ViBE 4K HEVC Encoder Scores Again With Second French Open UHD Broadcast, This Time in HDR and HLG

French Open UHD Broadcast

This time last year, our ViBE 4K HEVC encoder was brand-new – having just been launched at the 2015 NAB Show – and was already in use for groundbreaking 4K coverage of the French Open tennis championship. For this year’s French Open, the ViBE 4K, alongside other equipment, provided terrestrial viewers with an even more astonishing experience through a powerful combination of high dynamic range (HDR) and hybrid log-gamma (HLG) technologies. It was also used to provide a backup for the satellite broadcast.

In partnership with Eutelsat and TDF, the French Tennis Federation and France Télévisions used the ViBE 4K to broadcast the French Open live in UHD with HDR according to HLG specifications. The UHD broadcast was available on channel 81 over the TDF terrestrial network to Paris residents equipped with 4K televisions compatible with DVB-T2 and HEVC. The UHD channel was also available on Fransat. The channel was live during the last four days of the tournament to cover the semi-final and final matches for the men’s and women’s singles, as well as the final matches for the men’s and women’s doubles.

The ViBE 4K’s HLG-HDR decoding configuration has been successfully tested with Samsung and LG’s latest-model UHD televisions. The French Open UHD channel was broadcast at around 20 Mb/s on terrestrial network and at 30 Mb/s on satellite.

Once again, the ViBE 4K has proven its power not only as the industry’s most compact live 4K encoder, but as the most leading-edge encoding solution available for terrestrial UHD broadcasts. In addition to support for main HDR standards including HLG, the ViBE 4K offers HEVC compression efficiency that enables UHD encoding at a bit rate compatible with terrestrial networks. Broadcasters are able to encode two channels in a terrestrial mux and take advantage of a truly impressive audio feature set, including support for Dolby AC-4. Consumers are the real winners, with the ability to experience their favorite sports in stunning UHD and HDR.

Cloud Media Processing with VOS 360

The cloud. We’re hearing a lot about its applications for media processing, but is a cloud-based service ready for prime time? Can it really help you launch a new broadcast-quality live streaming channel in a matter of hours, at a fraction of the cost of building out a new on-premise data center? With Harmonic’s new VOS 360, the answer is definitely yes.

In this short episode of VidTech Insider, we cover the benefits VOS 360 brings to content creators and owners.

Simplicity

  • Simple user interface controls the complete video workflow
  • Easy content contribution from sources
  • Transcoding, origination, packaging and encryption on the fly
  • Global content delivery to consumer connected devices

Agility and a Quality

  • Build or remove services in minutes while compute, network, storage and delivery schemas are automatically and seamlessly provisioned
  • Best-of-breed video quality with Harmonic’s PURE Compression Engine
  • Subscription and usage-based pricing to manage market volatility
  • 24/7 hosted and maintained by Harmonic’s globally distributed DevOps team

Openness

RESTful APIs for rapid integration with technology partners and the introduction of video workflows to existing applications

– Ofer Aharon, Sr. Product Manager, SaaS/Cloud, Harmonic

Vegas NAB Takeaways – HDR Workflows and the Complexities of Grading, Tone Mapping and HDMI (Part 2 of 3)

NAB

As mentioned in part 1, High Dynamic Range (HDR) featured large at both CES and NAB. Not surprisingly CES concentrated purely on the latest screens, with most demos staged to emphasize HDR capability. Even from a consumer perspective, results were variable with many screens displaying content that certainly did show HDR, but failed to remain faithful to the original scene. Artifacts a plenty were evident, particularly when content not intended for HDR was pushed to the limit! Highlighting such shortcomings isn’t meant to detract from the potential of HDR, but does illustrate the significant challenge those seeking early adoption face.

Roll on a few months to NAB, and the same HDR screens featured, though this time in a different context. Attendees wanted to probe how practicable a workflow could be deployed and how this would co-exist with SDR services. The good news is that it is certainly possible to rollout out HDR, particularly for Video On Demand (VOD) services, but how viable this approach would be for other types of services highlights the aspects demanding attention, that allow the debutant UHD channels to scale in quality beyond 4K resolution! VOD services consist predominantly of cinematic content that allows for HDR grading as part of the workflow, current DTH schedules consist of material from a wide variety of sources and that is crucially often live.

HDR 10 is now established for cinematic content and has the advantage of being a scheme implemented in first generation HDR capable screens. But how will SDR content or HDR material graded by a different scheme be catered for? This is where the difference between staged demo at a trade show and viable workflow with a coherent metadata progression from ingest to display becomes apparent. The vast majority of NAB demonstrations consisted of beautiful content graded for a specific screen, all signaled by static metadata, not at all representative of a typical channel workflow, let alone the mixed variety of screen technologies on show at CES.

The solution to this signaling dilemma partially exists in the production domain, but anyone with demo responsibility will be only to aware that signaling, support for schemes other than HDR 10 and the vagaries of tone mapping have yet to be commonly available on the current crop of HDR capable 4K screens. Tone mapping is supposed to be the magic ingredient to allow content graded for the maximum luminance, yet displayed correctly on all screen types, i.e. graded for the greater luminance range of quantum dot and yet correctly displayed on OLED!

In so many of these scenarios I found the HDR content look ghostly with odd color shifts and lacking in detail. Sure it was HDR, but lacking faithful reproduction of the original scene! Another interim iteration of HDMI is surely needed, particularly to correctly allow alternate HDR schemes like Hybrid Log Gamma and Dolby Vision to be implemented alongside HDR 10, truly opening the prospect of HDR for live events! Even though the oddities of tone mapping made HDR occasionally look surreal, much of the really impressive material owed much to the skill of colorists and graders who more than ever prove that while the engineers have signaling issues to address, in the end content post production is a really craft that’ll make or break HDR material!

So having comprehensively dealt with HDR, for my next blog it’s time for the final post-NAB installment that is aimed at issues pivotal to the business-end of our industry, namely IP, virtualization, cloud services and compression tuned for broadband delivery.

– Ian Trow, Sr. Director, Emerging Technology & Strategy, Harmonic

The Most Beautiful Thing You’ll See Today

The recently launched video “Aurora Borealis from Space,” was praised by Al Roker on NBCs The Today Show as “amazing” while the BBC called it “spectacular,” and CNN claimed that the video “may be the most beautiful thing you’ll see today.” But that was just the tip of the iceberg of how this video came to be.

The “Aurora from Space” video was launched simultaneously at the Harmonic booth at NAB 2016, on NASA’S YouTube channel as well as on the NASA TV UHD channel.

The video was produced by Harmonic exclusively for NASA TV UHD, the first non-commercial consumer UHD channel in North America, which was launched at IBC last September. Leveraging the resolution of ultra high definition video (UHD 2160p60), the channel provides viewers a front row seat to gorgeous views captured from the International Space Station (ISS) in addition to other current and classic NASA missions.

Harmonic provides the end-to-end UHD video delivery system and post-production services while also managing operations. Creating this much high-quality content and working exclusively in uncompressed UHD workflows created the ideal challenge for Harmonic’s digital media team, in order to use the company’s own equipment and solutions throughout the production and delivery workflow.

Joel Marsden, the Executive Producer of NASA TV UHD for Harmonic, supervised the construction of the channel infrastructure and content from scratch.

“We had to set up a veritable factory to create ongoing new episodes for the eight original new series, “ISS Life”, “Liftoff”, “Earth View”, “NASA Classics”, “Solar System”, “Development”, “Deep Space” and “Mars” that are featured on the channel, said Marsden. “This meant that we had four edit and render stations working non-stop from the same shared media storage solution.”

“We were extremely fortunate to get our hands on the new Harmonic MediaGrid 5840, which gave us an instant “half-a-petabyte-in-a-box” with its distributed, scale-out architecture, something you can’t live without if you are generating over 8 TB a day of new media and files during our peak production times.”

Between editing, archiving and heavy renders the pipeline was pushed to the very limit with rock-solid results. But MediaGrid is not the only aspect of Harmonic’s portfolio that was instrumental in bringing NASA TV UHD to the public.

All the finished shows are transferred to the Harmonic technical team in Atlanta led by Scott Woods, where the content is loaded onto Harmonic’s revolutionary Spectrum X playout server and interfaces with the Electra X3 encoder and ProStream processors hosted at a NASA facility, managed by Encompass Digital Media, home to the agency’s satellite and NASA TV hubs.

NASA TV UHD

As the “Aurora in Space” video went live on NASA TV UHD and lit up Harmonic’s booth at NAB 2016, it also went onto NASA’s YouTube channel where it became one of the agency’s top ten watched videos in under a week.

The video and accompanying stories have been published in over 550 online publications in every region of the planet so far, to rave reviews. The Aurora video and NASA TV UHD prove that when the best combine, amazing video happens!

Now, take some time to enjoy the video.

   

Vegas NAB Takeaways – 4K, UHD and HDR (Part 1 of 3)

NAB 2016

As expected, 4K / UHD was rejuvenated by the addition of High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a host of carefully crafted demos to show the latest crop of debutant screens, unveiled earlier at CES in all their glory. The results were certainly impressive, but needed considerable technical insight to unravel what was behind “the screen” and how applicable it would be to real world services. At its best, HDR content shown on the latest 2016 screens looked amazing, but most attending NAB this year were trying to visualize what the route to an HDR upgrade would be?

Fundamental to understanding the likely workflow is an appreciation of the kind of service being developed, Video on Demand (VoD) or Live, as well as the source and format of the content. Addressing these issues was the primary focus of my presentation at the Harmonic theatre this year, always an interesting litmus test of what is challenging the industry. For those not at NAB, a copy can be downloaded using the following link.

So, what are the main conclusions now that we’ve all returned from the show and had time to digest the news and events? It needs to be made clear from that outset that 4K / UHD is here to stay, certainly no flash in the pan like 3D! With such strong consumer adoption of 4K / UHD screens, and an industry keen to future-proof content, the onus of responsibility is for delivery ecosystems to match the confidence in 4K / UHD shown upstream and downstream within the overall workflow.

While bandwidth is becoming more readily available, we are not yet at the stage where a full scale conversion to 4K / UHD delivery is viable. Firstly, the recent investment in HD infrastructure means this is the starting point for many contemplating meeting consumers expectations, to justify consumer’s investment in UHD screens. Consequently, demos showing the benefits of acquiring content in 4K / UHD, down-converting to HD, and then relying on a Set Top Box or 4K / UHD screen to up-convert are very convincing. Many visitors asked whether HDR should be applied to HD? In my view, native 4K / UHD delivery will eventually happen, but in the short-term HD delivery has to be factored in, especially if it is 1080p. This necessitates dealing with awkward backwards compatibility issues concerning signaling and metadata. To date this has not been a strong point of current workflows.

The most convincing demos at NAB and CES all consisted of highly engaging content, displayed on the most recent screens, which while showing HDR at it’s best, in no way paved the way for an HDR service being universally rolled out in the near term. Certainly, there will continue to be 4K VoD streaming services, for those fortunate enough to have top-end broadband provision, but for these to trigger a widespread shift to native UHD services requires the latest standardization decisions to be commonly available on consumer screens, viable signaling to exist throughout the production and delivery workflow and a clear lift in quality compared to current HD services.

I’ll drill down into what this means in reality for 4K / UHD workflows in part 2 and then move from all the hype surrounding HDR, to deal with the business end of service deployment, namely IP, virtualization, cloud services and compression tuned for broadband delivery in part 3.

Can’t wait until then? Download our primer to HDR and why it’s a necessary part of the 4K ecosystem.

– Ian Trow, Sr. Director, Emerging Technology & Strategy, Harmonic