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13/04/2016

Trickbox TV On 4K Signal Transmission

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Fuelled by sport, and led by the subscription television providers such as BT Group and Sky, 4K production is on the increase.

BT Sport has been producing 4K coverage of their football games for a while now. Over in America, DirecTV are producing the Masters golf in 4K in April this year. And Sky has confirmed that their coverage of Formula 1 from 2017 will be broadcast in 4K. At this point, it's worth clarifying that we're using the term '4K' to reference UHDTV1 (3840×2160) but '4K' seems to have shone through as the saleable name tag – and who are we to argue?!

There's been some reluctance from facilities providers and rental houses to jump into 4K, mainly due to the lack of agreed standards. No one wants to get stuck into a format or a workflow that may be obsolete in a few years. The standardisation issue is a big one. Even the simplest of 4K productions and workflows can be flawed. You might be faced with a scenario where you have quad link cameras, a 12G vision mixer, a mixture of quad link and 12G VT devices and quad link monitors. Whether you're a system integrator designing a new studio facility, an outside broadcast truck, or perhaps you're contemplating building your own in-house studio, it's a really tough time.

In terms of the method of signal transmission, moving from a HD infrastructure to a 4K one isn't a straightforward process. Do you go copper? Or IP? Or fibre?

Atomos and Blackmagic Design were quick to jump on the 6G and 12G bandwagon – in fact they seemed to be the ones riding the horses leading the thing! But there's been a slow and cautious uptake from other manufacturers. Most 4K live production workflows from the larger manufacturers such as Sony and Grass Valley has been based on quad link.

Ross Video has recently released their new router range, Ultrix, which handles 12G – along with SD and HD (1.5 Gb/s, 3 Gb/s). Could this be a sign that Ross and other manufacturers will roll out 12G across their entire range of products? NewTek™ has released Network Device Interface (NDI), a new open standard for live production IP workflows over Ethernet networks. Could this help spur a widespread uptake of equipment that supports 4K over IP? It feels fairly likely that IP as a transmission method will replace copper, and formats such as quad link will become stepping-stones.

During the summer of 2015, an executive official at the European Broadcasting Union warned electronics makers about the "dangers" of moving too quickly with 4K. Evidently this wasn't listened to which is why we're now struggling with the plethora of different formats ranging from 6G, 12G, QFHD, IP and so on.

There's also been lots of discussion about the other technologies surrounding 4K that haven't quite settled down such as HDR, higher frame rates and a larger colour space. The new ITU-R Recommendation BT.2020, more commonly known as Rec. 2020, and HDR are actually likely to be what 'sells' 4K to the mass market. A larger resolution is one thing but technologies like HDR and Rec. 2020 change the viewing experience – it's more immersive and real.

So 4K's here. 4K cameras, 4K mixers, monitors, routers and VT devices – they're all out there, just dying to be used. But perhaps what we're seeing here right now is the 'first generation' of 4K equipment. It's likely that the equipment that we're all buying now will be superseded by upgraded versions with different methods of signal transmission. Like a game of rock, paper, scissors; 12G beats quad link, fibre beats 12G, and IP beats fibre.

www.trickboxtv.com

(JP/LM)
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