—While some broadcasters
are looking beyond 4K to 8K acquisition,
workflows for 4K content in broadcast
environments are already being employed
in the United States even as delivery
of 4K to the home does not currently
Camera technology with 4K and
greater capability has been around for
awhile. Red first popularized it and now
a host of camera manufacturers offer 4K
capabilities, among them Sony, Blackmagic
Design, JVC and GoPro (yes, even the
HD Hero 3+ offers 4K, albeit at 15fps).
Blackmagic Design has broken the price
barrier with its $4,000 UHD camera complete
with global shutter while Panasonic
has been teasing us with prospects of
a 4K Varicam.
Apple Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere
Pro CC and Sony Vegas can edit 4K while
Avid Media Composer can extract an HD
window from a 4K file. And such color
and finishing applications as Autodesk
Smoke, Quantel Pablo, Da Vinci Resolve
and Assimilate are compatible with frame
sizes greater than HD. At InterBEE in Tokyo
last November, Grass Valley went a
step further, demonstrating real-time editing
8K content on Edius 7.
One might imagine that broadcast applications
for 4K would be limited by delivery
capabilities, but that is hardly the case.
4K production is popping up in episodics
even as it has been in use in sports for the
last couple of years.
Two examples of the use of 4K in current
episodic shows are NBC’s “The Blacklist”
and “The Michael J. Fox Show,” both
shot on Sony PMW-F55 cameras adapted to
use Panavision lenses, recording 4K raw on
Sony’s AXS-R5 recorder. While both shows
are delivered in HD, they take different approaches.
“Blacklist” shoots 4K 16-bit linear raw to
the AXS-R5 and HD proxy to the internal
SxS cards. The proxy material is processed
as dailies—uploaded to a server, color corrected
and output as DNxHD for editorial.
The 4K raw footage is sent on native Sony
AXSM 512 GB cards overnight to Postworks
where final conform from the edit proxies
and HD output takes place.
The “Michael J. Fox Show” shoots simultaneous
4K to the R5 recorder and Slog2
footage to the cards. The 4K footage is utilized
primarily for archival purposes.
At the 2014 International CES last month,
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced a 4K
strategy with LG in which the second season
of Netflix’s original “House of Cards” series
will be streamed in 4K utilizing H.265
compression in a 15 Mbps stream decoded
by a dedicated chip in LG’s new UHD smart
TV’s. Similar on board encoders were announced
Amazon, having just entered the content
delivery business, has also announced
plans to stream its original content in 4K.
While 4K web streaming has existed for
some time—even YouTube can stream 4K
for those with sufficient bandwidth to play
it—the strategy of integrating 4K decoding
into consumer sets receiving the signal via
IP addresses the question of 4K delivery.
With current MPEG-2-based home set-top
boxes and the associated infrastructure,
cable and satellite providers would need
to make considerable investments to convert
entire ecosystems to H.265/HEVC. IP
delivery adds a whole new dimension to
SPORTS & LIVE EVENTS
|Fox Sports uses the Sony F65 to shoot NFL games in 4K and use the footage for zooming.
Sports and live events have been the earliest
adopters of 4K acquisition. Fox Sports
has used the Sony F65 for NFL coverage
since the 2012-2013 season. Fox delivers
in 720p so the 4K image has a resolution
9x greater than their delivery format. Fox
Sports uses EVS’ 4K XT3 server with Epsio
Zoom to zoom in on key replays to give
viewers clearer close-ups of content such
as controversial calls.
Fox Sports’ coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII utilized an array of
4K cameras in the stadium much as the network
had covered during the regular NFL
season. One additional 4K Ikegami camera
was mounted in the MetLife blimp. Donwlink
via microwave was 1080i.
Fox Sports is “finding the tools that are
best in breed to utilize 4K in a production
aspect that will exceed expectations,” said
James Stellpflug, vice president of Sports
EVS America. “From camera to replay server
to whatever device they’re using—zooming
and scaling extraction is part of that
effort—bringing speed and quality to their
Super Bowl production.”
|Last month, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced that season 2 of the
streamer’s “House of Cards” series will be streamed in 4K utilizing
H.265 compression in a 15 Mbps stream decoded by a dedicated chip
in LG’s new UHD smart TVs.
EVS articulated its 4K strategy
in a March 2013 white paper noting the
extensive use even at that point of 4K acquisition
in sports and predicting wider
adoption of 4K in broadcast drama, entertainment
and documentaries. In fact, this
study predicted that 49 percent of producers
will utilize at least some 4K production
by the end of 2014.
From the EVS perspective of providing
storage solutions for the massive amounts
of data created by these acquisition formats,
the Belgium-based company’s flexible
XT3 server platform features four bonded
input channels from camera and the ability
to process up to three 4K channels of
record and replay. Thus the ISO output
of a single 4K camera can be utilized for
zoomed HD replay.
Another major player in 4K delivery is
Ericsson, who collaborated with Sony Europe,
Intelsat, Newtec and BT Group PLC to
broadcast a multicam 4K UHD rugby game
via satellite and fiber utilizing Ericsson’s
AVP 2000 encoders and RX8200 modular
receivers last September. Cisco, as well, has
entered the 4K delivery arena with its solutions,
including cloud-based H.265/HEVC
encoding as well as 4K IP-based set top receivers.
Thus, while the primary
applications of 4K
in the broadcast environment
are either for
windowing or archival
purposes, rapidly developing
enable mass delivery capabilities
Content, of course,
is driven by consumer
demand. CEA estimated
UHDTV sales at about
57,000 units by last
month. By comparison
to the number of TV
receivers in use in the
U.S., that amount seems small, but broadcasters
need to be attuned to a viewership
driven not just by the traditional
television set but also by IP delivery, regardless
of the device on which the content
The wider availability of 4K cameras and
compatible software coupled with new delivery
technologies is not only accelerating
the pace of 4K production but also showing
that it is the direction of production. It’s
not a fad or just a technology curiosity. 4K
is here to stay.
Ned Soltz is an independent video
shooter, editor and producer, as well as
consultant and general technology guru.
In addition to current production and
consulting projects, he is a contributing
editor for Digital Video magazine.