Satellites are the natural platform for broadcasting Ultra HD content owing to their bandwidth availability and coverage, says Michel Chabrol, Director Digital Cinema, 3D and Ultra HD – Eutelsat, in conversation with SatellitePro ME, as he invites the industry to test Eutelsat’s demo Ultra HD channel.
“With HEVC and DVB-S3, we believe we should be able to transmit around five Ultra HD 4K channels at 50 or 60 frames per second in a 36 MHz transponder”
What work was involved on the part of Eutelsat to bring about this Ultra HD channel?
The launch of this demo Ultra HD (4K) channel reflects a longstanding objective by Eutelsat to support the broadcast industry along its continuing path of innovation. We launched demo HD and 3D channels as these formats took shape so it was logical to repeat this initiative for Ultra HD.
From an operator’s perspective, being able to deliver sufficient bandwidth for Quad HD (four Full HD streams) transmitted at 40 Mbit/s is our main contribution, in addition to filming some of our own 4K content. We also chose to operate in progressive mode at 50 frames per second which gives a heightened sense of reality. Since the channel’s launch on January 8 we have had even higher than expected interest from content providers, set manufacturers and pay-TV operators to test the transmission chain.
Elaborate on your strategy going forward.
The objective with the demo channel is to provide a platform that enables all actors in the broadcast chain to test the performance of their equipment and the end-to-end chain. We are inviting stakeholders to come to us with their content and equipment to help this product move forward.
“HEVC is generally considered by the industry to be one of the key elements towards wide deployment of 4K and 8K resolution…The equipment that will be needed to be changed with the arrival of HEVC is the encoders on the transmit side and set-top boxes for consumer reception”
Do you believe, in the future, this will be a growth area for the satellite industry vis-à-vis the broadcast vertical?
Satellites will be a natural platform for broadcasting Ultra HD content owing to their bandwidth availability and coverage, so we see this as a logical growth area for our business.
What do the satellite and teleport operator need to do in terms of technology, logistics, training, deployment and other related areas, to be prepared for Ultra HD?
Hollywood studios are already embracing 4K as the next theatrical presentation format and making eight megapixel 4K images a new standard. Recent examples include The Hobbit that Andrew Jackson produced with 48 frames per second to further heighten the sense of reality.
Eutelsat is present in this market with an electronic delivery network already deployed for cinemas at 700 sites in 20 European countries. They are equipped to receive 4K files which can be transferred at 70 Mbit/s or up to 140 Mbit/s by coupling two transponders. Satellite transponders are already fully Ultra HD-compatible. The equipment that will be needed to be changed with the arrival of HEVC is the encoders on the transmit side and set-top boxes for consumer reception.
Eutelsat launches Ultra HD (4K) channel
As the television and cinema industries accelerate their progression towards Ultra HD (4K), Eutelsat Communications has announced it is launching a dedicated demonstration Ultra HD channel for Europe on the Eutelsat 10A satellite. Delivering a resolution of eight million pixels, four times the resolution of HDTV, Ultra HD (4K) is poised to mark the next big leap forward in the immersive viewing experience.
The new channel will reportedly operate in progressive mode at 50 frames per second. It will be encoded in MPEG-4 and transmitted at 40 Mbit/s in four Quad HD streams Eutelsat is partnering with ATEME, a video compression solution provider to the broadcast industry, for the transmissions that will be uplinked to the Eutelsat 10A satellite from its teleport in Rambouillet, near Paris.
However, ground still needs to be covered to improve compression and achieve industry accepted standards. To bring quality Ultra HD content to the home, the new HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) compression standard should allow a significantly lower bit rate than current prevailing codecs (eg. H264/MPEG-4 AVC).
HEVC is generally considered by the industry to be one of the key elements towards wide deployment of 4K and 8K resolution. By 2015, DTH operators could also benefit from DVB-S3, a new broadcast modulation standard which could coincide with the availability of set-top boxes with HEVC chipsets operating up to 60 frames per second. All these add-on technologies may represent significant improvements for reducing bandwidth and supporting quality image delivery. With HEVC and DVB-S3, we believe we should be able to transmit around five Ultra HD 4K channels at 50 or 60 frames per second in a 36 MHz transponder.
This would be with a bitrate per channel a little higher than one current MPEG4 HD channel but with four times the resolution and double the frame rate for a more exciting and comfortable viewing experience.
And of course, as always in our industry, content has to be generated and pay-TV operators will decide on when they want to start commercially phasing in Ultra HD. Cinema and documentaries are expected to be the first type of thematic channel to take advantage of the immersive experience of Ultra HD followed by sport which may also look to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as a powerful launch platform.