The 2014 Winter Games are underway in Sochi, and Elemental is working with leading Russian satellite TV operator NTV Plus and semiconductor supplier Broadcom to power a telecast of the two-week event. NTV Plus announced the world’s first 4K high-efficiency video coding (HEVC/H.265) satellite transmission on February 12, with live streaming of the Games in Ultra HD to special public and cinema viewing points for Russian audiences February 7-16.
NTV Plus pioneered the initiative to broadcast the Sochi 2014 Winter Games in 4K. Following an extensive period of testing during 2013, NTV Plus designed and deployed an end-to-end 4K HEVC workflow that features Sony 4K cameras, Elemental Live video encoders, NTV Plus satellite uplink and signal receiving systems and Broadcom-enabled real-time decoders for playback on Panasonic 4K TVs. A single video stream encoded by Elemental enables NTV Plus to reduce the 100Mb of bandwidth which would otherwise have been required for delivery of 4K HEVC content.
The collaboration in Sochi between Elemental, Broadcom and NTV Plus validates the growing market for Ultra HD in 2014 and beyond. Elemental is independently working with broadcasters in more than 35 countries across five continents to deliver the 2014 Sochi Games to millions of viewers across multiple screens and formats. Unlike fixed-hardware solutions, Elemental’s software-based platform allows for content providers to easily implement a flexible video processing solution to seamlessly support ever-changing video delivery requirements. And as with the Winter Games, Elemental’s award-winning HEVC implementation enables broadcasters to offer full frame rate live streaming of global sporting events in 4K to viewers worldwide, including the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
Representatives from Elemental spent a day at CES 2014 touring the show floor with a reporter new to the annual tech extravaganza. Seeing the exhibition through the eyes of an individual less familiar with the event was in itself a great experience for us. It led us through a good amount of questions and insights about the industry, some of which we’d like to share as we dive into 2014 and all it holds for the evolution of video over the next few years.
1. Is the creation of 4K Ultra HD content gaining momentum?
While most of the demos on the show floor are optimized to show off the “glass”, we’d have to say yes. As 4K content, services, chips and STBs become more available and consumer demand ramps, content creators are beginning to future proof productions in the 4K format. Netflix and Amazon have both announced original series shot in 4K and we see even the likes of GoPro at CES with 4K content displayed in its full immersive glory (much of which was encoded with Elemental video processing software). When consumers are able to produce stunning content like this from a camera mounted on their head or bike or skateboard, we’d say there is a bit of momentum in play.2. Are consumer electronics capable of native HEVC display available or coming soon?
Yes. Plenty of devices were on hand at CES capable of HEVC decoding and display. Elemental proved HEVC interoperability with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor last year at IBC and is working with a number of chipset suppliers at the show, including Broadcom and STMicroelectronics, to demonstrate the same capability.
We even saw the content that we captured in November on display in Samsung’s booth being decoded by the latest TV set itself. We also showed 4K HEVC video processing and playback via set-top box in our suite at the Venetian Hotel during the exhibition. The industry is coming together from an end-to-end ecosystems perspective very quickly.
3. Might CDNs be the first to deliver 4K video to consumers?We tend to think that this could be the case. Most 4K delivery demonstrations to date have taken place in labs or in controlled show environments. Elemental achieved several 4K milestones in the latter part of 2013, including the first demonstration of real-time 4Kp30 HEVC video processing at the Osaka Marathon and real-time 4Kp60 HEVC video processing at a special event in London. However, the design of these workflows allowed for controlled distribution of content over Ethernet. Now, at CES, Elemental is working in partnership with Akamai to demonstrate encoding and distribution of 4K HEVC content over a global delivery network. And in the MPEG-DASH format no less! This demonstration was seen in Qualcomm’s booth (#8252) being decoded by a tablet and rendered on a 4K Sony TV. It is a good indicator that IP-based 4K content delivery will be a reality in 2014.
4. Will 4K go the way of 3D?
We think not. At CES we saw a breadth of support for 4K with required hardware and software components rapidly coming into place to support a viable ecosystem for Ultra HD creation, delivery and viewing. The immersive nature of the 4K Ultra HD viewing experience holds broad appeal and the industry is poised to make even the most compelling devices affordable to consumers. But the bottom line for Elemental is that even if 4K doesn’t happen, all the investments that our customers make in our solution would be completely reusable for other applications. This is the power of our software-based architecture. Change happens, and we have the flexibility to adjust. Just the same, we believe 4K is one of multiple consumer trends that will emerge over the next five years.
5. Is the pace of change in the industry coming to a steady state?
No. For all the reasons noted above, the video industry continues to rapidly evolve to fulfill the promise of ubiquitous content available anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Video processing will continue to play an increasingly vital role as multiscreen video becomes a standard service offering for pay TV operators, content programmers and broadcasters. At Elemental, we believe the future of video relies on software capable of scaling on powerful general purpose processors. It allows for the flexibility and future-proofing to make multiscreen video a reality for all content.
We learned a lot this week, especially during our tour with a friend from the media. After eight miles of walking and 12 months of innovation, we may have sore feet but we hold tremendous optimism about the coming year in video.
Elemental returned to London this week, a city noted in the video industry for showcasing the world’s first broadcast television transmission. On January 26, 1926, John Logie Baird demonstrated a live television broadcast for members of the Royal Institution and a reporter from The Times of London in his laboratory at 22 Frith Street in the Soho district.
Over the past year, Elemental has tackled a series of innovations in 4K Ultra HD video transmission, culminating in Japan at the Osaka Marathon in October with the first-ever demonstration of real-time HEVC 4K compression at 30 frames per second. Less than two months later, we’re pushing the boundaries of what’s possible again as we showcase another world’s first – real-time 4Kp60 video compression using the HEVC codec and the full power of Elemental Live. For this demonstration, like Baird’s nearly 90 years ago, industry luminaries and press from the UK were invited to the Hotel Pullman St. Pancras (alas, the staircase at 22 Frith is not conducive to an 84” monitor).
It is early days for 4K Ultra HD video, with the ecosystem, including required delivery and viewing infrastructure, just emerging. 4K UHD video promises higher quality on larger screens, and a near immersive experience for viewers. Sports, arguably the most monetizable form of media content, demands an ever-increasing level of quality. But, to date, industry demonstrations of 4K video have been stuck with orchestrated content, often in slow motion with scenes of colorful, highly artistic intent, but with little connection to the killer app for 4K – sports.
Sixty frames per second is critical for the fast motion of sports shot in native 4K. It eliminates the judder associated with 24 and 30 frames per second. To date, a dearth of source material is available to showcase full frame rate 4K sports content. So Elemental took the matter into our own hands.
For our “pitch” in London, Elemental went to the pitch in Portland and filmed some serious football, futbol, soccer – the one with the round ball and ravenous fans. The event was the semi-final of the western conference playoffs between Major League Soccer’s most heated rivals – the Portland Timbers vs. the Seattle Sounders. Elemental came to the match with a 4K RED Epic camera and top of the line Canon lens in hand and shot video of the game with the blessing of the Timbers’ organization. In the end, the footage was mesmerizing, and needless to say challenging to encode.
"The moment I hit record, I can usually concentrate solely on the composition of a shot and sharpness of the focus, but this time I found that a little difficult. Just how cool and fun the experience was shooting on a RED Epic was too exciting to ignore! Knowing that what I was doing was going to alter the business added a lot of weight to the task.”
— Gil M., Videographer at Elemental
To learn more about the demonstration Elemental debuted in London and the future of live 4K Ultra HD HEVC content delivery, read our white paper.
Elemental Technologies is the leading supplier of software-defined video solutions for multiscreen content delivery. Founded in 2006, Elemental is headquartered in Portland, Oregon.