Report - Open Mic evening 2013

The UK sections first Open mic meeting – giving members the forum to talk about things of current interest in our industries was held on St Valentine’s Day in a bar in Soho – the district of London where the majority of POST houses are located.  About 24 members including students all very active in our industries – and  a husband and wife who had decided that SMPTE was the way to spend St. Valentine’s Day evening.

 The event was introduced by Peter Weitzel who outlines the aims of the evening –and encouraging people to speak – before introducing Chris Johns and Andy Quested to start our discussion by recounting recent events in the USA and Europe.

 

Andy Quested and Chris Johns expound under the eyes of journalists Nick Radlo and David Austerbury

Chris Johns Chief Engineer Broadcast Strategy BskyB recounted his experiences at CES in January ……

The first thing that caught his eye was the size of screen and how there were 4 booths with the First 80” screen and then another 4 with the world’s first 110” screen -  and that other than professional screens /tablets there was not a screen under 55” to be seen. They were all UHD1 resolution - and with 3D included – increasingly using passive glasses as there were enough pixels too provide HD display for each eye.  However these seemed a confusion in that marketing of thse devices – as few seemed to have the HDMI 2/0 connections which is required for displaying at 60 frames per second.

For more professional use there was a range of large tablet sizes displays – up to about 24” which at present were aimed at CAD and similar highly detailed computer work.

OTT Delivery – using IP/ the internet was the other big feature – he acknowledged that his children do not sue the big screen any more - but the issue of handling audio for the many screens that may be in one room has not been solved - and he was relying on Closed Captions ….. Some things that SMPTE with 2052 had already addressed and gave Safe Harbor from the FCC in the USA.

There are always quirkily products –

And certainly not in the media space where a fork which vibrated if you were eating too fast and ”Clip on ears” which waggled according to “brain waves”.

And you could always be infinitely connected by Wi-Fi/4G to a helmet which gave you total immersion with Audio video etc...

Finally 3D was very definitely there – but not as S3D display – which was not really mentioned   but in 3D printing of anything from replacements knobs to a fully function electric guitar.

Then Andy Quested Head of Technology HD and 3D BBC picked up the point of the percived lack of interest in 3D for those not at CES.   Reaction to the BBC Experimental Broadcasts of a drama – Mr Stink  - over the Christmas holiday was poor – and how actually the majority of people who had viewed it  seemed rather indifferent to the 3Dness of the programme  -there were always a few total enthusiasts - but many viewers though that the BBC Natural History Units series” Africa “ was in 3D – when it was not – it just used excellent storytelling shot at the highest technical HD standards and good framing and the TVs 2D to 3D conversion (perhaps)!

Andy Quested then turned to the issues for the EBU Production Technical Seminar Which he, Chris and a few others in the audience had attended.

The EBU PTS series have been developing over the years and this year’s event held in Geneva on 29 to 31 January was the best of the last 4 years providing a European and sometime global view of Television technologies though 20 presentations   and 6 Work strands running over 3 days.

 The event also had a formal test of a signal workflow which just took material acquired in 4k  down scaled  it to HD and then upscale it in  4k display compared to a native 4K from Source to display.  – –Results showed around a half point difference between native and rescaled (ITU-R 5 point scale).  Statistically significant but not “dramatic”.

The main other thrust of the event was Sustainability.   The BBC Had already applied this to Programmes via the ALBERT tool

And sustainability was now being applied to all projects and into operations. This was good commercial sense as the less electricity we used (and the more recycling of equipment) would save lots of money.
 In this context the work by the EBU FTV- LED lighting Group was very important – and they have moved on from being able to characterise and decide which Luminaires were more suitable, to having   metadata which can be passed into grading to get consistent results and even mans of measuring the luminaries output before you use them to measure their likelihood of failure!



There was a very good session  by Jean Pierre Evian from EBU staff on metadata. It introduced a statement we all can empathise with;

 

Metadata is COMPLICATED and USELESS and NOT SEXY

 

Then converted it to metadata;

<paragraph>
     <sentence>
           <subject>       Metadata
           <verb>            is
           <adjective>    COMPLICATED
           <connector>  and
           <adjective>    USELESS
           <connector>  and
           <adverb>        NOT
           <adjective>    SEXY

The model is key   …some logic and you are good to go!

It was one of the few metadata presentations that continued to make the audience laugh while delivering the facts!

As could be expected the PTS covered Workflow and Service orientated architectures   - examples were given from newsroom systems and a review of Codecs – including H.265/HEVC with work from RAI the Italian Broadcaster,

He mentioned two workshop streams - on Beyond HD – and pointed out that S3D was seen by many in the TV industry as being a dead end – as higher resolution 2D systems gave the viewer the effects, despite the Consumer electronics requiring something new to be their business as usual – or as Chris has said 3D printing waste future.  Perhaps it was that S3D was event driven thus as being an appointment it view format TV and thus may not be for PSB channels.

Automatic QC of files – which is an area where the UK’s digital Production Partnership is doing much work – to enable things to be measured and quantified before anyone needs to view the finished programs – Obviously this can be done on parameters like Photosensitive Epilepsy (where the UK has very stringent regulatory requirements) but also on Loudness (CALM and R128) and perhaps “brightness” as a form of video “loudness”.

At the end of his account he reviewed the results of the 4k via HD to UHD1 display or a native 4K signal flow.

 Roderick Snell started the discussion with pointing out that this was exactly the results got many year ago with "HD via SD” – as after all if you oversampled at acquisition you were using the full available bandwidth in the lower resolution. Others pointed out that the cinemas was not going for 4K display – and after all Disney have only made two Fills’ for release at 4K.

So with “4k” question what about” 4k “workflows -  some code be done using existing HD systems taking a quarter of the image – probably every fourth pixel  but there were well established Grading systems  working “4k “ for over 5 years… 

Chris Johns pointed out that the audience required a quantum leap from existing TV display/ look at the new systems -   High frame rate was another issue – but with the life of say OB (remote) truck being say 10 years – do you re-equip with a 1080P50 systems (3G) or go  to something with more resolution or frame rate …. ??

In the UK where Digital Switch Over introduced HD TV – and the large sales of Flat panel screens  to date  means that they would be a lull in the purchase of new screens   may be existing screens would last closer  to 8 years  rather than 5 year or so aw there was with CRTs

If there was need for a step change – the NHK Super High Vision / UHD2 would give that – But Chris Johns posed the question to the audience as to whether UHD2 to the home with a big screen was taking things too far? 

Many members aid that there needed to be a step change in the quality of the image – and in the USA going from 480 lines of picture to 720 or 1080 in HD was a great change – the European 576 widescreen to 1080 was far less – and this may have been why HD did not take off in the consumers mind more rapidly. But on the other hand H.264 and the efficient modulation of DVB-S2 and DVB-T2 may also have played a significant role in fitting HD into limited spectrum. 

Andy Quested pointed out that many programme  makers once  thought that SD was "good enough" and that HD was not something where they should be leading – but there were many who were looking at acquiring / mastering at ” 4K” for a “2k” or HD distribution  – which is what the UK largest distributor  BBC worldwide was looking to at the moment-  Most people seem to find that just “4k” / UHD1 had not the wow factor with the viewers

The improvements in quality came from progressive scan, greater static resolution – better temporal resolution (HFR) and a wider colour gamut - and an “after HD” system would need to embrace all of these to some extent. 

Dave Bancroft looks around during the dicussion

But as Andy Quested pointed out – what “look” did the film and TV programme  makers require – and many like the filmic look –  as much drama is shot “25P” – whilst as Chris Johns pointed out – BSkyB had a great investment in Sports coverage where a Higher frame rate (and progressive scan ) would be a   great advantage.  Members reflected on how they had perceived the realism of the recent release of the Hobbit in 48 frames per second – and were that realistic enough – and what was realism in a fantasy genre?   - some said that neither 24 of 48 Frames per second worked well – and perhaps  true realism was at 60 Frame per second or higher (as we had seen at Dolby at  the UK  section inaugural)

There was a long heritage of films having a jerky motion, and that may continue – but the public may like seeing the world  where the technology is delivering 100/120 pictures a second – i.e. about 4 times the current TV standards-   cause a similar  great love of the “TV look” ( Interlaced )  rather than the realism look of HFR Television. 

But there were a consensus that whatever the next TV standard  was – it needed to be universal ,have a higher temporal and static resolution, larger colour  gamut  and probably for practicality  a compression standard  beyond H.265/HEVC….
 As it really had to wow the audience (and UHD1/ “4k” did not).
Both Chris Johns and Andy Quested emphasized that the look of a programme was what the director likes and the viewer looked at - not just its technology and encouraged all, but particularly students to make links with those producers and directors to understand their viewpoints attitude and needs.

It was also suggested that the base band signal was likely to be encapsulated in IP – although the Computer industry was not making 10G and higher data rate interfaces as cheap as HDSI the moment ….

This brought a look at distribution technologies – and how TV (and film) would work with Internet delivery from players like Netflix…  Andy Quested pointed out that channel is a brand – and that the BBC with iPlayer (and Red button) was exposing what it did on through the air television to also work better and differently over the internet.  Some pointed out that the technical issues were trivial compared to the rights …  

The discussion moved into archives – and how in the digital world it was easy to save everything – and thus everything will reside in electronic form but as it is unindexed it is lost – but is still costing someone storage costs… but if current needs continue there is an insatiable demand for good quality content.   Andy Quested pointed out that Archivist were people who knew the value of material and its likely value and thus were essential to delete material- something that broadcasters could probably teach many other industries about – and also the moderation of the expectation that everything as always instantly available from spinning disc – in time past it took days to recover a tape or film from archive – so is an overnight recovery from LTO tape to much to bear…???

Dawn Harrris and David Austerbury enjoy the refreshments

Time seemed to fly by - and almost everyone present had spoken – contributing their views to our collective understanding of the many issues which are shaping our industries of the moving image. So it was with some regret that the formal business was closed after about 90 minutes but much discussion continued over the refreshments provided by Weitzel.tv.

Photos by Tim Harris