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IBC Report: Sony Says 4K Ultra-HD Video Is Coming to the Home
Sony and partner SES declare that Ultra-HD is close to becoming a reality; others says its 20 years away from going mainstream.
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Sony has teamed up with satellite operator SES to showcase 4K transmission into the home. Interest in 4K (Ultra-HD) is building as it transpires that German pay TV broadcaster Sky Deutschland already has a project examining its feasibility.

Announced at a press conference today, the Sony/SES demonstration features 4K content played out and uplinked from SES's headquarters in Luxembourg. Video is streamed in the Quad Full HD format via satellite, and encoded in MPEG4 at 50 Mbps. The signal arrives at IBC on a 4K receiver, displayed at SES and Sony booths on 84-inch Sony Bravias.

"The capability and bandwidth is available today using H.264 encoding," said Thomas Wrede, SES's vice president of reception systems. "When HEVC comes available next year we will be able to reduce the rate to 20 Mbps, which is similar to HDTV over MPEG2 in the year 2000 so this makes it a commercially viable for broadcasters."

Wrede added: "This [Ultra-HD] is what the consumer expects as the next step in home delivery. We have the whole chain now and we are going to bring 4K into the home much sooner than many people think."

Katsunori Yamanouchi, vice president of Sony's Professional Solutions Europe business, said: "Starting with the launch of our 4K home projector and new 4K Bravia TV, we are leading the next stage beyond HD which is real-time satellite delivery to the home."

Yesterday, Brian Sullivan, CEO of Sky Deutschland declared: "We already have an Ultra-HDTV project working. It's early days but I can promise you that we will be one of the first. It makes sense for pay TV to showcase this technology."

Sony also used its conference to announce that it will provide FIFA's host broadcaster, HBS, with outside broadcast facilities at all 12 venues for the Brazil World Cup in 2014.

Sony is an official sponsor of FIFA. In 2010, it supplied the facilities and substantial funding to produce 25 matches in 3D for the South Africa World Cup. For the past two World Cups, Grass Valley has supplied the main outside broadcasting crew and facilities.

The facilities for Brazil will be mostly 2D HD and include at least 408 cameras, 34 per stadium. Given the size of the country, all the core infrastructure will remain in situ at the venues with key kit and crews transported between venues.

FIFA is about to start discussions with broadcasters about demands for 3D production in Brazil.

"We need to evaluate how much it will cost and whether it is possible for FIFA to finance that," said HBS CEO Francis Tellier. "It can end up as everything -- which is hard, nothing, or one match a day."

As for Ultra-HD, Tellier had some strong words. "It is a brilliant format but there is a danger for the industry in communicating to the public that U-HD is available now. U-HD is a technology demo and if it is being compared with 3D -- which it was in London [Olympics] -- it creates confusion. 3D is available now and you cannot expect U-HD to go mainstream for 20 years. If FIFA say they would like to shoot the final in Rio in U-HD, then, of course, we will. But our duty as an advisor to FIFA is to make it clear what is available now, tomorrow, and in ten years and we will not add to that confusion."

Sony focused on 4K post-production, announcing a number of third-party software partnerships to its SRMASTER Alliance including YoYotta, Blackmagic, Adobe, and Autodesk.

"The market needs a lot of education to help producers understand that whilst there is still a lot of data to handle, 4K is a lot easier then they think," said Bovis.

The 4K-ready NEX-FS700 camcorder, announced at NAB in April, is still waiting for a recorder for users to activate its 4K capability, however Sony is demonstrating two F65 cameras paired at a football match where the double 4K image is stitched together for an operator to remotely navigate inside the picture or take a cut at 1080 or 720 resolution.

"It's a new opportunity to capture productions without extraneous crew or equipment by using one set of cameras to create a dynamic set of HD pictures," explained Sony's head of AV media, Olivier Bovis.