The broadcast technology world’s gaze was this week turned on a historic meeting in London organized by the EBU, in conjunction with the DVB Project, to plot a course towards Ultra-High Definition TV (UHDTV) broadcasting.
Broadcast industry media have consistently returned to the most impactful story of the next generation of television, Ultra High Definition. But while millions of UHDTV sets will likely be produced over the next two years, many of the technical aspects of UHDTV broadcasting have yet to be agreed on a world level. This dilemma has prompted concern that undue haste in delivering UHDTV will limit the kinds of advancements that are theoretically possible.
The EBU Technical Committee’s 'Beyond HD' group spent months planning this week’s meeting, which assembled organizations that can help determine the best UHDTV production and distribution technologies. Combining the professional forces of the EBU and the DVB project helped to draw all major players to the workshop, which was held at Dolby’s London premises to allow a number of companies that are active in DVB and BeyondHD, including the BBC, to offer key demonstrations.
One important unresolved issue for UHDTV is the frame rate – the number of images per second. The higher the frame rate, the more realistic the picture, particularly for sports; but equally, the more complex the technology in the TV set, the more costly it becomes. This is one of several tricky trade-offs to be made between viewing experience quality and the likely cost of televisions. Others include the dynamic range of the image, colours and audio system.
Thanking Dolby for providing the venue, EBU Head of Media Fundamentals and Production Technologies Dr Hans Hoffmann said: "We knew we couldn’t resolve all the issues in one conference, but we now have a much better understanding of what needs to be done and the time it will take.”
He added: “Most broadcasters have not yet made firm plans for broadcasting UHDTV; many are still investing in the transition to HD. But they can rest assured that when the time comes the system will have been carefully chosen through this week’s meeting and the development work of the EBU, with partners such as DVB, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).”
Under the EBU’s action plan the next events will be a 2 July meeting of the national HD Forums, in Geneva, under the Forum for Advanced Media in Europe (FAME) umbrella. A further EBU workshop, tentatively scheduled for 26-28 November, will offer a further opportunity to examine any new findings and align the industry, service providers and broadcasters.