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May 12, 2014

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UHD Questions: Exploring the Impact of Use Cases and Standards


Last month, I had the pleasure of presenting a session on “The Evolution of Security in the Connected World” as part of NAB’s Broadcast Engineering Conference. During the session, I explored current multi-network and multi-device security models, and detailed possible responses to potential piracy. I also summarized MovieLabs’ Specifications for Next Generation Video and Enhanced Content Protection and discussed why UHD content presents new challenges to revenue security. 


While UHD revenue security requirements were not the sole focus of the presentation, most of the questions at the end of the session were related to this topic. There is much confusion surrounding UHD, and this was apparent in the many questions I received at the close of the session. (You may also be interested in checking out my recent blog post on the differences between UHD and 4K.) 

One question that I was asked pertained to use cases of delivering UHD content. The MovieLabs’ Specifications do not describe different use cases or release windows; rather its documents outline only the most difficult scenario – the requirements for protecting the highest value piece of content (in this case, an early release 4K on-demand movie). 

The Specifications are singularly focused on preventing attacks on this one particular type of content; however, there are many other uses for UHD content, including subscription VOD, broadcast/linear TV. Someone therefore asked  if an operator is not offering premium movies as part of its services, do they still need to comply with these stringent requirements?  

While there isn’t a crystal clear answer to this question, I think perhaps the video delivery ecosystem should borrow a page out of the Boy Scouts of America’s handbook, and “be prepared.” Under this line of thinking for instance, every connected TV needs to have the highest level of security, because the CE manufacturer doesn’t know what type – or value – of content the TV will consume once it is sold. The subscriber may initially only watch free-to-air, linear TV; but in six months, sign up for an on-demand service for access to premium content. 

Alternatively, if the required level of security is not present in the TV, then a dongle (or similar device) must be used to make the security regime robust.  Such an approach – plugging in a dongle into the HDMI port ­– only requires HDCP (the encryption of HDMI interface) on the TV (more specifically HDCP 2.2). This may work for ‘dumb’ TV panels but will likely not work for ‘smart’ TVs which want to bring the best content to the consumer without the need for a dongle. 

One attendee asked about the role of standardization in UHD content.  In my answer, I referenced the need for a High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) codec to optimize delivery of UHD content. However, as we witnessed with the adoption of MPEG, standards often take time and require the buy-in of the entire ecosystem.  While I see HEVC becoming increasingly popular, I believe it will take some time before it achieves maturity. 

What do you think – how quickly will HEVC become popular? Does MovieLabs need to supplement its existing Specifications with additional use cases? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below!