4K “Ultra HD”
4K, also known as Ultra HD, is the digital video format now approved by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). At a resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels, the format is four times higher than regular high definition and is the successor to today’s 1080p Full HD format. Below are highlights supporting a surge in the 4K discussion.

1. At the recent 2013 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, 4K TV sets dominated, with virtually every major manufacturer (notably LG, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba) displaying their own version of the technology. CES attendees and reviewers gave the thumbs up to the TV sets in terms of clarity of image (or course) but are questioning where the 4K content will come from.

2. Also at CES, Qualcomm, a leading maker of chips for cellphones (based in San Diego) announced that the company’s new mobile processor, Snapdragon 800, is capable of encoding and decoding 4K UHD video content, and 7.1 surround sound audio, and is confident that mobile devices that capture 4K “Ultra HD” will be seen as early as this year.

3. The upcoming content market MIPTV will for the first time create several conferences dedicated to 4K/Ultra HDTV, departing from its previous focus on 3D technology and content. MIPTV says, “The change in focus is in anticipation of the technological changes ahead, and to raise awareness among content producers and channels why it makes sound commercial sense to prepare today for these exciting developments…some major broadcasters are already making active plans to convert at least some of their channel capacity to Ultra HDTV/4K transmission, and even 8K broadcasts.”

4. Brazil will soon be the centre for two major live sports events; the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Globo TV is looking at the high-definition technology with a great deal of interest. The Brazilian broadcaster is currently exploring ways to televise “live” events in either 4K or 8K although no official announcements have been made. One thing is for sure, Globo TV’s 8K trials are already on the way in Brazil this year, starting with the 2013 Rio Carnival in February, with who else, but the NHK.

Stereoscopic 3D
UK-based production company Atlantic Productions has a 20-year history in factual production but in recent years has been carving a name for itself in Natural History 3D films, notably Flying Monsters, The Bachelor King, Kingdom of Plants and Galapagos, all with Sir David Attenborough, and airing both on television (on the UK’s Sky 3D) as well as theatrically around the world on IMAX screens.

Below is a TV ASIA Plus exclusive with John Morris, Commercial Director, Atlantic Productions, on location in London. A full transcript of TV ASIA Plus’ London interview with John Morris is available on www.onscreenasia.com.

Q: How has the experience been when promoting 3D content to broadcasters?
A: I think 3D is a medium to long-term gain. I think there was a lot of excitement after Avatar. What happened was that Hollywood jumped in with a lot of “3D” products which was originally shot in 2D and then they reformat it in 3D. Audiences pay 20% – 50% extra to see 3D and all you get is an upgraded 2D film which has a few effects and “gee-whiz” moments – you get pretty tired with that after a while. If 3D effect is something that doesn’t intrinsically add to the story – you know you’re being conned. After Avatar, half of the films that came out probably didn’t require 3D and there was a backlash from audiences and that impact was felt in Hollywood. Hollywood is still making 3D films but I think they’re more cautious about it.

I think the same thing happened in TV – if there is not enough good product, then it’s very difficult to launch a full 3D TV channel because who is going to watch ONE good show every week? Sky has been very clever because they bet that 3D will ultimately become something that is generally available, if you want to pay for it. What they’ve got is a big enough customer base and they make the 3D offering within the various different packages they’ve got so it’s just one of many extra value their customers can get. And they’ve invested enough in quality 3D shows every day. Their quality bar is high and that’s because they’ve invested. It takes commitment though.

Given the cost of making 3D, the creative and technical knowledge that’s needed, that limits the number of 3D channels in the world and many of them do not have big budgets. So if we were relying only on TV and whatever we could make downstream with home entertainment, it wouldn’t be a financially viable thing, at the moment. We’re exploiting other media, and the giant screen in particular is of great interest. What that does imply, is you’ve got to manage windows which are more complex than if you’re just a TV producer/ distributor.