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IFA 2013: Broadcasters set the benchmark for 4K TV frenzy

This week’s IFA 2013 consumer tech show will see booming ranges of 4K TVs though broadcasters haven’t yet decided how best to produce and transmit in Ultra High Definition.

Samsung and LG have already confirmed that new 4K displays for European consumers will appear at the giant Berlin exhibition, with Panasonic, Sony, Sharp and Toshiba expected to join in.

TV manufacturers are keen to push 4K as the must-have feature for high end TVs, after facing widespread apathy towards the 3D displays which followed the launch of HD.

IFA 2013: Broadcasters set the benchmark for 4K TV frenzy
The EBU has been conducting its own 4K production tests

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Super Hi-Vision, Ultra HD, 4K and 8K TVYet while manufacturers have tackled the question of 3840×2160-pixel screen resolution, Europe’s broadcasters are setting higher standards before they take on 4K TV.

The European Broadcasting Union – which unites public broadcasters and produces the Eurovision Song Contest – is looking beyond high definition to faster frame rates, richer colours and better sound.

“UHDTV must provide clear added value for consumers over HDTV,” said Hans Hoffmann of the EBU’s Technology and Development department.

“Focusing only on a resolution increase to 4K will not provide a sufficient improvement over HDTV.

“In principle a good UHD service should consist of an optimum mix of increased resolution, frame rate, colorimetry and dynamic range.”

Many broadcasters are already concerned that the standard HD frame rate of 50 frames per second (fps) will make fast motion like sports and action movies appear jerky in Ultra HD.

The EBU has experimented with how viewers respond to different frame rates for 4K video, and found they were often unhappy with the experience below 100fps or even 150fps.

They could also introduce 1080p100 high speed Full HD broadcasts using the chipsets in current HD TVs, which were not powerful enough when HD launched more than five years ago.

TV manufacturers have failed to agree on an HDMI format which can support a higher frame rate than 60Hz at 4K – the maximum speed for the new HDMI 2.0 standard coming this month.

Current Ultra HD TVs are limited to 24Hz at 4K using HDMI 1.4, unless they use a proprietary connection to talk to a media server, or stream content direct from internet sources such as YouTube’s 4K playlist.

“It’s no surprise then that the group expressed great concern about whether the next version of HDMI will appear soon enough and would support the parameters required for a really immersive UHDTV system.” Hoffmann wrote in the latest Eurovision tech-i bulletin.

Broadcasters also want to be able to deliver the expanded range of 10-bit colours or better allowed in the HEVC compression system which will be used for 4K video, compared to today’s 8-bit colour.

The EBU’s Ultra HD workshop was also keen to move beyond 5.1 surround sound to fully-immersive audio with multiple horizontal and vertical audio channels.

Swedish Television’s head of distribution, Per Björkman, warned: “The improvement for the average viewer [of extending the resolution to 4K] would not be enough to motivate investing in a new display and receiver. 

“The difference in picture quality compared with normal HDTV is just not significant enough. If all we do is increase the number of pixels in the picture, Ultra HD will be a failure.

“We cannot afford to have the complicated legacy situation that would come with the implementation of many different Ultra HD standards in consumer electronics products.”

In the UK, Sky is experimenting with 4K football, while the Digital TV Group is attempting to iron out a 4K Ultra HD between broadcasters, TV manufacturers and the rest of the TV inudstry.


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