Sinclair and Technicolor Do ATSC 3.0 4K Over-the-Air Broadcast

LOS ANGELES— Sinclair Broadcast Group and Technicolor said they successfully deployed Technicolor’s ATSC 3.0 4K UltraHD testbed platform and receiving an over-the-air signal. The Technicolor platform, based on open audio, video and transport standards including Scalable HEVC (SHVC), MPEG-H audio and MPEG-MMT transport, has been integrated into Sinclair’s experimental OFDM transmission system in Baltimore, Maryland. The impact of this deployment is that broadcasters will be able to deliver the highest quality content, inclusive of 4K UltraHD live broadcast in a simultaneous transmission to consumers both at home and on-the-go.

“Technicolor has created an integrated platform, not just a single component such as audio or video, which enables us to do real-world deployments and testing of this exciting next generation ATSC 3.0 technology,” said Vince Pizzica, senior executive vice president of Corporate Development and Technology for Technicolor. “Our testbed has been designed around open standards, with robustness in mind to ensure delivery of high quality programming to all devices. Transmitting over-the-air for a speed of 70mph in a real-world scenario demonstrates our ‘systems approach’ to solving market and customer issues.”

“Sinclair continues to work to bring future value to all broadcast stakeholders, a future where HDTV and new services can be reliably delivered to tablets and portable devices, and 4K UltraHD to our home audience,” said Mark Aitken, vice president of Advanced Technology for Sinclair. “These new revenue opportunities bring local broadcasters to the forefront of serving our local markets. Our viewers are increasingly mobile in all that they are engaged and the technologies we are demonstrating bring new alternatives in the delivery of media content to consumers.”

This is the first successful broadcast of Scalable HEVC compression anywhere in the world. This is also the first successful integration of MPEG-MMT A/V transport technology, which is enhanced with Technicolor’s fast channel change and staggercast technologies to ensure consumers do not lose audio capabilities even when reception and video are not seamless experiences. All of these elements will work together to deploy the first ATSC 3.0 live experimental transmission in which live 4K scalable video and audio will be delivered over the air and live-streamed onto mobile devices.

Scalable HEVC translates bits from a network data stream into a picture by breaking up video bit streams into subsets that add layers of quality and resolution to video signals. Our platform allows us to flexibly adapt to sub-par network connections by dropping these bit stream subsets or packets in order to reduce the frame rate, resolution or bandwidth consumption of a picture, which prevents the picture from breaking up. For example, a mobile phone would receive only the base layer or bit stream while a high-definition TV or video conferencing console would receive both the base layer and bit stream subset or enhancement layer.

A note from Mark Aitken about SHVC:
Scalable video coding (sometimes referred to as layered coding) offers many benefits to the stakeholders in any transition to a Next Generation Broadcast Platform. High Efficiency Video Coding, also known as H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2, is designed to support 4K and 8K Ultra High Definition. Scalable HEVC, or SHVC allows video bit streams to be broken into bit stream subsets that add layers of quality and resolution to video signals.

To the consumer, it ensures that the rugged nomadic/portable services available to devices such as tablets and smartphones is a high quality viewing experience (HDTV), and it brings to traditional fixed services supported by outdoor antennas the possibility of UltraHD. A ‘base layer’ that provides improved HDTV (supporting high dynamic range, high frame rates, larger bit-depths) drives a better viewing experience across all classes of devices. Having multiple ‘layers’ of service (differentiated robustness) allows the efficient maximization of bit allocation for video and audio services while also serving as a means to provide ‘graceful degradation’. (Imagine an increasingly difficult broadcast environment where the picture quality can progress from UltraHD to HDTV to audio only. No “cliff effect” where it is ‘all or nothing.’ This also provides for a unified base level of service (HDTV) for Broadcasters converting to NGBP.)

For the industries that ‘surround’ television broadcasting (consumer electronics manufacturers, smart phone and tablet makers, programmers, advertisers, etc.), SHVC provides understanding for baselines services that need to be supported (HDTV). A unified deployment commitment also means a level of universal service (HDTV) and expect enhanced services (SHVC). Many of the questions regarding “what will be the primary video service offered?” are easily answered. A number of flexible transition scenarios are available to Broadcasters ensuring an orderly conversion of services to NGBP. Certainty drives a robust ecosystem.

For regulators, the benefits to the public are more easily identified. With ‘graceful degradation’, a higher quality of service can be expected. The digital ‘cliff effect’ is eliminated, and differentiated service levels can be tailored to the needs of the service being offered. More effective use of spectrum across a wide variety of devices – big and small. Competitive nomadic/portable services drive a better value equation for consumers.