed HVN in response to customers looking for advice on UHD deployments. In order to demonstrate a viable 4K video workflow, Harmonic began shooting UHD video and streaming the royalty-free content online using its own VOS virtualized media platform for playout, encoding and delivery.

The UHD test channel goes a step further by beaming 4K video from Intelsat satellite Galaxy 13 and offering that content up for pay-TV operators to use in UHD broadcast trials. In North America, Harmonic is currently commissioning its signal from an Intelsat facility in Atlanta. However, the company is in the process of moving its operations to its HVN center in San Jose.

Supported by Harmonic's Electra X3 advanced media processor encoding platform, the UHD video feed is delivered at 60 frames per second, and, with HEVC compression, streams at a bit rate of roughly 20 Mbit/s.

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A UHD test channel should come in handy in North America, where so far no pay-TV operator has started offering UHD broadcast service. Both DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) launched 4K service late in 2014, but only with on-demand video titles. Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) in the US and Videotron Ltd. in Canada are also scheduled to debut 4K service sometime this month. (See Meet DirecTV's 4K Genie Mini.)

BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is farther along on the UHD spectrum. The British operator launched a UHD sports channel in July and began broadcasting live soccer matches in 4K in August. (See BT Unveils UHD TV Prices in Challenge to Sky.)

Separately at IBC, Harmonic is also participating in the first official meeting of the Ultra HD Forum. The group, which is working to unify the industry around UHD standards and best practices, includes Harmonic as one of its founding members. Unlike the UHD Alliance, which is focused on communications to consumers around UHD, the UHD Forum is solely dedicated to the technical aspects of the next-generation video technology. (See Harmonic Drives New Ultra HD Group.)

Activities for the UHD Forum at IBC include a MasterClass scheduled for September 11. As the group moves forward into 2016 and 2017, it will also turn its attention to High Dynamic Range (HDR) and other technologies relevant to the deployment of UHD TV.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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