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IBC 2019: Codecs Top the Agenda
Also trending: 8K TV, data-driven personalised content, and automated production solutions
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Research into a viewer's emotion and mood as indicators of content preference is also now making headway. Ruwido has developed a system that detects a user's mood while interacting with ambient voice assistants. 

"The main challenge is to understand if people are willing to accept such a system," says Regina Bernhaupt, Ruwido's head of scientific research. "We also need to come up with ways to visualise mood-based recommendations in the UI."

Live and VOD content can now be stitched together and presented as a traditional TV channel using technologies like Edgeware Virtual Channel Creation, while at the same time being personalised.

"These channels could consist of content that's been selected basedon viewers' interests, demographic or location, enabling the development of innovative campaigns and offerings to attract new users and create revenue streams," says Johan Bolin, CPTO Edgeware.

IP Interop and Remote Production

Some form of IP production tool can be found on most booths but there appear two competing systems: the SMPTE ST 2110 family of standards and NewTek's NDI.

"The reality is that we're unlikely to have a single IP solution," says Ian Wadgin, senior technology transfer manager, BBC R&D. "What we need is a way for the two systems to interoperate and pass content between them."

A broadcaster may use ST 2110 in their studio environment but have NDI in their live news production workflows where more compressed workflows are important to deal with less than optimal connectivity.

The answer might lie in NMOS (Network Media Open Specifications), which enables an NDI source to appear on a ST 2110 matrix and vice versa.

Since NewTek was acquired by Vizrt in the industry's most dramatic M&A this year, eyes will be on this integration. 

NDI is being positioned under the umbrella brand of Vizrt Group. According to Vizrt, "This will afford the NDI brand an increased degree of focus and autonomy, enabling it to deliver more value to NewTek and Vizrt customer solutions, as well as those of third-party partners.  

One interesting fly in the ointment is the move to remote production. This concept is rapidly taking hold off in the live events space as routes to transfer AV from a venue to a centralised facility for switching are proving their worth in saving costs.

However, ST 2110 may not be fit for purpose. It was designed to move video uncompressed around a studio hub, not over several or even hundreds of kilometres let alone across continents, which is what broadcasters need to do for mega-events like the Olympics.

Earlier this year, Swedish broadcaster SVT hosted the largest remote production to date when it routed 80 feeds of the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships from Åre, Sweden back to HQ in Stockholm 600 km away. It did this over IP networks from local telco Telia, using a mix of uncompressed HD and compressed feeds traffic shaped using Net Insight gear.

"The market needs to understand that remote production and IP are different," explains Adde Granberg, director of technology, CTO, at SVT. "ST 2110 was made for the studio not for remote. The industry needs to find a new standard for remote video production." 

Embracing 8K

AI won't be the only fashionable accessory sported by exhibitors. Equally prevalent will be those flaunting an 8K badge.

For some this is an unwelcome distraction from the practicalities of 4K transition, with possible risk of consumer confusion, while others view it as the natural progression of an industry which has technological advance written in its DNA.

"There will always be technology Luddites," says Ben Schwarz, founder of CTOi Consulting and communications chair of the Ultra HD Forum. "A devil's advocate would say that 4K is a distraction from HD deployment."

Back in 2012 when the ITU-R enshrined UHD in two phases, 4K was already seen as a stepping stone to 8K. But UHD-2 was considered so far away that little other than resolution was considered in the specification. That's why there are strong arguments for deploying 4K with HDR and NGA (Next Gen Audio) or high frame rates (HFR) for sports ahead of an upping of spatial resolution.

BT Sport, arguably Europe's most technologically progressive broadcaster, is among those currently championing HD/4K with HDR and Dolby Atmos and will show a live broadcast of the Liverpool v Newcastle EPL match in the format. 

As it stands, direct-to-home (DTH) is probably the only viable way to deliver 8K at scale but 8K over IP is following hard on its heels with SVODs like Netflix and Disney+ likely to launch a premium service in the format from 2021 (that's a guess by the way).

Pay TV sportscasters too might be encouraged to launch an 8K tier in the battle for subscribers as more 4K TVs add 8K upscaling.

You don't need to wait for MPEG's VVC codec to be standardised next year to address 8K OTT, either. Spain's Spin Digital will present a new version of its HEVC solutions for 8K live streaming, HDR conversion, and 8K playback at IBC.

The streaming solution runs on Advantech's encoder platform and delivers 8K HLS and RTP streams with optional cloud support based on AWS to target wide-scale deployments of 8K live events.

It's a joint development with NHK Technologies, a subsidiary of the Japanese broadcaster that Spin Digital says is planning to offer 8K live services based on this solution.

Meanwhile, China's state owned AVS working group will present the latest on its AVS3 codec, which is designed for 8K "super high-definition videos" and VR applications. AVS patent pool holders include Chinese brands Huawei, TCL and Skyworth.

It's almost moot whether the eye can resolve the difference between 4K and 8K resolution. More premium content is being recorded in the format in order to deliver a better quality if lower resolution deliverable.

The interest in 8K is inevitable and exciting. Who wants technology to stand still? Not least because with higher quality source material new forms of content can take shape from decent quality VR to immersive live event viewing as home TVs morph into giant, modular, wallpaper-sized viewing platforms.

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