Posted on February 3, 2014 in ATSC News
By Richard Doherty, ENVISIONEERING
The 2014 International CES 2014 likely lit up more pixels than any trade show in history. More displays packing in more entertainment than Times Square, Piccadilly Circus and the Ginza combined!
Behind all those displays are communications channels. Consider: ATSC standards convey more of those live pixels to consumer audiences than any other system. Here are a few of the CES product and technology highlights that will likely boost viewership from living rooms to second screens to augmented reality systems.
Ultra HD, Here and Now
With ATSC 3.0 work focusing in part on terrestrial delivery of 4K content, it was really exciting to see Ultra High Definition Television screens expanded, literally, at CES. 4K Ultra HD TVs were joined by 5K x 2K (21:9 screen format) UHD screens from Samsung, LG Electronics and others. Ultra HD TVs were shown from more than a dozen vendors, including several Chinese manufacturers eager for North American and European retail and distribution.
Curved and Flexible Ultra HD, HD and OLED screens bowed from many, including Panasonic, Sony Electronics, and Sharp. Samsung and LG showed variable-curvature displays with radius remote-controlled by the push of a button.
Ultra HD delivery pledges bowed from Netflix, Amazon, Technicolor, and DIRECTV complemented the product unveils. Most Cable operators (so far) are silent.
Broadcast 4K delivery in Korea is happening today. American delivery faces many challenges. Existing ATSC data protocols might empower broadcast enhanced services, leading to second screen, on screen and delayed broadcast business models for ATSC 2.0 and beyond.
Ultra HD 4K content delivery rates at CES varied from a paltry 4 to 8 megabiots per second (mbps) –Technicolor / M-Go “upscaled” 4K –to 15.6 mbps pledged by Netflix starting later this year. Somewhat hidden in the back of the Samsung booth was an interesting over-the-air 4K demo with Sinclair Broadcasting, previewing some aspects of how ATSC 3.0 will ultimately work.
Also of keen interest to ATSC members working on 4K TV, extended Ultra HD color palette and broad dynamic range demonstrations were hosted by Sony, Dolby (HDR), Technicolor and others.
Second Screens, Internet TV and More
Advanced operating systems for Ultra HD and HD screens were introduced by some, dovetailing with the ATSC 2.0 candidate standard. For example, LG showed a network-integrated OS (based on the HP/Palm webOS platform they acquired last year) that promises simplify and speed access to a world of “Over the Top” (OTT) content and ATSC web-enriched streams, along with rich social media and information, too.
Audio always has been a core element of ATSC standards, and CES set aside a new High Resolution Audio cluster of exhibits amongst the record two million square feet of exhibitors. Sony’s booth featured their own High-Resolution Audio products. Today these products are high-end DAC (192 kilobit) audio systems and PC-based delivery from a handful of High Resolution audio music suppliers. Tomorrow, they may be part of Sony’s HDTV and Ultra HD products and services.
In addition to showing a reference design 4K TV for professional consumers and industry, other Sony showcases (CEO Kaz Hiarai was the CES keynoter) included a novel use of augmented reality smart glasses for enjoying Ultra HD content. The Sony EyeGlasses Viewer can be handheld (like a pair of opera glasses) or worn on the head, shooing popup information appropriate to the screen action where the viewer is gazing. There was much attendee interest in the implications of such technologies for large screen, family and larger audience enjoyment.
Panasonic showed off a novel 4K personal video camera along with its curved OLED displays and Ultra HD screens. The head-mounted 4K cam will serve both professional (think surgery and hand skill lessons) and personal (4K sports cam) customers. The large lipstick sized cam feeds to a pocket recorder/WiFi transmitter.
Prime Time for ATSC
In the U.S., ATSC broadcasting technology has empowered a broad set of business models for station owners and networks, the four top networks, PBS, station groups and independents. Despite all the naysayers, prime-time “appointment” TV is bigger than ever. Super Bowl commercials last Sunday commanded $4 million for a 30-second spot!
Advances in video compression are allowing individual stations and station groups to transmit multiple HD channels and several HD/SD video combinations. Datacasting may allow stations to deliver new capabilities to networked TVs and mobile devices both.
The full commercial impact of the recent judicial overturn of the FCC’s “Net Neutrality” Act is not known. Most industry pundits believe the cost of delivering OTT TV content will surely rise, perhaps making broadcast economics even more attractive to programmers and content owners.
The ATSC’s emerging 2.0 and 3.0 standards are destined to level set and deliver tremendous benefits, even as the economics and regulation of cable, DSL and multicast content world changes in the years ahead.
Richard Doherty is co-founder and Research Director for The Envisioneering Group, a technology assessment, market research and publishing company based in Seaford, N.Y. A long-time ally of the ATSC, as well as a Senior IEEE member and organizer of its annual ICCE conference at CES, Doherty was co-chair of ATSC WG-17 for Interactive Data Services. enivisoneering.net @envisioneering firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted in ATSC News
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The Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc., is an international, non-profit organization developing voluntary standards and recommended practices for digital terrestrial broadcasting. ATSC member organizations represent the broadcast, broadcast equipment, motion picture, consumer electronics, computer, cable, satellite, and semiconductor industries. ATSC also develops digital terrestrial broadcasting implementation strategies and supports educational activities on ATSC standards.