Consumers today are watching video on a growing number of screens, and video quality expectations are constantly increasing. While HD video is the mainstream viewing experience today, UHD HDR is getting attention — both from consumers and standards organizations.
The reason UHD HDR is attractive is because it provides viewers with an immersive video experience at a resolution that is four times greater than HD. HDR expands the available color space, creating more vivid pictures, and increasing brightness and points of darkness.
The wow factor of UHD HDR hasn’t gone unnoticed. Already, broadcasters have produced and delivered several major sports events in UHD HDR. The standardization scene for UHD HDR is also busy. Several different organizations are currently working on improving HDR standards. As the consumer and market demand for UHD HDR grows, the need for efficient, cost-effective UHD HDR production and delivery solutions has never been greater.
Consumer and market demand for UHD HDR content is driving adoption
Consumer support for UHD HDR is strong. Research found that about 30% of subscribers around the world have opted for the UHD premium Netflix tier, and global shipments of UHD HDR are rising.
Given the consumer demand for UHD HDR, the industry has quickly jumped onboard to support the technology. There are several different HDR versions currently being standardized, including:
- Dolby Vision
HDR10 is supported by all TV manufacturers, and many industry professionals consider it to be the generally used standard. Detailed information about each of those standards are outlined in Harmonic’s UHD HDR Technical Guide, Part 1.
On the deployment side, several major service providers have positioned themselves in the HDR space. Amazon, BT, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, NHK, Sky and Vodafone all currently have UHD HDR offerings. Live sports, especially, stands to greatly benefit from the pristine resolution that UHD HDR provides. For example, Fox broadcasted the “Big Game” in 4K HDR in 2020 and it is these types premium events that are likely to boost the adoption of UHD HDR.
Your next steps to efficient UHD HDR delivery
UHD HDR video is all set to go mainstream. However, there are a few issues that need to be resolved before this can happen. The industry players need to collaborate to solve kinks around device compatibility, costs associated with production and delivery, and latency.
1. Ensure compatibility for devices
Device compatibility is a challenge for mass UHD HDR adoption. IHS Markit expects that nearly all of the 112 million 4K TVs shipped worldwide will be compatible with HDR in 2020, but only 30% will have true HDR performance capabilities.
To solve this issue, UHD HDR content needs to be delivered using a standard that offers stream backward compatibility and display backward compatibility.
- Stream backward compatibility is when an SDR decoder can decode an HDR stream.
- Display backward compatibility is when an HDR decoder can decode an HDR stream and send it to an SDR display.
2. Increase production and delivery efficiency
Technology today for UHD HDR is still evolving, so it’s important to optimize your UHD HDR production and delivery. Producing and delivering higher resolution video can be an investment, in terms of equipment, storage and bandwidth. Today, all deployed broadcast systems are using the HLG10 standard. For unicast, PQ10 Live is an option currently being considered. In a unicast (VOD or live) scheme with HDR10, a simulcast SDR will have to be provided to the legacy device, which requires increasing investment in production, encoding, ingest to CDN and CDN storage.
Advancements in IP networking and compression technology, including HEVC encoding and HDR advanced processing, have become central to boosting UHD HDR workflow efficiency. Compared with MPEG-4, HEVC reduces the bitrate by 50%, and allows you to deliver better video quality at the same bitrate.
Choosing a video delivery platform with flexible deployment options is also important to eliminate unnecessary hardware costs. You have options today to deploy your UHD HDR workflows:
- Virtual machines
- Customer supplied hardware
- In the public or private cloud
- Or as a SaaS solution like Harmonic’s end-to-end UHD HDR offering
3. Guarantee low latency for UHD HDR
UHD HDR and live sports content make a great combo. With UHD HDR, sports fans get a taste of the action in stunning clarity and detail. However, it’s a challenge to deliver UHD HDR OTT content with the same low latency as broadcast delivery.
By embracing a live streaming platform with innovative technologies like cloud, content-aware encoding (CAE) and the CMAF standard, you can deliver as low as 5 to 6-second end-to-end latency. The industry norm today is around 30 to 35 seconds. The gains are amazing.
How do these optimized video delivery solutions for CAE work? CMAF LLC works by delivering a segment of small chunks of about 200 ms before the full two-second or six-second segment is calculated. Data transmission is accelerated across the entire workflow, including in the decoder, which can potentially start decoding before a complete segment is received. CAE further solves latency issues by offering up to a 50% reduction in bandwidth for UHD HDR delivery. Leveraging the mechanics of the human eye, CAE can assess video quality and optimize encoding parameters in real time.
4. Combine live events and 5G with HDR in the future
Already, major sporting events have been produced and delivered in HDR, bringing high-res, immersive viewing experiences to audiences around the world. In the future, you can expect to see a lot more events delivered in UHD HDR — and not just premium ones. You can cost-effectively produce and deliver events in UHD HDR in the cloud with HEVC compression and a SaaS business model.
As the consumer and market adoption of UHD HDR continues to grow, now is the time for service providers and broadcasters to engage. Delivering UHD HDR channels is an exciting revenue opportunity. It’s a great way to differentiate your offering and give live events like premium sports an extra wow factor. You just need the right solutions.
Harmonic has solutions for UHD HDR production and delivery that are not only efficient, but also cost-effective while still guaranteeing low latency. We demonstrated how we can put HDR into action using our VOS®360 Media SaaS to deliver an UHD HDR channel featuring content from NASA. As 5G networks are rolled out around the globe, we look forward to the next steps to deliver more UHD HDR, 8K and other higher resolutions.
Deliver an UHD HDR channel
Do you want to learn more about UHD HDR production and delivery? Harmonic is an industry expert in UHD HDR. We have participated in numerous global demonstrations for innovative UHD HDR solutions and have helped customers around the world deploy their UHD HDR channel for live and VOD applications. Get in touch today to learn more on how your business can leverage UHD HDR.