There's nothing like seeing with your own eyes, and the experience of seeing the Ultra High-Definition TV System demo at the IBC convention in Amsterdam was up there near video nirvana. Viewing conditions were optimal of course, with a darkened room, 270-inch diagonal screen, two bright projectors (8000 lumens, each with 4K resolution), and 24-channel sound (called 22.2), which is part of the format. In vast crowd scenes showing thousands of people, you could see each face clearly. Resolution is 7680 x 4320, or as filmmakers call it, 8K. Frame rate is 60 fps, progressive scan. There are 32-million pixels, producing an overall bit rate of 64 Gps. Using MPEG-2TS main profile 4:2:2 compression, that's cut by a factor of one hundred to a mere 640 Mbps for transmission. The NHK (plus many partners) demo, which lasted fourteen minutes, was recorded on a 3.5 TB disc recorder, with a total UHDTV capacity of 18-minutes. The projector system combined two JVC LCoS 4096 x 2160 projectors, diagonally offset, each equipped with 4 LCoS panels (R, G1, G2, B). It's hard to imagine video looking any better, at least not without adding depth.
The next day I got to see a real working demo of MediaFLO television on a mobile phone, with so many channels that you could switch between so quickly, it had the look and feel of cable-TV. Except it's on a phone that fits in your pocket. MediaFLO is not yet commercially deployed, anywhere -- it's currently limited to trials and trade show demos, so I again had that seeing the future feeling. (Odd pair, too -- ultimate big screen TV and rather minimal small screen TV.)
Next highlight was Let It Wave, which has some beyond-wavelet "bandlet" HD up-conversion technology built with FPGA that's quite impressive looking, judging by the booth demo. Priced initially more for the pro broadcast market than consumer applications, this is technology to keep an eye on. Priced right (again, someday in the future), it could gain widespread use in DVD players.
Finally, a "feeling of the floor" footnote. Of course, an editor can only visit so many booths and have so many conversations, so it's subjective. But with regards to TiVo's patent claims on basic DVR technology, I'd say that few here in Europe give a hoot. I have yet to meet a non-American who has even heard about the case (see previous blog). And as a side note, grid-style EPGs (electronic program guides) -- an essential component of digital video recorder (DVR) user interfaces -- are everywhere here, with apparently not much concern about Gemstar's patent claims. Contrast that to the U.S. market, where Gemstar has gone after several major EPG competitors, including Scientific Atlanta, Microsoft, and TiVo, and effectively created a chill that scares off most would-be competitors. (Surprisingly, Gemstar and TiVo don't even have booths here.) So come to Europe to design DVRs in freedom!
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