Transmission Encoding & MUX Global Viewpoint – October 2018

The State of UHD and HDR: An Update at NAB NY 2018

A must-see session at the NAB Show New York will discuss why UHD (Ultra High Definition) and HDR (High Dynamic Range) can be a blessing and a curse for today’s broadcasters.

The lure of enhanced UHD and HDR pictures over what we now know as traditional definition HD is enticing to all digital content creators. Even so it puts broadcasters on the horns of a dilemma: how can they capitalize on (i.e. make a buck from) the new technologies in the face of alternative delivery technologies before the rapidly evolving desires of a fickle public literally put them out of business?

This crucial topic will be the focus of Wednesday’s “The State of UHD and HDR : Five Things Everyone Should Know” at the NAB NY conference.

Thomas Bause Mason, director of standards development, SMPTE will present

Thomas Bause Mason, director of standards development, SMPTE will present "The State of UHD and HDR : Five Things Everyone Should Know," at NAB NY 2018.

The session will be presented by Thomas Bause Mason, SMPTE's director of standards development. The addition to the Top Tech Sessions of the Core Technology Track is available to every attendee with a core package, so you better get there early.

“When you consider UHD over the air,” Mason told me, “it just may never be feasible for broadcasters because of bandwidth limitations. So there is a lot of discussion of sending out a 1080P signal to home sets with 4K screens, and let their internal circuitry accomplish the up conversion to the more lavish image pixel count.”

But will this be satisfactory to the home consumer with easy access to streaming signals over the Internet that can deliver true 4K without similar restrictions?

“That’s why content creators are increasingly considering whether it is worthwhile making the investment in equipment and infrastructure to produce programming in 4K,” Mason said. “How can they monetize this extra cost if they can’t generate the additional advertising revenue from traditional outlets?”

If everyone along the production chain has to upgrade their capabilities to create 4K, the question to be answered is if it will prove worth it?

“For many viewers, the current system of delivering in HD but viewing in UHD or 4K is proving satisfactory,” Mason said.

But, as he will discuss during his “The State of UHD and HDR” session, Mason feels that while there may not yet be a huge demand for 4K-originated content, except for special events like the Olympics or the Super Bowl, HDR and the wider color gaunt that comes with it is another story.

“I feel there is more interest in pursuing that avenue, especially since HDR will not require as much of a change in infrastructure,” he said. “Consider that if you watch a 4K set from the usual viewing distance in a U. S. living room of, say 12-14 feet, you really can’t tell the difference between programming shot in 4K and that delivered in HD and up-rezzed to UHD in the set,” he said.

“But HDR is different. HDR gives you a noticeably better viewing experience.”

Still, there are many factors to consider with HDR since several formats of HDR are competing for market dominance.

“The Europeans seem to be trending toward HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) while many in the U. S. prefer SMPTE PQ (Perceptual Quantizer, published as SMPTE ST 2084),” Mason said. “Fortunately, an increasing number of modern UHD sets can decode both. But there is still the question of whether their displays can produce the brightness each requires to optimize its performance?”

HDR PQ wants video with a luminance level of up to 10,000 cd/m2 which may prove challenging to deliver and display, while HLG uses the same gamma curve as an SDR signal but rides a logarithmic curve with extra brightness on top of it, which is where the “log” and “gamma” in Hybrid Log Gamma comes from.

“If you look at over-the-air broadcasting in the U. S. today, there is no bandwidth space for that metadata,” Mason said, “but the upcoming ASTC 3.0 offers the promise of it in future incarnations. Then, of course, there is also Dolby Vision, which is a proprietary format and requires its own unique hardware. So realizing the promise of HDR imagery universally is not going to be easy.”

That’s why Mason’s session “The State of UHD and HDR : Five Things Everyone Should Know” should be on everyone’s calendar during the two days of the NAB Show in New York City.

Mason has chaired the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) Media over IP (MoIP) Subcommittee; organized the MoIP Workshop, presented by the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS), NABA, SMPTE, and VSF, that promoted the use of SMPTE ST 2110; and chaired the SMPTE Studio Group on Flow Management in Professional Media Networks. He holds several patents relating to watermarking, 3D, and authentication, as well as metadata tagging.