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Preparing for Next-Gen HD

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Old 02-14-2009, 06:14 AM   #1  
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Preparing for Next-Gen HD

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New technologies could help cable compete better with satellite's offerings

By George Winslow -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/16/2009 12:00:00 AM MT
Ready or not, the future of high-definition television is on its way. With hi-def TVs in fewer than half of U.S. homes, HD is still something of an emerging technology. But competitive pressures are forcing programmers and operators to plan for new phases of HD.

“The beginning of the next-generation HD is already here,” says Bob Zitter, executive VP of technology and chief technology officer at HBO. “Consumers already access programming at 1080p [resolution quality via Blu-ray disks, Internet downloads or home camcorders] that is better quality than [the 720p or 1080i formats] any broadcast network, cable operator, satellite provider or phone company is offering today.”

Some even argue that these next-generation HD technologies offer cable, which has struggled to compete with satellite's HD offerings, a way to move ahead of the competition in the next three to five years. “You can get video from a lot of sources—satellite, telephone companies, over the Internet,” says Dick Green, president and CEO of CableLabs, which is actively helping cable operators explore the potential of several newer formats, including 3D HD. “So it is important for us to look at how the cable industry can enhance the video product and differentiate ourselves from our competitors with our video product.”

Some next-generation technology involves delivery of stereoscopic 3D images, a format already being used in theaters. There are currently about 1,600 digital theaters capable of presenting 3D films or events, up from 500 in 2007, and the number of screens is expected to hit 4,000 by year-end, estimates Michael Lewis, CEO and chairman of RealD, a provider of 3D technology to theaters.

“In the movies, 3D is simply here,” says Andy Setos, president of engineering at the Fox Group. Working with partners, Fox Sports has produced NBA, NFL and BCS Championship games in 3D HD for theaters. “But in the home setting, it is way experimental,” he says.

Then there is the matter of image quality and how to enhance it—either by increasing the number of pixels being displayed, which boosts resolution; or by increasing the number of frames per second, which improves the way motion is rendered in high-action sports or movie programming. New compression technologies are also allowing networks to deliver better HD quality in less bandwidth. For example, HBO and Hallmark Movie Channel have both adopted MPEG-4 advanced compression systems to distribute new HD services via satellite.

“Everyone is moving to MPEG-4 because it offers huge bandwidth savings and is much better for transport,” says Jim Bennett, VP of technical operations at Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel.

Over the next few years, some programmers believe they will need to move from the 720 progressive line and 1080 interlaced hi-def formats they currently use to the higher-quality 1080 progressive line format at 60 frames per second, which is the resolution displayed by most new HD sets. Others remain skeptical. “1080p at 60 frames per second would require retooling of the entire industry, and I don't really see the benefits,” Setos says.

Satellite operators Dish Network and DirecTV have broadcast 1080p pay-per-view movies that can be viewed by subscribers with new MPEG-4 set-tops, and cable network A&E has used the broadband connection in Dish's newest set-tops to deliver 1080p on-demand downloads of its new crime drama, The Beast. But delivering traditional linear networks in 1080p, which would include deploying millions of new set-tops, seems an elusive prospect. “Today, it is not possible for any programmers to send 1080p content over the existing distribution chain,” adds Michael Aloisi, VP of distribution technology, satellite and affiliate services at MTV Networks.

Still a number of programmers, particularly those offering sports and movies, are readying their production chain to support “higher” hi-def in the future. Many network primetime shows are already shot on 1080p cameras. Sport giant ESPN is also preparing to move up to 1080p, says Chuck Pagano, the company's executive VP of technology. It is building a new facility at the Staples Center in Los Angeles that will be 1080p/60fps-capable. “We are taking steps to get ready for the next generation,” Pagano says.

CableLabs' Green adds that cable can out-deliver the Blu-ray-quality experience because the sector can devote more capacity to it. “By the time we need to do that, we'll have solved our capacity problems with more digital and less analog,” he says. “That will give us a big advantage.”
http://www.broadcastingcable.com/art...hp?rssid=20065

Last edited by Lee Stewart; 02-14-2009 at 02:44 PM..
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Old 02-14-2009, 12:42 PM   #2  
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Nice read Lee...thanks. I love to read articles like this that focus on adopting new technologies to the Cable/Sat HD industries. It's always the consumers that benefits from competition within competing formats. Over a year ago I switched from cable (Cableone) to Dish Network because the latter offered much more HD programming and at less cost!!!
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Old 02-14-2009, 02:42 PM   #3  
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Still a number of programmers, particularly those offering sports and movies, are readying their production chain to support “higher” hi-def in the future. Many network primetime shows are already shot on 1080p cameras. Sport giant ESPN is also preparing to move up to 1080p, says Chuck Pagano, the company's executive VP of technology. It is building a new facility at the Staples Center in Los Angeles that will be 1080p/60fps-capable. “We are taking steps to get ready for the next generation,” Pagano says.
THAT is very interesting. 1080x60P is the highest form of HD. That would be twice the frame rate of 1080i (30P). And twice the pixels at the same frame rate of 720P
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Old 02-14-2009, 06:14 PM   #4  
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THAT is very interesting. 1080x60P is the highest form of HD. That would be twice the frame rate of 1080i (30P). And twice the pixels at the same frame rate of 720P
Interesting Article Lee, Thanks for posting
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Old 02-15-2009, 12:37 AM   #5  
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Great read Lee.
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Old 02-16-2009, 11:15 AM   #6  
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I'm happy to see that our choices for higher quality HD will be getting better in the coming years but reading this it sounds like a "This is why we are better than BD" press release.

After all how do you "out-deliver the Blu-ray-quality experience"? The only way I know is to offer less compression (and there's nothing saying that less compression than BD would offer a better picture) or moving past HD to SHD. So at best all they can do is equal, not out deliver, BD.

Now if he was talking about out delivering the number of films, TV shows, etc then he could have a point. But given the time frame he is talking about, a few years, the BD catalog should be much larger.
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Old 02-16-2009, 11:27 AM   #7  
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THAT is very interesting. 1080x60P is the highest form of HD. That would be twice the frame rate of 1080i (30P). And twice the pixels at the same frame rate of 720P
I wouldnt say its the highest form of HD. Saying so would be like saying 720p at 60fps on broadcast is better than 720p 24fps blu ray quality. Theres other variables and its all dependent on the content.
If compression is minimal(big if) then something like 1080p 60p live events would be better on broadcast than on blu ray. Most movie content wouldnt really benefit though.
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Old 02-16-2009, 11:29 AM   #8  
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I'm happy to see that our choices for higher quality HD will be getting better in the coming years but reading this it sounds like a "This is why we are better than BD" press release.

After all how do you "out-deliver the Blu-ray-quality experience"? The only way I know is to offer less compression (and there's nothing saying that less compression than BD would offer a better picture) or moving past HD to SHD. So at best all they can do is equal, not out deliver, BD.

Now if he was talking about out delivering the number of films, TV shows, etc then he could have a point. But given the time frame he is talking about, a few years, the BD catalog should be much larger.
They are talking about 1080x60P HD CAM. Today, they use either 1080x60i, 1080x30P or 720x60P.

It has nothing to do with film.

BTW - BD does not support 1080x30P let alone 1080x60P. Neither are in the specs.
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Old 02-16-2009, 11:35 AM   #9  
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They are talking about 1080x60P HD CAM. Today, they use either 1080x60i, 1080x30P or 720x60P.

It has nothing to do with film.

BTW - BD does not support 1080x30P let alone 1080x60P. Neither are in the specs.
Yes I was just making that clear. Its all dependent on the content.

At this point though I think they should use the bandwidth to improve PQ at current resolutions since only a small amount of HD owners even have 1080p.
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“1080p at 60 frames per second would require retooling of the entire industry, and I don't really see the benefits,” Setos says.
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Old 02-16-2009, 11:48 AM   #10  
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Yes I was just making that clear. Its all dependent on the content.

At this point though I think they should use the bandwidth to improve PQ at current resolutions since only a small amount of HD owners even have 1080p.
And as you can see - not all agree with the above quote:

Quote:
Still a number of programmers, particularly those offering sports and movies, are readying their production chain to support “higher” hi-def in the future. Many network primetime shows are already shot on 1080p cameras. Sport giant ESPN is also preparing to move up to 1080p, says Chuck Pagano, the company's executive VP of technology. It is building a new facility at the Staples Center in Los Angeles that will be 1080p/60fps-capable. “We are taking steps to get ready for the next generation,” Pagano says.
And it comes as no surprise that the naysayer comes from FOX - the company that refused to initially deliver HD (while the other networks were) and gave us EDTV Widescreen = 480P instead (NYC).
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Old 02-16-2009, 11:55 AM   #11  
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And as you can see - not all agree with the above quote:

And it comes as no surprise that the naysayer comes from FOX - the company that refused to initially deliver HD (while the other networks were) and gave us EDTV Widescreen = 480P instead (NYC).
Its a marketing advantage to say youre offering 1080p.. kind of like fullHD.. Though in reality it might have been more beneficial to use that extra bandwidth for current resolutions.
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Old 02-16-2009, 12:11 PM   #12  
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Its a marketing advantage to say youre offering 1080p.. kind of like fullHD.. Though in reality it might have been more beneficial to use that extra bandwidth for current resolutions.
As cable reduces it's analog transmissions and increases it's digital transmissions - that should be taken care of up to a point. 1080x60P will deliver the best looking PQ for sports - the other driving force behind HD.
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Old 02-16-2009, 12:22 PM   #13  
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THAT is very interesting. 1080x60P is the highest form of HD. That would be twice the frame rate of 1080i (30P). And twice the pixels at the same frame rate of 720P
1080x60p is the end result of 1080x30i after it has been deinterlaced using line doubling, or the 'bob' method. So it isn't completely unheard of in current displays. Nobody does native 1080x60p transmission yet though.
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Old 02-16-2009, 01:27 PM   #14  
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1080x60p is the end result of 1080x30i after it has been deinterlaced using line doubling, or the 'bob' method. So it isn't completely unheard of in current displays. Nobody does native 1080x60p transmission yet though.
Correct - though it looks like it may be an option in the future.
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Old 02-16-2009, 04:41 PM   #15  
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High-Def's Next Step

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Programmers Prepare For 3-D, More Pixels And “Higher-Def”
by George Winslow -- Multichannel News, 2/16/2009 12:00:00 AM MT
Ready or not, the future of high-definition television is on its way.

With HDTV sets in less than half of all American homes, the format is still something of an emerging technology. But that hasn't stopped consumer electronics manufacturers from touting next-generation HD. And competitive pressures are forcing programmers and operators to take notice.

“The beginning of the next-generation HD is already here,” said Bob Zitter, HBO executive vice president of technology and chief technology officer. “Consumers already access programming at 1080p [via Blu-ray disks, Internet downloads or home video cameras] that is better quality than [the 720p or 1080i formats] any broadcast network, cable operator, satellite provider or phone company is offering today. Over time, the television industry will have to offer content that is equivalent to what consumers can get from other sources already on the market, such as Blu-ray.”

Some even argue that these next-generation technologies offer cable, which has struggled to compete with satellite's high-definition offerings, a way to move ahead of the competition in the next three to five years.

“Video is becoming a commodity,” said Dick Green, president and CEO of CableLabs, which is actively helping cable operators explore the potential of several newer formats, including 3-D HD. “You can get video from a lot of sources — satellite, telephone companies, over the Internet. So it is important for us to look at how the cable industry can enhance the video product and differentiate ourselves from our competitors with our video product. We want cable to be the gold standard for HD quality. These [next-generation HD formats] have the potential to do that.”

How programmers and operators tap into that potential is another matter. While everyone agrees that newer formats will take years to develop, there is no clear agreement about what formats offer the best business opportunities.

Some next-generation formats involve the delivery of stereoscopic 3-D images, something that is already being used in theaters and has the potential of being brought into the home via videogame consoles, Blu-ray disks and ultimately sports or event programming.

There are currently about 1,600 digital theaters capable of presenting 3-D films or events, up from 500 in 2007, and the number of screens is expected to hit 4,000 by the end of this year, estimates Michael Lewis, the CEO and chairman of RealD, a provider of 3-D technology to theaters.

“In the movies, 3-D is simply here,” Fox Group president of engineering Andy Setos said.

Working with partners, Fox Sports has produced National Basketball Association, National Football League and the Bowl Championship Series games in 3-D HD for audiences in theaters. “But in the home setting it is way experimental,” Setos said.

One major problem is that there are no standards for delivery of 3-D content into the home, with different types of TVs using different kinds of glasses explains CableLab's Green.

Production costs are also high, with a 3-D HD production of an NBA game costing about six times the $50,000 needed for a normal HD production, Green said. Some broadcasters have experimented with 3-D programming but it is not currently possible to deliver true 3-D HD images over existing multichannel pipelines.

Other next-generation formats enhance image quality — either by increasing the number of pixels being displayed, which increases the resolution, or by increasing the number of frames per second, which improves the way motion is rendered in high-action sports or movie programming.

Consumer electronics manufacturers are already selling some very high-end sets priced at over $50,000 with 3840 by 2160 pixels, more than four times the screen real estate of today's 1920x1080 pixel HD sets. At International Broadcasting Conference in Amsterdam in 2008, Japan's NHK demonstrated an “ultra HD” system using 7680x4320 pixels.

Those technologies require such large and expensive screens, they are likely to have only limited use in the home. But over the next few years, some programmers believe they will to need to move from the 720 progressive line and 1080 interlaced HD formats they currently use to a higher quality 1080 progressive line format at 60 frames per second.

Others remain skeptical. “1080p at 60 frames per second would require retooling of the entire industry, and I don't really see the benefits,” Setos said.

“Today it is not possible for any programmers to send 1080p content over the existing distribution chain,” added Michael Aloisi, MTV Networks vice president of distribution technology, satellite and affiliate services.

Still a number of programmers, particularly those offering sports and movies, are preparing to offer content in “higher” high-definition.

Last year, Hallmark became the first programmer to go to MPEG-4 compression for the launch of its Hallmark Movie Channel in HD, according to Jim Bennett, vice president of technical operations for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel. “Everyone is moving to MPEG-4 because it offers huge bandwidth savings and is much better for transport,” he said.

While Bennett is skeptical about the prospect of delivering 1080p 60 signals to operators, he said Hallmark is producing 35 originals this year in 1080p at 24 frames per second, and programmers will have to begin offering 1080p content.

“When people really start to see what Blu-ray starts to look like, they'll be demanding higher quality, which we will be able to deliver,” he said.

Last summer, HBO also moved to MPEG-4. “We felt it was important to go to MPEG-4 when we did because 1080p at 60 [frames per second] and other qualitative improvements are going to put pressure on bandwidth in the future,” Zitter said.

ESPN is also preparing for 1080p, said Chuck Pagano, the company's executive vice president of technology. It is building a new facility at the Staples Center in Los Angeles that will be capable of the highest quality 1080p.

“We are taking steps to get ready for the next generation,” said Pagano, who adds that the sports giant's main facility in Bristol, Conn., still operates at 720p. “Right now, no one is asking for 1080p content to be delivered to the consumer. But we will be doing retooling efforts as we go forward to make certain we will have the highest quality available programming.”

Some of the constraints on these next-generation technologies are likely to ease in upcoming years.

Charter Communications chief technology officer Marwan Fawaz said, “Our immediate focus is on getting 1080p content on our networks,” but admits that “really creates a challenge for us in terms of bandwidth. When you look at 1080p today and compare that to the average bit rates of 1080i, it requires about two times as much bandwidth.”

But the deployment of boxes capable of handling MPEG-4 compression, the move to convert analog spectrum to digital and the deployment of switched digital video will make it much easier for operators to handle next-generation HD content.

“As you have switched digital and analog reclamation, we'll have the flexibility to add tons of HD content as well as expand IP-based HD content,” Fawaz said.

“Cable still has the best pipe,” Green said. “We can certainly do better than Blu-ray quality because we can devote more capacity to it; and by the time we need to do that, we'll have solved our capacity problems with more digital and less analog. That will give us a big advantage.”
http://www.multichannel.com/article/..._Next_Step.php
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