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8K is making progress bit by bit

Written by Thierry Fautier, VP Video Strategy, Harmonic

It happened first at IFA 2019, Europe’s largest consumer tech conference in Berlin. 8K was everywhere. At IBC2019, expectations for 8K technology demonstrations were high. Since then, almost every TV maker around the world has announced 8K TV production. Many have even replaced their 4K TV offer with 8K.

As 2019 comes to a close, 8K continues to show strong promise, but what are the potential hurdles to overcome before mainstream adoption? We still don’t have enough information on next-generation MPEG codec or on Versatile Video Coding (VVC) licensing. And are we certain that VVC is the right option?

Phase 1: The demonstrations for future tech in today’s world

There is real-world proof that encoding for 8K is possible today. Here’s a rundown on some demos that showcase the possibility of 8K video:

  • The live BT sports demo: This was a collaborative effort. From Amsterdam, multiple partners came together to deliver one hour of live broadcast in 8K showcasing the Gallagher Premiership Rugby 7s tournament. It proved that 8K can be produced and transmitted live from the stadium to the studios.
  • Harmonic’s IBC2019 8K TV demo: This showed the next step from stadium to screen. With VVC, we can reach 8K resolution with close to 50% bit rate reduction over the popular High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), but that’s not all. Harmonic was also live streaming using content-aware encoding (CAE) technology to provide different bit rates and resolutions from a KPN data center to the IBC Future Zone over a private line. We used updated firmware on a Samsung TV to decode the stream based on the DASH.JS player. The content of an equestrian show jumping contest that leads to an average of 14 m/s using CAE. This represented a world first. We can now measure the true potential of CAE and see how TV sets convert up to 8K. Today, NHK is transmitting live at 85 Mbps via satellite and using the compression techniques developed three years ago and it provides a less than optimal result. The Harmonic demo validates that CAE efficiency depends on content complexity. Even at 39 Mbps, we are still more than 50% lower than HEVC in production at NHK. This matches what VVC promises in 2022, proving that we can use today’s technology to deliver tomorrow’s content, and without burning the budget.

Phase 2: 8K adoption is starting, and it’s exciting

8K is now being delivered with technology that was developed almost three years ago, which explains the 85 Mbps figures. We are now entering the second phase. Operators want more affordable bit rates, with a goal to come close to what is currently used for 4K OTT streaming (a 25 Mbps connection is required for Netflix in HDR). We have demonstrated that it is now possible with a range of 14 Mbps to 39 Mbps, without any optimisation done for 8K, using cloud-powered encoding and CAE technology.

2019 was the 8K pre-game. There are more 8K TVs being made, and sales are predicted to pick up in 2020. This is especially the case in countries where 8K will be available. Tomorrow’s 8K streaming experience on connected TVs is in the starting block and waiting for the go-ahead to launch at full speed. 2020 is just around the corner and the games are about to begin. And we mean the actual games. The 2020 Tokyo games are expected to be the first large-scale 8K content ever produced. Will you be watching?

GIT introduces Harmonic’s new efficiencies in broadcast and OTT service delivery

Today, services providers delivering traditional broadcast or video streaming offerings must be increasingly nimble in order to improve video quality and increase revenue. As a result, Graphic Image Technologies’ (GIT) supplier, Harmonic, has announced a number of software-based technologies to enhance processing, playout and delivery that can be deployed in cloud and on-premises environments. This technology and approach increases agility and operational efficiencies, while driving a superior-quality user experiences across all screens.

“Being agile is a critical necessity for today’s content and service providers, given the speed with which technology and consumer viewing habits are changing,” says Tony Berthaud, vice president of sales, APAC at Harmonic. “We are delivering the latest innovations in software and the cloud, to speed up time to market for video streaming services, driving new workflow efficiencies, better monetisation and exceptional video quality.”

Mark Chertkow, managing director at GIT says, “We are always excited to deliver the latest technology developments to the broadcast market, enabling them to address some of their key challenges and pains.  Harmonic is a market leader in video delivery technologies and its latest software-based broadcast technology will enable quick and easy, playout and delivery in both cloud and on-premise environments. As a South African distributor we are happy to welcome this technology to the local video streaming market.”

Highlights include:

Speed up the Launch of OTT Channels, Boost Monetisation with SaaS for Video

VOS360 Video software-as-a-service (SaaS) unifies the entire media processing chain, from ingest to playout, transcoding, encryption, packaging and origin, enabling operators to launch video streaming services faster and run simpler, leaner operations. A wide range of business models for VOS360 Video SaaS was showcased at Inter BEE 2018, including time-shift TV, VOD, live sports streaming, dynamic ad insertion for OTT and targeted advertising for broadcast.

Harmonic also presented breath-taking images featuring NASA content from the world’s first 24/7 UHD HDR video streaming service, powered by VOS360 Video SaaS.

Maximize the Efficiency of UHD HDR Service Delivery

Harmonic’s end-to-end UHD HDR workflow solution supports a wide range of applications, including channel origination, live streaming and video on demand. At the heart of Harmonic’s UHD HDR solution are the Spectrum X media server and Electra X encoder, which deliver pristine video quality at low bitrates. This solution can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud as part of Harmonic’s VOS360 Video SaaS.

YES launches live UHD-HDR channel with Harmonic

Harmonic, a worldwide leader in video delivery technology and services, recently
announced that YES, a tier 1 direct broadcast satellite television provider in Israel, is
using Harmonic’s software-based Electra encoding platform for its new live UHD
channel. AVCOM, a world-class local system integrator, ensured a smooth
Leveraging the HEVC video codec, Harmonic’s Electra system allows YES to deliver
high-quality UHD-HDR linear video content to over 1 million subscribers at the lowest
possible bitrates.

“Our goal was to become the first broadcaster in the region to deliver UHD-HDR live
content, including popular sports events. Harmonic’s expertise in compression
efficiency helped us to achieve that dream,” said Itzhak Elyakim, chief technology
officer at YES. “We chose Harmonic’s Electra video system for encoding based on the
stunning picture quality and bandwidth efficiency it provides for UHD 4K live delivery.
We have been a Harmonic customer for many years and appreciate that their solution
is based on a scalable design that will make it easy to expand our UHD channel

Shipments of 4K HDR TV sets are expected to exceed 30 million by 2020, according to
IHS. Harmonic’s Electra VS solution will help YES capitalise on the increased consumer
demand for UHD 4K content, differentiating the broadcaster from other content
providers by delivering crystal-clear video in HDR. The software-based system is
extremely flexible, allowing YES to input and encode live UHD SDI and IP streams.
The Electra encoding platform is at the heart of a complete video delivery solution
from Harmonic that also includes ProStream X video stream processor for DVB-
CSAV3 encryption and NMX network management.

“By launching a UHD-HDR channel, YES is making the television experience so much
more visually appealing for subscribers,” said Ian Graham, vice president of sales,
EMEA and LATAM, at Harmonic. “Harmonic was an early supporter of UHD HDR, and
through our Electra solution, we enable our customers to deliver stunning video
quality in the most cost-efficient manner possible.”

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