In the days immediately following IBC 2016, the UltraHD Forum hosted an HDR-focused UltraHD Plugfest involving 25 people from 17 TV/Video equipment manufacturers, content companies and platform operators. Participants included both members and guest enabler companies. The Plugfest was hosted and supported by Dutch telecom operator KPN, at its Hilversum facilities, and demonstrated the developing level of support for HLG and PQ HDR in displays and STBs. It also evaluated key content processing parameters for platform delivery of UHD in a mixed SDR/HDR world, including the use of leading HDR implementations of HLG10 and PQ10.
The UltraHD Forum is a forum composed of a broad membership base of companies involved in the movie and television ecosystem, including content creators, content distributors, consumer electronics manufacturers, professional equipment manufacturers and technology companies. It is an advocate for industry consensus around common technical standards and methodologies for the glass to glass delivery of the UltraHD experience through the development of its Guidelines for the sound and functional deployment of services to the general public by its members and the industry as a whole.
The Forum and the Importance of Plugfests
The creation and publication of the UltraHD Forum Guidelines back in the spring of 2016 kick-started the work to run the first plugfest hosted and supported by PBS at the ATSC 3.0 meetings in Washington DC in late March 2016. In formulating the guidelines, the Forum identified that it was critical to base them on practical technologies, techniques and approaches which necessitates the efforts by the memberships to fully prove them. In the first plugfest, bringing members together proved glass to glass, camera to display live UHD delivery including HDR (HLG and PQ). It stressed the early technology adopter displays for their implementation of HDR and this first event resulted in direct updates/changes to existing and new products, to improve the level of support they had for HDR and alignment with developing standards for UHD prior to publication. The success of this event, reported at the Ultra HD Forum Masterclass at NAB2016 on April 20th along with work on the evolution of the UltraHD Forum Guidelines, led into the planning for a series of plugfests for the rest of 2016. These events were to be focused on validating key aspects of the Guidelines as HDR standards are developed and products implemented. The second Plugfest brought together a wider group with the support of key operator member KPN for two days following IBC2016 – September 14th and 15th – in Hilversum, Netherlands.
Coming together for Plugfest 2 – Hilversum Tower, KPN Media Park, Hilversum, Netherlands
The objectives of the second plugfest were to expand the glass to glass chain to include operator STBs from deployed UltraHD services where those operators are now working on how to deploy HDR services in addition to their existing UltraHD SDR services, as well as to fully allow all attendees to see and experience HDR content delivery using PQ10 and HLG10 in both 1080P and 2160P resolutions and understand the challenges with these new forms of content including the end devices. The glass to glass chain was emulated over the weeks running up to the event with content capture, processing, color grading and distribution encoding all being undertaken by member companies in the run up to the event, with the final playout and validation taking place during the two days of the Plugfest itself.
Figure 1: Glass to Glass Delivery Emulation
Playout to devices took place from local storage and via unicast and multicast IPTV streams, fully representing the final distribution to consumers along with their customer experience. With great support from the operators and manufacturers, we were able to ensure that the validation took place with a broad range of displays and STBs.
Arian Koster, Product Owner New TV Ideas for KPN and Renard Jenkins for the UltraHD Forum opened the event before teams got down to running through the content/device combination tests through the day, right through until the participants finished and enjoyed a KPN sponsored, well deserved meal at a local restaurant to digest more than the results of the day.
Progress was faster than expected on the first day, with completion of all of the plugfest combinations, leaving problem test re-runs, issue investigation and evidence gathering being the focus of the second day. In addition Jacob Groote, EVP Service Platforms and Peter Claerhoudt, Manager Innovation TV & Media attended and experienced a full demonstration of SDR, PQ10 and HLG10 consumption.
“KPN supports the work of the Forum and we see UHD, and specifically High Dynamic Range, as an important technology that will bring a superior viewing experience to our customers, said Jacob Groote. Peter Claerhoudt added: “We highly appreciate the Forum’s hands-on efforts to bring interoperability for equipment manufacturers, content providers, operators like KPN and, ultimately, the consumers who are our joint customers”
The event closed with a full team discussion to conclude on the outcomes for the event. We set out to demonstrate and validate the end to end delivery of combinations of SDR/HDR UHD services and for this we were successful. SDR and PQ10 based delivery proved to be mature and straightforward at both resolutions, providing more than satisfactory results with correct auto identification of content based on VUI/SEI parameters over USB and HDMI delivered content. As an emerging technology, HLG10 was a different situation. We had gone into the plugfest expecting problems due to the state of standardization and implementation – this is a Q4 2016 target. Auto-identification of the content as HLG10 was ‘spotty’, with best results on USB delivered content but HDMI delivered content required manual selections of mode. These issues are fully expected to be resolved through the next update to HDMI, prior to any commercial usage of HLG10 via HDMI delivery, as is now planned in the UK with the recent announcement that Digital UK will be using HLG10 for their OTT support of UltraHD HDR. Through the HDR processing we also identified additional variables to the workflow, that even in our simplified version of glass to glass, required care and attention to ensure best results.
“PBS became a charter member of the UltraHD Forum because we believe in its mission. I am very pleased with the level of industry participation and support for this second plugfest. It is good to see that each participating company finds value in the exercises and tests performed during these events’, said Renard Jenkins, Co-Chair of the Interop-WG, Ultra HD Forum and VP Operations: Production, Media & Distribution at PBS.
Reflections on the Mission of the Interop WG
In writing the guidelines, the forum takes input from the industry as a whole, and through its members also works to determine and derive approaches and methods itself for the various stages of the delivery of video, which also need validation before use can be made. The Interop Working Group working through member companies, standards definition organisations and other industry groups, amongst others, proves and demonstrate the efficacy of the approaches, technologies and methodologies contained within the guidelines that the Forum publishes. The results of this second Plugfest fed critical experience and validation back into the definition of the guidelines, and planning is well underway for the next plugfests in this last quarter of 2016 and beyond.
The Interop Working Group is chaired by William Frantz, Director of Product Marketing for NeuLion and co-chaired by Renard Jenkins, VP Operations, Production, Media and Distribution for PBS. Ian Nock for Fairmile West project managed and led the Plugfest.
For information on membership of the UltraHD Forum, please do visit http://ultrahdforum.org to become involved.