NAB 2016 revealed once more that it’s not only content but also quality that is king! What we saw this year was a focus on getting ‘immersive.’ Many companies are developing new technologies to provide consumers an ever increasing immersive experience, whether in a social setting in front of a large UHDTV screen or in a more personal setting with virtual reality (VR)/360 degree video.
Regarding UHDTV, we are no longer debating 4k in terms of ‘resolution only.’ In fact, it is now state of the art for many manufacturers products (it is even becoming popular for news and drone TV production e.g. the DJI 4K). Today’s debate is around higher dynamic range (HDR) which could be called ‘the killer feature’ for UHDTV. At NAB 2016, nearly all production equipment manufacturers showed either the Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG – ARIB STD 67) or the SMPTE PQ (ST 2084) or both variants of HDR. This is an encouraging sign as both systems make up the core of the upcoming ITU standard on HDR.
Growing consensus on UHDTV from trade associations
- The UHD Alliance already agreed on the ULTRA HD PREMIUM Logo specifying key criteria for UHDTV displays at CES 2016 earlier this year. The UHD Alliance is now focusing on new areas of interest, such as the requirements of the broadcast community.
- The UHD Forum used the NAB to celebrate their first concrete milestone: the release of a “first phase of industry guidelines on end-to-end workflows for creating and delivering live and pre-recorded UHD content” which they call a “pragmatic approach” to what is possible today.
How can users enjoy UHDTV today?
- With Over-the-Top (OTT) services, of course: at NAB 2016, OTT platforms, such as Netflix or Amazon, used the opportunity to explain how agile they are by being present on all platforms and with all types of formats, including HDR if needed.
- Broadcasters: US broadcasters celebrated the first concrete ATSC3.0 implementations which were shown at NAB 2016. However, full ATSC 3.0 UHDTV services are still to be delivered.
Where is 8K in all of this?
The most complex and remarkable showcase was NHK’s 8k OBVAN.
In addition, NHK showed various technology demonstrations fresh from their Labs. In the Theater we saw highly immersive 8k images and 22.2 sound of the Superbowl. However, when observing the camera moves, a case for higher frame rate could be made.
What about 1080p?
While many think that 4k, 8k and HDR belong together and that HDTV is old fashioned, there seemed to be a significant interest in the community of broadcasters to lobby actively for an advanced HDTV system. This system would comprise 1080p, HDR and, eventually also higher frame rates. Manufacturers seem to realize that such a system would find customers on the marked and, as a result, several products were shown.
Virtual reality and 360 video: the new niche!
- Virtual reality and 360 degree capture and rendering products and innovations played a significant role at this year’s NAB. Not only from a technology point of view, but also in the conference sessions where creatives gave best practice advice on good storytelling. A great innovation shown was the ability to stich multi-camera content in real-time for streaming purposes.
- DTG and several industry partners hosted an evening to discuss and debate whether the media community would need a more formal association around VR/360 degree video. The ‘workshop-type’ evening concluded that an action plan should be put together before IBC including an action to gather requirements and work statement definitions.
Can UHDTV help 3D make a comeback?
SMPTE showcased a demonstration clip from Production Director, Ang Lee. The clip called 'Billy Lynn' was created in stereoscopic 3D, with 4k resolution, with 120 frames per eye and with HDR. The show real created a clearly immersive experience for viewers and was much better than anything seen in the past. As Hans Hoffmann, EBU put it: “The clip had clear and sharp pictures, no eyestrain, and an impressiveness never seen before.”