Rohde & Schwarz Empowers Sky Deutschland’s UHD Channels

With the help of Rohde & Schwarz technology, Sky Deutschland is bringing soccer to its European fans in glorious UHD.

There is no programming that draws eyes to screens in Germany like football (“soccer” to us Yanks), and starting in October the premium broadcast service, pay TV and VOD provider Sky Deutschland, has begun treating the fans of the UEFA Champions League and the Bundesliga to live UHD transmissions of key football matches on its Sky Sport Bundesliga UHD and Sky Sport UHD channels.

“The requirements for Sky were to create outstanding UHD programing, mainly football, along with VOD offerings,” said Christian Barth, head of strategy and architecture, broadcast service at Sky Deutschland in an exclusive interview from Germany with The Broadcast Bridge.

This is a continuation of a tradition of innovation that Sky Deutschland has become known for.

“Our subscribers expect that Sky will provide the latest in original video programming and technology,” Barth said during our interview. “For example, we were the first to deliver live UHD sports over satellite, cable and managed-network IPTV cable in Germany.”

Sky Deutschland's headquarters outside of Munich

Sky Deutschland's headquarters outside of Munich

For the backbone of this major new UHD infrastructure, Sky turned to equipment from Rohde & Schwarz.

“Three R&S VENICE 4K servers are employed to record the live program and provide playout,” Barth described. “We have the need to record several formats: one that is clean (no graphics) for postproduction purposes later on and one “half dirty” (all graphics except the “live” corner bug and station ID) for the re-run of the game, as we need to provide fast turnaround for immediate re-runs.”

This necessitated an instantaneous dual-redundant recording capability.

“That requirment was one of the deciding points in selecting Rohde & Schwarz servers,” Barth said

In addition, Sky Deutschland chose to use the R&S SpycerBox Ultra TL for storage and the R&S CLIPSTER mastering system to prepare film material for inclusion in each broadcast. 

Rhode & Schwarz CLIPSTER is a central part of Sky's VOD service

Rhode & Schwarz CLIPSTER is a central part of Sky's VOD service

CLIPSTER also became a key asset for Sky Deutschland’s VOD offerings, such as movies and narrative programming. Rohde & Schwarz is a major supporter of IMF (Interoperable Mastering Format) which allowed Sky to utilize the R&S CLIPSTER to unpack the IMF files they receive from various studios into a customized Sky IMF version. That way the final JPEG 2000 audio and video files in multiple languages can be localized and included in the broadcast for diferent markets.

Since they wanted to utilize Sky Deutschland’s existing infrastructure to move the UHD signal around Sky’s facilities, some significant data compression was called for. After a testing “shoot out” conducted by the IRT Institute for Broadcast Technology they decided on the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) compression standard originally developed by the JCT-VC organization. HEVC is also known as H.265 by the ITU-T and MPEG-H Part 2 by the ISO/IEC group.Even at a reduced data rate, the R&S AVHE100 encoding and multiplexing platform running HEVC proved to provide the superior picture quality.

Just like in the U. S., the sale of UHD TV sets in Germany is gaining momentum faster than the available programming. But Sky Deutschland’s new Sky Sport Bundesliga UHD and Sky Sport UHD channels, along with its VOD presentations, are going to go a long way toward filling that gap.

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