The Ultra HD Forum has now delivered on its promise to bring out Guidelines specifying best practices for implementing end to end infrastructures for delivery of UHD services. These Guidelines will be a major talking point at IBC 2016 as we discuss in a separate blog and are also likely to influence the course of standards development by the relevant SDOs (Standard Developing Organization) such as DVB and ATSC. This highlights at once the Forum’s role, which is not to develop the standards themselves but instead to recommend how all the components based on these standards should fit together within emerging UHD ecosystems.
A parallel body, the UHD Alliance, comprising global entertainment, electronics and technology companies, is working on the elements that define a premium UHD entertainment experience, with a focus on the devices at each end, such as production and TVs. This leaves the Forum to concentrate on everything between the “glass” at each end, the delivery and content processing infrastructure with an emphasis on the complexities of linear service production. This involves components at all stages of the delivery chain built around the four pillars of UHD, which are HDR (High Dynamic Range)/WCG (Wide Color Gamut), HFR (High Frame Rate), high resolution (4K at 3840 x 2160) and next generation audio. The scope is reflected in the Forum’s membership, embracing a broad range of participants spanning the whole video entertainment ecosystem with content creators, service providers, infrastructure technology companies, consumer display companies, and more.
Join the UHD Forum Masterclass at IBC 2016 as they host a free-to-attend session covering this topic and much more on Monday 12th September. Full session details
As the Forum’s President, Thierry Fautier from Harmonic, noted, the Guidelines are the fruit of 12 months hard work to which members of the Forum have contributed. “One of the main drivers of the Phase A was to provide a deployment framework for operators on the broadcast as well as the adaptive streaming side (that also covers OTT) to deploy commercial services in the 2016 time frame,” said Fautier. “The initial focus of the Guidelines is on technologies and practices that support a commercially deployable Ultra HD real-time linear service with live and pre-recorded content in 2016, which is termed a ‘UHD Phase A’ service.”
Fautier agreed the desire to establish a baseline relatively quickly has constrained the technology choices made, and therefore that future versions of the Guidelines will support additional functions. “The Forum is going to work on the next phases of the Guidelines that will include more fidelity, going beyond 10 bits for color as well as additional versions of HDR, High Frame rate and the full scope of Next generation Audio,” said Fautier.
But the immediate priority is to help operators deploy a Phase A UHD Service by documenting the aspects they most need to attend to, according to Fautier. These aspects include elements of production, distribution, encoding and packaging, delivery, decoding and finally the display perspective. Indeed the Ultra HD Forum and the UHD Alliance are cooperating ever more closely to ensure that their respective recommendations are fully aligned.
This in turn also involves working closely with the SDOs shaping the standards themselves, for although the Forum does not define these directly it will have a strengthening influence on the direction of those relevant for UHD. In turn the SDOs are playing a key role helping shape the Forum’s guidelines. “While it is too early to say exactly what influence our guidelines will have on the work done by SDOs, the early signs are that that they could well be considered as a “baseline” that would represent the minimum requirement to be met, especially for operators who want to deploy services using existing technologies in production, distribution, decoding and the TVs themselves,” said Fautier.
The guidelines cover all the key requirements of the content delivery infrastructure, notably security and interoperability, which are each addressed by separate blogs in this mini-series. The overriding point is that the Forum’s activities have been intensifying and over the next 12 months will be utterly focused on making sure that Ultra HD will happen. This will mean working hard to resolve the teething troubles and issues that inevitably arise at this early stage of arguably the biggest advance in the TV experience since the introduction of colour around half a century ago, greater perhaps than HD.