Posted on June 2, 2014 in ATSC News
Following are excerpts from coverage of the 2014 ATSC Broadcast Television Conference and ATSC 3.0 Boot Camp by Consumer Electronics Daily and Communications Daily, reprinted with permission from Warren Communications:
‘Graceful and Agile Evolution’
‘Hybrid’ Services Point Up ‘Flexibility’ of ATSC 3.0, Its Framers Say
WASHINGTON (May 8) “Flexibility” in service options will be a keystone of the next-gen ATSC 3.0 DTV broadcast system, including the opportunity for terrestrial broadcasters to beam “hybrid” content services to fixed and mobile receivers over the air as well as via broadband, Rich Chernock, chief science officer at Triveni Digital, told the “ATSC 3.0 Boot Camp” conference Wednesday.
“The notion of sending certain things over broadcast and other things over broadband that could mix, synchronize and so on is part of the design of this,” said Chernock, who chairs ATSC’s Technology Group 3, the umbrella committee that’s supervising ATSC 3.0 standards developments. “Multiple services” that beam content to “a very wide range of viewing devices” are what ATSC 3.0’s framers envision will be featured in the system, Chernock said. “We’re now starting to talk about possibly more than one video [option] per service.” Options such as “multiview” and “multiscreen” are another “possibility,” as is the option of choosing among standard definition, HD and Ultra HD resolutions, he said. The system also will adapt easily to future innovations, including “8K later if it makes sense,” he said.
“Scalable,” “interoperable” and “adaptable” are some of the code words that describe “the general principles” behind ATSC 3.0, Chernock said. Though ATSC 3.0 won’t be backward-compatible with the existing system, “there may be pieces that are similar,” he said. “There may even be pieces that are the same. That’s where it makes sense. But we want to add performance improvements, additional functionality — enough so it’s worth going to this system. One reminder, and it’s been said many times in different words: The whole idea of this is to provide the toolkit. The toolkit provides the tools for the broadcaster to implement whatever kinds of business they want.”
Business considerations have a background presence in the ATSC 3.0 standards-setting process, Chernock said. “Most of us are not doing this because this is a nice and interesting challenge. We’re doing it because it has some business interests for our companies. Those considerations have to be kept in mind. They’re not part of the standards development, but they’re in the back of everybody’s minds as we do this. And the other thing that affects us is regulatory. That’s going to influence things. We have no control over it, but it happens. We’ve got to keep that in mind as well.”
An audience questioner asked Chernock if he was aware of any “chatter” that the FCC might mandate ATSC 3.0 “at some point” as part of the spectrum repacking process that will follow the incentive auction. “Thoughts have crossed people’s minds, but it’s not part of our direct work,” Chernock responded. “However, those are the kinds of things you have to keep in the back of your mind. What the FCC does is known by the FCC. We’re sort of marching down the direction based on technology.”
For broadcasters, ATSC 3.0, though a non-backward-compatible system, is “worth doing” because the existing ATSC system is “showing its age,” and broadcasters need new ways to compete with other forms of content delivery, said Skip Pizzi, NAB senior director-new media technologies, who chairs the S31 group on ATSC 3.0 use cases and scenarios. Referring to “this idea of hybrid services,” broadcasters “are really the only ones who can leverage this potentially huge power of over-the-air, plus online, services together,” Pizzi said. “Hybrid’s a big, important part” of ATSC 3.0, “and not just to be able to deliver stuff online and compete with Netflix and things like that, but to have that online component be added to the on-the-air content,” Pizzi said. “Nobody but broadcasters can do that.”
“There’s no putting ice and sugar” on the problem of multipath interference, but ATSC 3.0 has technical tools “on the table” to address it, said Luke Fay, senior staff software systems engineer at Sony Electronics, who chairs ATSC’s “S32″ specialist group that’s trying to standardize the next-gen system’s physical layer. “People are more and more mobile today, and despite the fact that Mr. Angry Customer can move out of downtown and get a signal, he still wants to get TV reception downtown,” Fay said.
ATSC 3.0 will use orthogonal frequency division multiplex modulation with “guard intervals” that will “easily remove the multipath effects,” Fay said. It also will sport strong “forward error correction” coding to “recover symbol errors,” he said. “We’re targeting fixed devices with indoor TV antennas. We’re also targeting mobile devices with very short antennas, so we have a lot of parameters to deal with.”
ATSC 3.0 will feature “extensibility to account for future technology improvements,” Fay said. “One of the messages we want to send out is, this is the starting point for ATSC 3.0. We want to signal something that can grow.” He recalled that the existing ATSC system was finalized at the FCC in 1995, but didn’t first get on the air until nearly a decade later. “Yet here we are in 2014, and it’s already old. How did that happen? NTSC was fine for 50 or 60 years, and all of a sudden, 10 years out, we’ve got a problem. So we need to be flexible on technology. It’s always advancing.”
As for those future advancements, “determining mechanisms for graceful and agile evolution are an integral part” of the ATSC 3.0 work, said Madeleine Noland, an LG consultant who chairs S34 on ATSC 3.0’s applications and presentation layer, which includes the system’s basic audio and video parameters. “When the next greatest codec comes out, we will be ready to make the transition,” she said. “Graceful” is the “equitable word” to describe adapting to technological improvements, she said. “How do we get there without disrupting everything? That’s absolutely on the table, and part of the work….” — Paul Gluckman
* * *
WASHINGTON (May 9) The ATSC’s “S34-1 ad hoc group,” assigned to writing the specifications on ATSC 3.0’s video component, has 8K on its long-term “radar,” but no one has formally proposed including it in the final ATSC 3.0 standard, Alan Stein, Technicolor vice president-technology, who chairs S34-1, told the “ATSC 3.0 Boot Camp” conference Wednesday.
S34-1 has “an exhaustive list of future technologies to consider,” such as “higher-premium color planes,” Stein said. “We’re contribution-based and consensus-driven,” he said. “But no one has proposed 8K as of today. However, it’s on our radar. Interesting data points come up, but again, no one has proposed it.” Executives involved in ATSC 3.0 standards-setting said at the NAB Show that 8K likely wouldn’t be in the cards for ATSC 3.0, at least in its first go-round, but didn’t give the lack of a formal 8K proponent as the reason why.
NHK, the strongest 8K advocate with plans to launch Super Hi-Vision broadcasts in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, “did not make a proposal of what they thought ATSC 3.0 should have,” Stein said in Q&A. “They did make a contribution about what they plan to do. We haven’t considered that a proposal for 34-1 to consider. But if we misunderstood the intent of that, then I would say we should revisit that.” NHK representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.
There have been proposals raised before S34-1 on a “5K” solution packing 2160 x 4800 resolution and a 64:27 aspect ratio, Stein said. His understanding is that CEA “is in the process of adding this” to its CEA-861 standard, he said. But there’s no 5K component in CEA-861-F, the version of the spec that was released last year, Brian Markwalter, CEA senior vice president-standards and research, told us by email. CEA-861-F does contain “some 64:27 aspect ratios for HD resolutions,” Markwalter said, and 5K “is in the queue for a possible extension.” The “specific proposal” before CEA is for 5120 x 2160 at p24/25/30 frame rates, Markwalter said.
Early on, S34-1 “decided it would operate on a consensus basis, that we wouldn’t require an external call for proposals” for ATSC 3.0’s “video component,” Stein said. “Participation and making contributions is critical. If people wanted MPEG-2 to be part of ATSC 3.0, it would need to be proposed. That makes our schedule a little better than some of the people who have external calls for proposals going out. But on the other hand, we have to drive to consensus, and a lot of times we hear interesting things but no one makes a contribution on them, and if no one makes a contribution for the technology that they would like, it’s not going to get into the standard.”
S34-1 has reached consensus on the HEVC codec, but HEVC parameters such as “profiles,” “levels” and “the use of scalable extensions” remain “all under active discussion,” Stein said. There also has been “a bit of discussion” over 8-bit versus 10-bit, he said. There has been “clear input from the broadcast community” about building support in ATSC 3.0 for legacy interlaced formats, and 480i and 1080i “will be supported,” he said. There’s also “wide” consensus that 4K resolution for ATSC 3.0 will be progressive-scan-only, he said. Given the ATSC 3.0 requirement that fixed devices will receive up to 4K resolution and mobile devices up to full HD, “perhaps having a two-layer, scalable” HEVC approach “elegantly solves that problem, but that’s still to be discussed,” he said.
S34-1 has earmarked the June-September time frame to discuss high-dynamic-range (HDR) solutions, Stein said. “We’ll ask for contributions” on HDR, “and we’ll get multiple contributions,” he said. “Then I suspect that a fair amount of time will be spent discussing the evaluation criteria, how we would be able to choose an HDR solution, and what would be the value proposition involved.”
The S34-2 ad hoc group on ATSC 3.0 audio is charged with drafting specs that would make for an “immersive” experience, said Jim Starzynski, director and principal audio engineer, NBCUniversal Advanced Engineering, the group’s chairman. ATSC 3.0 audio is broken down into two parts — its “personalization aspect” and its home theater surround component, Starzynski said. “That’s what we’re chasing after here.”
For ATSC 3.0 surround, “we’re adding this whole idea of height,” Starzynski said. “We’re talking about how we’re getting so many queues off the ceiling, and everything bouncing around. With flat 5.1 and 7.1, you don’t get those. But when you start to add the height speakers and the depth speakers and all these extra things that come into play, it feels more realistic and it’s really terrific.” He doesn’t “want to scare anybody with this” with fears of any possible overkill, he said. “These things will gradually work their way in. I know people who are in broadcast operations are going to say, ‘This is a lot to chew.’” S34-2 has been “zoning on” a format it calls “7.1 plus 4,” which includes four height speakers, he said. “It seems everybody thinks that’s a great place to start for a home theater enthusiast who could go that level.”
The S33-3 ad hoc group on interactive service and companion screen received detailed technical descriptions from six watermarking proponents Friday, said Madeleine Noland, an LG consultant who chairs the group. The proponents are Civolution, Digital Voice Systems, MarkAny, Sony, Technicolor and Verance, Noland said. S33-3 foresees a single “winner-take-all” proponent emerging from its deliberations rather than combining a mix of the best technological attributes of several systems because that would create compatibility problems in the field, she said. The watermarking is to activate “automatic content recognition” functionality that would enable certain interactive features of ATSC 3.0, she said. Watermarking proponents were asked to answer “open-ended” questions about their systems’ robustness under a variety of likely scenarios, she said in Q&A. For example, one question asked proponents to describe how their solutions’ provide immunity to false watermark detections, she said. — Paul Gluckman
* * *
Though the ATSC 3.0 standard hasn’t been completed, broadcasters should begin planning for the transition to the new standard, said Capitol Broadcasting Vice President Sam Matheny. “The transition is too important to put off planning for it.” Matheny said many of the issues will be the same regardless of the technical details of the new standard. Globally, TV transitions take an average of ten years, with even the fastest ones taking around six years, he said. Despite the need to plan, Matheny conceded that numerous questions about such a transition remain, such as whether it should be phased, or if it will coincide with the post-incentive auction repacking.
Getting the FCC to align the repacking with the ATSC 3.0 transition would be “a very big mountain to scale” said BIA/Kelsey Chief Economist Mark Fratrik. The commission is unlikely to be interested in changing the timing of the auction to work with ATSC, he said. Though [Gates Air’s Jay] Adrick suggested holding the auction at the planned time, but delaying the repacking, Fratrik said such a delay would lower the prices bidders would be willing to offer for broadcast spectrum in the auction. “The dollar amount goes down much more quickly” if bidders can’t use the spectrum right away, Fratrik said. — Monty Tayloe
* * *
WASHINGTON (May 20) … Speaker after speaker at the conference emphasized that ATSC 3.0, even after it’s ratified as a 4K-centricfinal standard late next year, will be “extensible” to adapt to future technology enhancements, including possibly 8K ….
Those constant reminders were made because “just as the original ATSC standard proved to be flexible and was amended and adapted to meet the changing needs of broadcasters (such as the addition of mobile digital TV functionality), we believe the proposed ATSC 3.0 standard needs to be similarly extensible for new technologies,” ATSC President Mark Richer told us by email. “Mobile capability will be an integrated capability of 3.0 and the Physical Layer will be far more flexible than the original DTV Standard.”
With the existing “ATSC 1.0″ DTV system, “we relied on MPEG Transport to provide that flexibility and it’s worked well,” Richer told us when asked whether the repeated reminders of ATSC 3.0 extensibility were a reaction to those who regard ATSC 3.0 as being set in stone once the standard is completed. “For ATSC 3.0, the backbone will be Internet Protocol based, which gives us a tremendous ability to work in either broadcast or Internet-based environments. An IP-based system, by nature, will be extensible. It’s not a reaction, it’s a requirement for an effective standard.”
Another often-repeated theme at the “Boot Camp” conference was the plea for more participants to get involved in the ATSC 3.0 standards-setting process. Richer told us this was a proactive measure to build the most effective standard possible, not a reaction to lack of participation. “The work now underway with ATSC 3.0 will set a broadcast TV standard that should endure for some time, just as the current ATSC 1.0 standard has served us well for two decades,” Richer said. “We believe that it’s very important to involve as many stakeholders as possible — and in particular TV broadcasters.
“Fortunately, ATSC has recently added several new broadcaster members to the long list of organizations who recognize the critical work of standards setting, and we’re delighted to now include Meredith, Hearst Television and also the Pearl TV broadcast consortium to our membership. They join the list of many other member companies who are making important contributions to our work. The request for participation is constant, in virtually everything that we do.” — Paul Gluckman
Copyright 2014 by Warren Communications News Inc., Reprinted by permission.
Posted in ATSC News
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