With a new generation of television displays coming, capable of displaying Ultra-High-Definition Television, the question is how broadcasters and television service providers will respond. FAME, the Forum for Advanced Media in Europe, an initiative led by the EBU and the Digital Interoperability Forum, brought together in Geneva a group of executives and specialists from across the television industry to understand the barriers and keys to success for UHDTV in Europe. An early issue will be to agree on what to call it to avoid further consumer confusion.
The meeting included representatives from the United States, joined remotely by colleagues from Japan and Korea.
“We have served Europe well in past years by helping to make HDTV successful, and we will hope to do the same for UHDTV now,” said Sheila Cassells, the executive director of DIF and co-chair of FAME.
“UHDTV is the future of television, and this is the time to act together in the interests of the European public and industry, including the creative sector, and to create the right technical conditions in the full eco-chain for the launch of UHDTV,” said Dr Hans Hoffmann of the EBU.
“It is important to realise that making UHDTV successful will take more than just ‘more pixels’ — they will need to be ‘better and faster’ pixels,” added Stephan Heimbecher, Sky Deutschland who co-chairs the UHDTV discussions. “UHDTV must represent a step change in the viewing experience for it to be a success. It therefore has to include more than just a resolution increase. We need to consider higher frame rates, better colours and higher dynamic range, too.”
The aim of the group is to plot a course for UHDTV in Europe, to share knowledge and experience and engage closer with the European Commission in this area.
A concrete deliverable will be to collaborate with Digital Europe on the definition of a logo for UHDTV displays. Agreeing what to call them will be a start. At the moment the industry is not even clear how to punctuate ‘Ultra-High-Definition Television’.
The Consumer Electronics Association in the United States has gone for ‘Ultra High-Definition’ or ‘Ultra-HD’, while the International Telecommunications Union has adopted ‘Ultra-High Definition Television’.
Many manufacturers talk about 4K, which generally means twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of the 1080p high-definition format, with four times as many pixels, at 3840×2160, although notably not 4,000 in any direction.
One recalls the consumer confusion that arose from an industry keen to adopt high-definition television before displays were widely and cheaply available. As a result, the industry compromised on 720p and 1080i formats, rather than 1080p or Full HD as it was subsequently promoted to consumers.
Similar issues arose with attempts to launch 3DTV before standards could be agreed on how to deliver it without compromising quality or usability.
The standards for the spatial resolution of UHDTV may have been specified, but there is still a question of frame rate and bit depth, as well as compression schemes and transmission formats.
Meanwhile, consumer electronics manufacturers are racing to push UHDTV or 4K as the next big thing in displays. At a conference in London, Vassilis Seferidis, the director of European business development for Samsung Electronics, predicted that UHDTV would become mainstream by 2017, noting that a number of pay-television operators are already experimenting with production in the format.
William Cooper of informitv will be chairing The Great Quality Debate at the IBC Conference in Amsterdam on 14 September 2013, moderating teams of speaker responding to the question: Do we really need to go beyond HD?.