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Ultra High Definition (4K) Content Years Away From Being Available In OZ

By David Richards | Wednesday | 13/11/2013

As Australian retailers and TV vendors crank up their Ultra High Definition offerings content companies have said that they are still working on new ways to deliver 4K content with both streaming, TV and physical 4K content years away from being openly available in Australia.

Currently the free to air TV Companies in Australia are still delivering 720p Full HD with only Foxtel delivering a true 1080p picture for select football games and movies. At a CES Conference in New York overnight it was revealed that several industry bodies are working on ways to deliver 4K content with the TV industry claiming that it will be at least 2016 before the industry has an acceptable UHD standard.

Currently true Full HD delivers a 1920 x 1080 resolution picture to a TV screen with an image of around 2 megapixels, Ultra High Definition delivers an 8 megapixel image and a display resolution of 4096 x 2160 as a result content companies are struggling to deliver movies and content because four times the data has to be delivered to a TV.

Native-4K content will initially be available from over-the-top streaming overseas services with both Google and Apple working to deliver 4K content in Australia. 

Hans Baumgartner, Rovi's product management director, said he expects over-the-top Ultra HD streaming service to launch in 2014 in the USA. Marc Finer, technical director of the Digital Entertainment Group, pointed out that Sony in September launched its 4K Video Unlimited download service to support the rollout of its 4K TVs however users have to pay for the increased bandwidth needed to deliver a 4K movie.

Rovi is currently working with JB Hi Fi to deliver their Music Now and in the future a Video Now service in Australia.

As for Ultra HD-enabled physical media the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) claims that it will be a minimum of 12 months before anyone starts seeing a 4K-enabled next-generation video disc.

Several Hollywood studios are in discussions with the BDA on all parameters of a next-generation disc, not just 4K resolution, he said. Other parameters include colour gamut, frame rates and dynamic range, to name a few.

The TV-broadcast industry which in Australia is a long way behind several overseas TV content providers in the delivery of Full HD 1080p content is still trying to9 develop a standard for the delivery of 4K content

In March when the US based Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) issued a request for proposals for the physical layer of the planned 4K-enabled ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard. The organization received "11 proposals," said ATSC president Mark Richer.

In early 2015, the ATSC will enter an "early candidate phase" to weigh different ATSC 3.0 4K-enabled standards, followed by the selection of a standard in 2016, Richer said.

Richer called it "critical to our success" to create "a global standard as much as possible" to drive economies of scale in consumer and professional products. The group's 3.0 activities include companies from around the world, he noted.

Richer called it a "challenge" to push through enough bits over broadcast channels to deliver 4K while maintaining robust and reliable service. The technical challenges will be similar for cable and satellite-TV providers, he said.

As a result, the ATSC decided it was "time to start with a clean sheet of paper" in developing a completely new ATSC broadcast standard, called ATSC 3.0, to deliver greater throughput, enhanced robustness, and the flexibility to offer different services, he said. Those services might not be limited to linear TV and could include more efficient file-based delivery of video for programs other than live programs such as sports and news, he said.

For his part, Baumgartner said that with the International Telecommunication Union's standardization this year of the H.265 HEVC (high efficiency video coding) video-compression format, it would be possible for broadcasters to fit two Ultra HD streams in the same amount of bandwidth as a single 1080i transmission that uses the MPEG-2 compression format.

Richer pointed out that Ultra HD TVs won't be used just for displaying one TV program or movie at a time. He said 4K displays will be able to display multiple HD programs at a time along with security-camera video, Twitter feeds and Skype video calls in which two people can talk to each other while watching the same program.

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