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Mayo 22, 2015

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Putting Ultra HD in Focus

The bloom is most definitely off the rose for Ultra HD (UHD) video.

That much became abundantly clear during the Multi-network Solutions in the Real World Form hosted by Verimatrix and co-sponsored by Elemental Technologies at NAB last month. In a lively panel discussion that I moderated, the five speakers distilled, delved into and debated the key issues surrounding the development and deployment of UHD technology by video service and content providers.

In fact, what impressed me the most about the panel discussion is just how many technical issues still need to be sorted out before UHD truly becomes the “Next Hot Thing” for the video industry. But I was also impressed that technologists seem determined to move forward with UHD anyway because of the many benefits they anticipate that it will bring to both providers and consumers.   

For one thing, several speakers stressed the confusion still swirling around the various technical standards under development for UHD. They observed that providers are having a tough time choosing which tech specs to follow when so many standardization issues have not yet been settled.

Panelists also noted that there's much uncertainty in the market about whether to go ahead with UHD service deployments before the next generation of TVs embedded with High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology are ready to go to market. With the picture-quality benefits of UHD difficult for consumers to discern on small and midsized TV screens without the additional luminance offered by HDR, they said service and content providers alike are groping in the dark about how to proceed.

Other looming UHD challenges were addressed by the panel as well. The long list of challenges includes content preparation, content security, video encoding, device bandwidth limits and the need for a new generation of UHD-enabled sets, among others.  

Despite such challenges, several panelists urged their colleagues to move ahead briskly with UHD testing, trials and deployments or risk falling behind their competitors in the technology chase. For instance, Keith Wymbs, Chief Marketing Officer of Elemental, argued that providers need to charge ahead so they can gain the critical "first mover advantage" in the UHD space. "You don't necessarily wait for standards to solidify to move."

Other panelists recommended that providers figure out their content security strategies for UHD now, before all the tech standards are set. Verimatrix CTO Petr Peterka, for example, said operators should pick chipsets and hardware with the proper security protections already built in and then add on later with firmware upgrades.

"From a security point of view, we have to build a platform today that is future-proof," said "We can't wait two or three years for all the standards and decisions to be made."  

To watch the videos from the event and access bonus content, visit www.multinetworkforum.com/nab2015

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