EBU Sets a Path to 4KTV

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND—More pixels won’t cut the mustard for the European Broadcasting Union, which wants to see better pixels become a part of the standard for ultra high-definition TV.

“The [technical committee] believes that the current ‘4K ultra HD’ approach of the consumer electronics industry is unsatisfactory and will be of limited success in broadcasting,” the EBU said in its recent policy statement on UHDTV.

The better pixel argument has been circulating among video engineers since the advent of 4KTV. The premise is that higher frame rate, dynamic range, greater color gamut provides more noticeable picture improvement than simply more pixels. There is ongoing debate on whether or not higher resolution alone is even discernible by the average viewer in the average living room.

Televisions being marketed and sold now as “ultra HD” are simply higher res than hi-def, that is, 3,840x2,160 pixels versus 1,920x1,080 or 1,280x720. The EBU cited Display Search projection that 12 percent of TV sets sold next year will be the higher-res 4K sets.

“The EBU Technical Committee believes that the current focus of the [consumer electronics] industry to provide only an increased resolution—4K—and ignoring other enhancements is not a sufficiently large step for the introduction of successful new broadcasting services,” the statement said.

“The DVB Project has specified that a Phase 1 UHDTV broadcast format shall only include the higher resolution and does not take into account other enhanced parameters for ‘better pixels.’ The parameters—or a combination of them—that provide a more immersive viewing experience, such as frame rate, dynamic range, color gamut and enhanced audio are to be considered for a DVB Phase 2 UHDTV broadcast format,” the EBU said.

The EBU noted that YouTube, Netflix and Amazon already could deliver enhanced 4K (with adequate bandwidth). Meanwhile, NHK in Japan is working on delivery 8KTV for the 2020 Olympics.

“The impact of this on the rest of the world is unclear,” the EBU said.

A complete migration to 4K is not expected any time soon, particularly since many operations are not yet capturing and/or transmitting in HD. There’s also the issue of missing pieces, EBU said:

“Mainstream production infrastructures for 4K and UHDTV are still in development…. Many different combinations of parameters are currently under discussion and key interoperability standards are still missing.”

EBU also said better pixels for HD was worth exploring.

“An enhanced, 1080p-based, HD service that includes a certain combination of UHDTV parameters except for the resolution increase, e.g. higher frame rate, higher dynamic range, wider colorimetry and advanced sound system audio, is not yet standardized,” it said.

“Such a 1080p-based HD format could be an appealing option for some broadcasters and should be taken into account in the standardization and investigation process. The EBU proposes that an enhanced 1080p format be developed for broadcasting.”

SeeEBU Policy Statement on Ultra High Definition Television.”