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09/06/2014

4K OK? Understanding UltraHD... (Pt 2)

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"The latest workstations and professional laptops are now up to the task of 4K content creation and NLE developers are all beginning to support native 4K editing," Ben Pearce continued.

"Even the concern that the new Mac Pro was limited to 1Gb Ethernet has been addressed, with a third party Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis offering access to very fast network adapters. The final piece of the jigsaw has been the acceptance of new SSD-based central storage systems as a reliable editing platform."
GB Labs is yet another company seeking gaps in the spread and utilisation of 4K and aiming to plug them. "Traditional tier 1 storage units cannot cope with simultaneous multiple read/write operations in a shared 4K environment," Mr Pearce continued. "This is why we at GB Labs introduced the concept of Super Tier 1. This offers 10Gb and 40Gb Ethernet options, highly optimised SSD RAID technology, a new approach to intelligent data caching and industry-leading networking speeds.
"In our real-world tests, Space SSD is capable of stunning performance, supporting as many as 250 concurrent ProRes 422 HD streams. We are now going a step further: at BroadcastAsia2014 we are launching SSD Ultimate, which is capable of supporting 8K workflows."

But what about online storage of the new format?

"4K online storage systems are still relatively expensive and lower in capacity compared with the expandable 96TB HD platform that we offer. Currently, it's not realistic for workgroups to invest in hundreds of terabytes of 4K SSD-storage, so a data management process is essential.
"Thanks to intelligent storage technology, our 4K platforms can work autonomously to back up projects and replicate files onto tier 1 (online HD platforms) and tier 2 (nearline units). Furthermore, completed projects can be moved away from Super Tier 1 and securely archived on lower cost, high capacity drives, or offloaded to LTO-6. Crucially, this leaves users the capacity to handle new 4K jobs."
GB Labs' customer Crystal CG worked on the London 2012 Olympic Games and was tasked with supplying thousands of motion graphics in resolutions up-to and beyond 4K. The 80-strong crew required simultaneous access to the storage, so GB Labs installed a 28.8TB system that could sustain in excess of 6,000MB/s. "The scale, time-sensitivity and importance of the Olympics meant a no-compromise SSD approach, working in tandem with tier 1 and 2 Space RAID arrays," Ben Pearce said. "Crystal CG's success in delivering the most visually stunning event in history is testimony to the power and potential of today's 4K storage."
But for Damon Hawkins, product manager at Quantel, the issue is not necessarily regarding storage itself. "The problem is in handling the variety of different digital camera formats natively in an efficient way," he says. "For example, 600mb/s XAVC can present a huge challenge to some systems – decoding/ debayering and producing finished results quickly. You simply can't do this on a desktop PC; it's all about being able to view the media in realtime and work with it interactively. And of course you need a 4K output – not trivial.
"As to the challenges – that's really just a matter of how long do you want to wait for the result. Our users find that whether it's movies or broadcast, clients want to the get the result as quickly as possible, without compromising on quality in any way. To do that you need a system that is capable of handling 4K with the same kind of speed and interactivity that clients are used to at HD. It’s as simple as that, really.
"Quantel's Pablo Rio offers users a powerful and complete colour and finishing environment, handling everything from conforming, editing, effects, titling to deliverables production, all fully integrated with its all-encompassing colour correction toolset. Users can choose the Neo or compact Neo Nano control panel for effortless heads-up colour control. Pablo Rio offers realtime performance at 4K 60p and beyond.
"The newly introduced Genetic Engineering 2 shared workspace for Pablo Rio optimises post workflow. GE2 brings total scheduling flexibility to the post production process, allowing high resolution jobs to be instantly switched or shared between suites so post houses can meet tight deadlines or take on short-notice work.
"Up to four Pablo Rio systems can share the same GenePool storage, with guaranteed realtime performance on every connected system no matter what each is doing – even when working at 4K. GE2 also goes beyond 4K – offering 6K 16-bit operation on multiple clients to cater for the new generation of ultra-high resolution cameras.
"There is a huge difference between the well-established 4K workflows for movie post production and the 4K/UHD that is coming in broadcast," Mr Hawkins continued. "Just because a system can handle 4K for movies does not mean it can also do it for broadcast, where realtime and fast turnaround operation are critical. Pablo Rio can actually record 4K 50/60p live form the latest 4K broadcast cameras and this is essential for broadcast operations."
For Robert Rowe, Chief Technology Officer at Snell and MD of the company's Live TV business unit, the issue lies in adopting the new format for the first time. "4K is a great opportunity for broadcasters who want to future proof themselves while setting themselves apart from competition," he said. "A key challenge that broadcasters face in the move to 4K is ensuring a seamless transition and integration into an existing infrastructure while also getting 4K to the consumer, but we're now seeing real progress. The 4K pros are now far outweighing the historical 4K cons, such as cost. Concerns around production equipment costs are now being eliminated with the realisation that, in the long run, 4K will essentially pay for itself and the benefits in terms of media quality and viewer engagement make a strong business case for the investment.
"We're helping our customers make the transition to 4K by putting 4K at the center of our products, including the Sirius 800 routing switchers and the Kahuna 360 multi-format production switcher, which has the unique ability to do full 4K wipes plus animated transitions, all from the 4K capable internal clipstore. Kahuna 360 and Sirius 800 allow broadcasters to seamlessly integrate 4K with SD, HD and 1080p.
"With Kahuna 360 you can incorporate 4K material into productions where the output is available as both 4K and HD simultaneously. You can also bring in SD, HD and 1080p material and create a 4K output. This true multi-format environment opens the door for future developments as the demand for 4K continues to increase."
But with all the preparation and industry discussion on how, why and when to make the move to 4K, some refer back to the buzz that surrounded 3D not too long ago. After all, with all the expectation behind 4K, comparisons to the ill-fated 3D format are inevitable. Who's to say that 4K, like 3D, won't disappear as quickly as it began; yet another broadcasting fad that fails to live up to the hype?
Bryce Button has the last word: "4K as an acquisition format is here and here to stay," he says. "The market has many 4K infrastructure offerings for needs across many workflows, after the initial introductions of first-generation 4K cameras and early 4K displays. There is no comparison to 3D, as 3D required the home consumer to alter their viewing patterns, with physical impediments like 3D glasses and ideal seating positions.
"To the consumer, UltraHD '4K' delivers the same resolution as they get in theatres, the first time that has been easily achieved in the home. With popular shows and movies now being streamed to the home in UltraHD, 4K is here to stay."

The article is also available to read in BFV online.

(IT/JP)
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