November #1 - Hot Button Discussion: Implementing Assistive Technologies
Since SMPTE Newswatch last examined the topic of closed captioning and other accessibility technologies a couple of years ago, not much has changed in terms of governmental regulatory requirements on broadcasters to widen access to modern communication technologies. Indeed, the only major recent action taken by the FCC regarding accessibility related to the expansion of rules regarding how to get critical emergency information to consumers with visual impairments by making that information accessible on their so-called “second screen” personal assistive devices. However, since the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 was passed, the media industry has steadfastly been seeking ways to make captioning, video description, and other enhancements more consistently available with their content across all platforms. In fact, the action in this space right now appears to be focused mainly around how to most efficiently implement the FCC’s requirements across an industry that “broadcasts” content just about everywhere, to everyone, using both traditional and non-traditional methods, and delivery and viewing systems.
September - Hot Button Discussion: Precise Time and Synch on an Imprecise Landscape
Over the course of the past year, one consequence of the media industry’s initial strides toward networked, IT-based broadcast facilities has been for the industry to ramp up an examination of the steps needed to ensure that broadcasters can generate and transmit synchronous video signals across networks large and small, including on and between those that are state-of-the-art and those that will still dwell in a barely digital nether-region for the time being. In other words, the industry has been working on the problem of what is the most efficient way to generate, transmit, and manage such signals through a hybrid, or patchwork, minefield of systems and technologies. This question has led SMPTE and other industry bodies to advance work on how best to apply the industry standard specification for ensuring that synchronized time can be delivered from control stations to all kinds of slave devices—the IEEE’s 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP)—to professional broadcast applications specifically.
August - Hot Button Discussion: Compression in Context
Since Newswatch reported a year ago on the ongoing rollout of the High-Efficiency Video Coding compression standard (HEVC, also known as H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2), the industry conversation about HEVC’s importance as the necessary lynchpin that enables the transmission of ultra-high-definition (UHD) content to consumer homes has not changed much. Quite simply, “for UHD specifically, basically the only way to bring that content to the home efficiently is to use HEVC,” states Matthew Goldman, senior vice president of TV compression technology at Ericcson and a SMPTE Fellow, reiterating a point he made in that September 2014 issue of Newswatch. “We needed a much better compression scheme than what we were using previously for UHD, and HEVC was that scheme. So right now, that is where HEVC is gaining traction—in places where you can’t [compress a so-called 4K signal and transmit it to consumers] any other way. That is where we are now seeing HEVC implementations. But for more traditional television, such as linear [HD] broadcasting, HEVC’s rollout is more in the future—we don’t expect it to happen quickly. It will be ongoing.”
July - Hot Button Discussion: Broadcasting Live Events in UHD
Much of the conversation regarding the broadcast industry’s next great leap forward into the world of Ultra High Definition (UHD) has centered around how broadcasters will be building or rebuilding their wider infrastructures on IT-based foundations capable of handling the high-bandwidth data that the UHD broadcast paradigm requires. Less debated are the nuances of the front end of the UHD transition—image capture. This is largely due to the belief that ultra high-resolution cameras have become so common that this shouldn’t be much of an issue. But that notion is simplistic, according to many broadcast professionals, because it is references modern digital cinematography camera systems with high-resolution imaging sensors, none of which are particularly applicable to conversations involving the broadcast of live events, particularly where sports and action are concerned. But figuring out how to shoot and broadcast that kind of content specifically is crucial to broadcasters because it is live content—sporting events, concerts, breaking news, and the like—that modern, IT-based streaming services like Netflix are not addressing. That means such content remains the province of major broadcast entities as the UHD era dawns, and they need to shoot such events so that the images will translate well on UHD televisions configured for watching 4K resolution movies with a variety of other image characteristic improvements—greater dynamic range, higher frame rates, better color, among other things.
June - Hot Button Discussion: Pushing Cinema Sound Systems Into the Future
The “thickest” part of the work currently being conducted by the SMPTE Technology Committee on Cinema Sound, TC-25CSS, is the ongoing initiative on the interoperability of immersive sound systems for cinemas, according to Brian Vessa, chairman of the technology committee and also executive director of digital audio mastering at Sony Pictures Entertainment. That work is a reaction to an audio technology revolution from a small group of companies that eventually caused the industry to conclude, as Newswatch noted last year, “that a single specification for the packaging, distribution, and theatrical playback of D-Cinema-based audio tracks that pushes past what was initially described in the original Digital Cinema Initiative specification” was of crucial importance.
May - Hot Button Discussion: IMF's Growing Relevance
With the rollout of the Interoperable Master Format (IMF) ongoing, it’s instructive to examine the impact so far, and looming next steps for the flexible, new international standard format for file-based professional workflows. IMF is essentially an umbrella term for a linked family of standards that permit content publishers and distributors to exchange master files and linked metadata that make it more efficient to disseminate different versions of their material to all the world’s viewing platforms and territories, no matter what form those platforms may take today or in the foreseeable future.
April - Hot Button Discussion: Better Dynamic Range All Around
With terms like ultra-high-definition (UHD), 4K, and “next-generation television” flying furiously through broadcast industry conversations these days, an obvious question is often overlooked: What is the core image improvement that consumers are most likely to notice, pay for, and at the end of the day, care about? Generically, many people say that “better resolution” is what next-generation television is all about. But, as Lars Borg, principal scientist in Adobe’s Digital Video and Audio Engineering Group, emphasizes, that’s a subtle concept that depends on a host of factors related not only to how content is created and mastered, but also to how it is transmitted and viewed, on what device, in what room, and under what conditions.
March - Hot Button Discussion: UHD Televisions Advance
About a year ago, broadcast industry analyst Pete Putman suggested to Newswatch that while the broadcast industry's overall transition to a 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) ecosystem would be a long and winding process, a foundational element was already well under way--the inexorable march by consumer display manufacturers toward phasing out large-screen, high-definition televisions and replacing them with Ultra HD panels (with a resolution of 3840 x 2160). A year later, Putman says the display industry's transition has picked up considerable speed, to the point where he expects the production of large-screen 1080p HDTV's to largely cease in the next few years.
February - Hot Button Discussion: The UHD Chain, One Link at a Time
As new technological developments make it increasingly clear that the broadcast industry's commitment to pushing past HD and into the Ultra High Definition (UHD) realm is continuing to pick up steam, it's also clear that this is a broad, open-ended, and somewhat fuzzy process. When the initiative gets boiled down to specific aspects of the broadcast chain, the industry remains far from having all the answers in terms of how to implement a full UHD broadcasting ecosystem any time in the near future.
January - What's the Best IP Video Path Forward?
With 2015's arrival, the work being done to drive the broadcast industry toward IP-based foundations for broadcast and studio facilities was accelerating, suggests longtime industry consultant Wes Simpson, who works with SMPTE to help produce its Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition and online courseware regarding IP video. Simpson argues that the industry has now arrived at a place where the IP video debate has been comfortably settled as it relates to the transition to IP for delivering video to consumers, now that the new ATSC 3.0 specification, which is based on IP, is close to being finalized.
December - New Tools, New Creative Possibilities
As 2015 arrives, it's appropriate to ponder the creative impact of some of the numerous technological advancements unleashed across the cinematic landscape that SMPTE Newswatch has been examining in recent months. By that, we mean, how have the technical capabilities provided by new and improved digital tools, workflows, and techniques impacted the creative community's ability in recent years to advance how they use image and sound attributes like 3D, immersive audio, higher frame rates, and higher dynamic range, among other things, to tell stories?
November - Achieving IP-Based Facilities for Content Creators
As content creators and broadcasters continue to build new IP-based foundations for their facilities, two factors are becoming increasingly clear. The first is that Ethernet technology is rising to the forefront of this transition as the industry's best and most reliable replacement for SDI technology to move live video data streams over IP networks, as recommended by the SMPTE 32NF-60 Working Group and discussed in the November 2013 Newswatch, bringing with it lots of corresponding technological innovations to make it possible for broadcast plants, production companies, and studios to build IP-style plants. The second point is that all the cool technology in the world won't matter much if it can't be seamlessly designed, engineered, utilized, and integrated by such entities that, for decades, have used analog equipment and physical, passive media inside the heart of their facilities.
October - Augmented Reality Light Fields
Of the many interactive digital technology platforms designed to offer modern consumers new entertainment experiences, none have the paradigm-changing potential of so-called virtual reality and augmented reality technology. This was clearly demonstrated earlier this year when Facebook announced a massive $2.3-billion-dollar acquisition of videogame start-up company Oculus VR, the company that created the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The acquisition was part of a Facebook strategy to not only move into the space generally, but also to explore whether virtual reality (VR) technology that had originally been developed for professional-oriented, simulation applications in the military, medical, and industrial design worlds, and later ported over to the gaming universe, might eventually evolve into a platform to build the ultimate, interactive, consumer shopping and entertainment playground of the future.
September - HEVC Slowly Rolls Out
Since SMPTE Newswatch last reported on the then-impending formal arrival of the High-Efficiency Video Coding compression standard (HEVC, also known as H.265 or MPEG-H, Part 2) in 2012, much has transpired in terms of the standard's direction and potential impact on a wide range of improvements regarding the efficient broadcasting of high-quality video content direct to consumers. The bottom line on one hand, suggests Matthew Goldman, senior vice president of TV compression technology at Ericsson, is that HEVC has clearly established itself as the eventual enabling compression standard for making the transmission of ultra high-definition television (UHDTV) content to consumers possible. On the other hand, he points out that the process of fully rolling the new spec into the professional and consumer hardware systems necessary to make all this work efficiently could take several more years as the horse, in essence, is only now leaving the starting gate.
August - Approaching an Immersive Audio Standard
While precise technical and timeline details about a single, internationally accepted standard for an interoperable, immersive audio format for digital cinema remain to be settled, one important aspect of this quest has crystallized in the past year or so, according to Peter Ludé, chair of the SMPTE Working Group on Immersive Sound (operating under the auspices of the SMPTE TC-25CSS Audio Technology Committee on Cinema Sound Systems). Ludé says the big breakthrough in the past year has not been technical in nature. Rather, it has been the fact that virtually everyone with a stake in the conversation has gotten publicly and enthusiastically on board with the industry's need for a single specification for the packaging, distribution, and theatrical playback of D-Cinema-based audio tracks that pushes past what was initially described in the original DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) specification
July - HFR's Next Steps
Among the many digital cinema standardization processes currently in various stages of development, none is more dependent on input and interaction with the creative community than the issue of higher frame rates (HFR). That is especially true these days, as the industry's examination of how, where, and when HFR might, could, or should be woven into the digital cinema fabric on a formal basis is largely reliant on what it learns from ongoing experimental work by the creative community as part of a strategy to analyze HFR's technical impact on workflow and distribution, and its creative impact on viewers.
June - UHDTV- Which Flavor
Since SMPTE Newswatch last spoke with him about the status of ongoing efforts to develop an international framework for developing standards for ultra high- definition television (UHDTV) last Fall, David Wood suggests a key development on the UHDTV landscape involves a sharpening of several basic "world views" about how the next generation--or rather, generations--of broadcast viewing technology should evolve in the coming years.
May - The HDR Ecosystem
While many image quality improvements are easily definable and explainable as the digital broadcasting world pushes into the ultra-high-definition (UHDTV) era, the question of high dynamic range (HDR) is less well-defined. At this year's NAB show, HDR was a hot topic certainly, and both professional and consumer display manufacturers are now vigorously promoting different ways in which they are improving the quality of their pixel offerings.
April - The Business of 4K Displays
As NAB 2014 approaches, the broadcast industry's march into the world of 4K Ultra High Definition (UHDTV) understandably lies at the heart of many trend conversations about where the next generation of display monitors are heading. As SMPTE Newswatch reported in the October 2013 issue, both the technology and standards' work for UHDTV is moving along at a relatively fast clip, and hardware manufacturers are already well into their rollout of the first generation of UHD televisions. At the same time, however, questions permeate those conversations about how rapidly broadcasters can convert their infrastructures for UHD, create meaningful 4K content to distribute widely, and whether UHDTV will, at the end of the day, catch on with consumers any faster or more permanently than 3D or Smart TV technology did.
March - Evolution of SDI
The startlingly rapid evolution of new broadcast television and digital cinema applications, such as 3D, UHDTV1, UHDTV2, and 4K D-Cinema production, all potentially at increased frame rates and bit depths, has created a "bandwidth disparity" in terms of realtime streaming media bandwidth capability, suggests John Hudson, director of production definition and broadcast technology at the Semtech Corporation. Hudson chairs SMPTE's 32NF40 Working Group on SDI interfaces and the 32NF70 6 Gbit/s SDI drafting group.
February - AXF Advances, 8K, and Digital Workflows
It has been noted in recent issues of SMPTE Newswatch that 2014 is shaping up to be a year in which standardization efforts to address certain long-standing, crucial issues in the world of electronic media data transmission will bear major fruit. Among these is the issue of interoperability in data archive systems. To address this issue, in recent years, the SMPTE Working Group TC-31FS30 has been pushing to develop an open specification, the Archive eXchange Format (AXF), and codify it into an official industry standard. AXF addresses the need for interchange of archived data and is intended to end years of separate, proprietary approaches to archiving, in which systems from different manufacturers do not have the ability to simply and efficiently migrate data to and from systems of other manufacturers.
January - Lip-Sync Progress, Faster Satellite IP, Standardized Camera Reports, and more
In the world of technical broadcast standards, 2013 showed major progress. 2014 promises to significantly extend that progress, as it relates to a problem that began vexing content creators almost from the first day that sound was added to moving images, and then become far more complicated once the digital broadcast, multiplatform era took over. That longstanding problem involves how to seamlessly synchronize audio and video program signals from the moment of acquisition to when that content reaches viewers. This challenge, of course, is better known as the "lip-sync issue."
November - VoIP for Professional Media Networks
As the Video over Internet Protocal (VoIP) revolution marches on in the different sectors of the media content creation, distribution, and consumption sectors, it is helpful to consider what the term VoIP means to broadcasters as they push to evolve their facilities for the file-based era. From their point of view, in terms of adopting IT tools and principles, the SMPTE 32NF-60 Working Group is focusing on VoIP specifically as it relates to professional media networks--the professional use of live video over IP.
October - The UHDTV Paradigm
Headed to IBC 2013, where Ultra High Definition Television (UHDTV) was to be a prominent topic, David Wood, Chairman of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) working party 6C, the group responsible for making international recommendations associated with UHDTV, was eager to discuss the latest on UHDTV. UHDTV has clearly soared from being a buzzword and interesting technological experiment to a format that will have major implications for broadcasters, filmmakers, and consumers in the coming years.
August - Workflows in the Cloud
Now that media distribution companies such as Hulu, Netflix, and others have successfully pioneered ways to distribute media content using Cloud computing-based systems, the industry is now pondering what parts of the content production workflow chain might someday be moved into the Cloud.
July - Broadcast Networking Infrastructures
If you want to see a technological culture clash in action, look no further than the ongoing drive to modernize the networking infrastructures of typical broadcasting institutions. It is there, suggests broadcast media consultant and longtime SMPTE Fellow John Luff, that traditional broadcast techniques, IT technology, and financial pressures are routinely colliding these days.
June - Internet Broadcasting
With all the buzz surrounding digital television these days, the impact of a specific subset of that category--Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and broadcasting video via the Internet in a myriad of ways--can get lost in the haze of all the new camera, encoding, and display technologies and the fancy, new workflows and infrastructure overhauls that are now permeating the broadcast world. That said, in a sense, no new technology has more fundamentally impacted the traditional broadcast industry model than the Internet. After all, studies are consistently showing that the rapid growth of IPTV subscribers around the world, generally, the wide-ranging distribution of Internet-enabled television technology, and the ongoing movement toward Web-based services such as Netflix and Hulu have transformed home media consumption by diverting it away from merely "watching TV" to the advent of home media centers, where TV, streaming, games, data, and interactivity with content are all available to the consumer on demand. This development has diluted, disrupted, or altered traditional broadcast viewing numbers, habits, programming strategies, and business models in recent years.
April - Compression Trends: HEVC and More
The July 2012 SMPTE Newswatch covered how the Main Profile of the new High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) scheme, technically known as ITU-T H.265|ISO/IEC 23008-2, was on the verge of being finalized--a potentially significant leap forward in helping broadcasters achieve meaningful bandwidth savings on the distribution of high-quality video images over the existing H.264|MPEG-4 AVC standard. This past January, as expected, the ITU-T Study Group 16 achieved consensus and MPEG received approval for publication of the standard. That consensus, according to industry experts, is that HEVC has the potential to reduce data bit rates by as much as 50% over the current AVC standard. The new standard includes a main (8-bit support) profile and a main-10 (10-bit support) profile.
March - What's Next for Digital Cinema?
In an era where manufacturers of digital cinema-related technologies are routinely pushing an onslaught of tools and workflow techniques to advance what is theoretically possible in categories like stereoscopic imagery, higher frame rates, laser projection, content security, image capture, and so many others, the question to ask is what will eventually be feasible, rather than what will be possible. Keeping that question in mind, the follow-up might be, what is the next big thing for digital cinema, or at least, what should be the next big thing?
February - Closed Captioning
In recent years, most of the significant action in advancing the accessibility of closed captions in media has occurred in the world of broadband/Internet-based video. This march forward shifted into high gear in the past few years, since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) encouraged adoption of the SMPTE Timed Text (SMPTE-TT) format for delivering closed captions over the Internet.
January - Technology Trends 2013
Fresh from a visit to the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), SMPTE Immediate Past President Peter Ludé, also Sr. VP of Engineering at Sony Electronics, recently sat down for his annual conversation with SMPTE Newswatch to offer his thoughts on where media creation, distribution, and viewing technologies might be heading in 2013. His overall impression is that the industry remains in a state of evolution, rather than revolution, but he is pleased with the progress he has seen in many technology categories.
January - Next Generation Cinema Audio
In the world of theatrical sound, there are two important issues that SMPTE Technology Committees and sound system manufacturers are expected to focus on in 2013, closely followed by content creators and exhibitors. The first issue revolves around the growing need to improve ways to standardize testing, measurement, and calibration of theatrical sound systems in order to arrive at consistent playback between theaters. The second major issue involves expanding and improving multichannel playback to provide the cinema listening audience with "immersive" sound.