Ateme, NHK Partner for 'Ultra HD'

Public broadcaster NHK of Japan has chosen encoding technology from Ateme for use in its first public demo in Tokyo of Ultra HD with MPEG-4 AVC (H.264).

Ultra HD technology holds a resolution many times higher than today's HD formats--at 7680x4320--with prototype cameras capturing data up to 4,000 fps and surround-sound audio topping off at 22.2 channels (compared to today's typical 5.1), according to Ateme.

Ultra HD is tentatively scheduled to debut as a bona fide format by 2009, with introduction of a full specification, according to Ateme, as Ultra HD cameras, recorders, encoders and projectors are now being developed. Ultra HD's possible widespread use, however, is still perhaps as much as a generation away. NHK is estimating that satellite tests could begin by 2011. It would likely be no earlier than 2020 that Ultra HD might be ready for transmission in Japan, and possibly elsewhere.

While compression is a big factor in dispersing content via today's HD formats (at least for cable and DBS), compression technology is of even greater interest to Ultra HD proponents. According to Ateme, less than 20 minutes of uncompressed footage consumes about 3.5 TB. (One minute alone eats up 194 GB.) Ateme's MPEG-4 AVC compression technology will attempt to dramatically reduce that demand.

Both firms are hardly new to the HD wars: NHK said it first began delving into the idea of HDTV (in the analog realm) back in 1964; relative newcomer Ateme first introduced its H.264-compatible compression technology nearly three years ago. Ateme is based outside Paris.