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Video Developments at CES 2015

Video SaaS

Ignore the wearable tech and drones, it’s time to pay pilgrimage to the latest video developments at CES 2015.

As an attendee for the past few years it was interesting to see the attention to cutting-edge technologies this year by-passed 4K and move straight on to 8K. Talking to a fellow attendee, who had obviously drunk the marketing Kool-Aid, his view was that 4K is sooo 2014, clear evidence that a pinch of salt is needed to the taglines adopted for tech innovations on the main show floor.

This isn’t to say that the appearance of 8K is unwarranted, true it may be running in advance of the requirements of home users, but for digital cinema it could represent the crucial step to bring the worlds of TV and cinema into the same realm.

The show also brought surprises, who would have thought that further innovation would be brought to the primary interconnect to the latest screens. HDMI 2.0 appeared to be the last word on the subject, leaving the question of exactly how higher frame rates and wider color gamuts can be supported for the consumer.

Hidden away on the show floor were two potential solutions, DSC on the Display Port booth from Hardent who solved the problem using mild 3:1 compression to best utilize the available bandwidth and Display Link, using the even more ubiquitous interface USB 3.0 and adaptive compression to solve the same bandwidth issue and no doubt further transform the TV into a computer monitor, if successful.

Issues of industry convergence come to mind when TV is being transformed so rapidly by the rise of OTT services, the undoubted headline for CES this year. Of course, nobody uses the dreaded convergence word any more, but it is clear this is happening with Dish Network grabbing the headlines offering a la carte services for cord cutters. Certainly this makes sense with a clear shift for the younger demographic towards OTT services. However, I find it ironic in a time when OTT services are on the rise that true video streaming is beyond the capability of all but premium WiFi connections at hotels here in Vegas.

A balance has to be made between OTT and linear scheduled services, if viewers aren’t to feel short-changed by a transition that costs more and potentially delivers less. With Spectrum re-allocation a clear issue for broadcasters and net neutrality stalling many broadband upgrades, the industry must find a way of containing bandwidth demands by services that don’t pay for the underlying network infrastructure. The genie is out of the bottle and OTT is with us, so it’s time to make the business model work and truly align broadcast video with the web and apply targeted advertising.

From the demos I saw at the show, it’s clear that 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) works for movie releases, and it is only a question of time before releases are made to the public by Netflix and Amazon. Screens are due to be launched, but were lacking on the main show floor, no doubt testament to the large inventory of pre-HDR capable screens that need to be sold before the next cycle of selling can commence.

Good times are ahead for home cinema fans as the wow factor is now in sight for 4K. Further work is needed on HDR for live applications, as shown by main floor demos that tried to apply the techniques on content lacking the offline analyses and processing applied to 4K VOD assets.

Glasses-free 3D re-emerged at the show, with some vendors correctly pitching this technology for digital signage. To the casual observer it appeared to be still a gimmick for TV, with many feeling it was “kinda weird” and not yet ready for the living room. With the wealth of screen developments offering both HDR and wide color gamut, I was certainly impressed by the latest crop of screens on display that offer the necessary depth of picture, and I hope that production yields will allow these technologies to make their way into my home.

More on screen technologies in my post CES blog, when my feet have recovered from walking the aisles and dodging the drones!

– Ian Trow, Sr. Director, Emerging Technology & Strategy, Harmonic

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