Streaming Forum Preview: Is HD the Real End of the Line for Quality?
"Change: That is the unchangeable." One of the central tenets of the I Ching, that phrase might as well also be one of the central themes of The Book of Video, were any techno-philosopher foolhardy enough to write such a thing. But anyone who's been around the online video industry for more than a little while knows that just when content publishers, equipment manufacturers, and consumers have adopted one technology or format, it's time to move on to the next one. Or at least that's the conventional wisdom, conventional wisdom that will be both explored and challenged at a session at this year's Streaming Forum in London.
The panel discussion, "Is HD the Real End of the Line for Quality?," will be moderated by industry veteran Philip Haggar, founder of online video consultancy Jukwa.com. Haggar will be joined by Luke Gaydon, vice president of media, EMEA at Brightcove; VOD consultant Maria Ingold, head of mireality; and Genevieve Smith, digital marketing and content manager for BAFTA. Together, they'll look at 4K and beyond, asking whether or not there is an appetite among both consumers and content creators for more.
"The session will be looking to the future, and what is significant," says Haggar. "Over the years, we've seen quality getting better and better. But when is it 'good enough?' Are the vendors just pushing 4K and above into a market that doesn't care? We'll contrast the view from BAFTA, arguably the centre of the UK's film industry, to the vendors and experienced platform operators. Does it make business sense to keep chasing higher and higher quality?"
Haggar says it's time to take a step back and evaluate these questions, as online video may be at a tipping point.
"It feels like the industry is coalescing after a long journey of different standards," he says, and now we're seeing things like DASH and interoperable DRM in HTML5. "Are we about to find our lives getting a whole lot easier, just as we were getting even more worried about the number of devices we have to cater for? Have we reached the end of the road, when it comes to innovation, and is online video just becoming even more of a commodity—great for content publishers but not so good for those making money from platforms and CDNs?"
The panel discussion will be more than just blue sky theorising, Haggar says, and will offer food for thought regarding very real practical considerations.
"When it comes to choosing suppliers and spending money, over the next few years there are going to be all sorts of claims," he says. "What is the highest bitrate you really should be using; how vital is it to be considering H.265 and what do you do about content protection in a world where viewers could potentially see the same quality as in a digital cinema?
"It won't just be about 4K," Haggar continues. "4K brings with it other questions, as I've mentioned above, like protection but also cost of delivery and whether this then breaks the model (for a while) of making money from video."
Streaming Forum runs 24-25 June at the Park Plaza Victoria in London; "Is HD the Real End of the Line for Quality?" will take place on Tuesday, 24 June at 4 p.m.