By Barry Flynn, Contributing Editor
In another boost to the pro-HDR lobby, a publicly-funded French research group has been set up to support the creation of the next-generation version of UHDTV (â€˜Phase 2â€™), with a focus on â€˜High Fidelityâ€™ rather than â€˜High Definitionâ€™.
The 4EVER-2 project, which brings together nine French industrial and academic research partners, including both public broadcaster France TÃ©lÃ©visions and telecommunications giant Orange*, has secured funding until May 2017. It represents the new incarnation of the 4EVER project, which was wound up in May.
According to project members, 4EVERâ€™s findings helped to highlight the fact that only a â€œweak gainâ€ in perceived quality can be delivered by simply quadrupling the number of pixels on an HDTV screen â€“ which is generally all that currently-sold UHD/4K consumer display screens (UHD â€˜Phase 1â€™) achieve.
4EVER-2 will build on these results to demonstrate the benefits of introducing High Dynamic Range (HDR), High Frame Rate (HFR) and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG). In effect, HDR increases available contrast, while HFR at least doubles the number of picture frames transmitted per second, and WCG increases the range of colours that a device can display.
Initially, the aim is to contribute to the standardisation of a new â€œHigh Fidelityâ€ UHD-TV format which is â€œadapted to the specificities of digital TV services and allows a real jump in quality of experience to be achieved.â€
This would form part of what the Geneva-based DVB Project defines as UHD â€˜Phase 2â€™. In guidance updated in July, the European Broadcasting Union said it believed that â€œthe best approach for the success of UHDTV broadcasting is to introduce the full parameter set as soon as this can practically be done.â€ This includes HDR, HFR and WCG as well as enhanced audio.
The EBU also said that HD formats which contained a certain combination of these parameters should be considered as valid transmission formats, and â€œcould be an attractive option for some broadcasters as a sub-set of UHDTVâ€ (see previous story).
The partners involved in 4EVER-2â€™s predecessor, 4EVER, have notched up an impressive series of firsts, including â€“ four months after the next-generation video coding standard HEVC was standardised in January 2013 â€“ the first live end-to-end operational MPEG HEVC transmission chain using real-time encoders and decoders on TVs and tablets, during the Roland Garros French Tennis Open tournament.
Besides focussing on how the various â€˜High Fidelityâ€™ parameters can enhance the immersive aspects of UHDTV, 4EVER-2 will evaluate the various technologies available to encode and distribute these formats.
Multi-channel audio and 3D will also be integrated into combined assessments of audio and video in order to achieve â€œa real increase in audiovisual quality.â€
As before, throughout the two years of the new projectâ€™s life-span, the 4EVER-2 partners will work to implement end-to-end solutions with sports and premium cultural events.
â€œThe ultimate goal of this project is to develop technologies to validate a complete live production chain: distribution and reception of UHD-TV format Phase 2 content,â€ the partners say.
* The full list of consortium members consists of Orange, Ateme, Technicolor, France TÃ©lÃ©visions, Globecast, TeamCast, Highlands Technologies Solutions, INSA-IETR and TÃ©lÃ©com ParisTech. The group receives funding from the French government, the Paris regionâ€™s Regional Council, Brittanyâ€™s Regional Council, and is also supported by the competitiveness clusters Cap Digital and Images & RÃ©seaux.