4K/8K Video

Live From Vegas, It's 4K TV

LAS VEGAS -- NAB Show -- In a hopeful sign of the video industry's future, several vendors are teaming up at the NAB Show here to deliver a live feed of Ultra HD (UHD) programming over a cable system.

Billing it as the first live 4K TV feed delivered over cable, SES S.A. (Paris: SESG), Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), TelVue Corp. and two other vendors are showing off the transmission at their respective booths on the show floor here. While recorded 4K TV programming has been displayed at this show and others before, no live feeds over cable had been delivered because of the huge bandwidth required. For instance, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has launched some on-demand 4K programming but nothing live yet.

With the multiple demos at the huge National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, the tech partners are seeking to show that the video industry is progressing in its quest to make UHD delivery a reality sometime soon. With retail sales of 4K TV sets starting to take off, programmers beginning to churn out UHD content and both OTT and pay-TV providers gearing up to distribute 4K fare, the equipment and software vendors are aiming to keep up by developing the advanced technology needed to support UHD delivery to homes.

SES, Sony, Harmonic and their demo partners are far from alone in this effort. Countless other tech suppliers are also showing off some type of 4K equipment or software here in Vegas, ranging from video production and playout to video encoding and processing to signal testing and monitoring to content protection and security. Numerous other vendors are exhibiting different aspects of High-Dynamic Range (HDR), a separate but related technology that promises to deliver greater luminance and contrast to the video screen picture and thereby differentiate UHD from today's HD pictures much more markedly. (See HDR: The Next Big Video Thing .)

Want to know more about 4K, multiscreen and other next-gen video technologies? They will be a few of the many topics covered at Light Reading's second Big Telecom Event on June 9-10 in Chicago, which will include a special Video Summit. Sign up today!

Even with all this apparent market momentum, the path to the proposed UHD future remains an uphill climb. Like standard HD before it, UHD faces many daunting obstacles until it can become a mainstream platform for the video industry later this decade or, more likely, next decade.

Industry experts have outlined many of the main obstacles on show panels over the last two days. These hurdles include encoding the dense, complex 4K video signals for varying screens of different sizes and bandwidth capacity, carrying the huge video files for the multiple devices, putting new TV sets and set-top boxes in consumer homes, developing the proper user interfaces for all the devices, adopting universal industry tech standards for different aspects of UHD and protecting the content from piracy, among other things.

In one show sideline session sponsored by Verimatrix Inc. and Elemental Technologies Inc. (ETI) on Tuesday, for example, five video technologists elaborated on these issues. Several also lambasted consumer electronics makers for marketing new 4K TV sets to consumers that, without the inclusion of HDR technology, will not present pictures much different than existing HD sets.

Yet the experts mainly agreed that UHD, unlike 3D TV, will eventually become a mainstream reality because of the picture benefits that it potentially offers without the goofy glasses that 3D required viewers to wear. They also predicted that, despite the numerous issues 4K poses, it will be adopted quicker than standard HD, which took a couple of decades to go mainstream.

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

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