NEW YORK – London 2012 Olympics has offered an epic event – great athletes, thrilling games and the record number of viewers. Unfortunately, though, it has done nothing – absolutely nothing, when it comes to generating buzz on new broadcast technologies.
For broadcasters, the London Olympics is the first to feature extensive 3-D coverage (NBC has been broadcasting 12 hours of 3-D programming every day!), while testing-ultra HDTV (also known as 8K). And yet, the U.S. market has seen virtually no uptick in 3-D TV sales. Similarly, UHDTV is drawing scant media attention. Thus, no consumers seem inclined to ask what on earth UHDTV is.
Most U.S. consumers today have already got a big-screen HDTV at home. Nobody wants any more new TV sets. Besides, a big-screen flat panel TV isn’t the only screen they are looking at for the Olympic Games. There are iPads and there are smartphones.
For the industry, London may have proved that depending on the Olympics as a launch-pad for new broadcast technologies has become a thing of the past. In that light, let’s take a closer look at what has just happened with UHDTV and 3-D TV at London 2012.
Here comes Ultra HDTV
Some events in London Olympics have been shot in Ultra HDTV for the first time in history. Broadcast engineering teams from NHK and BBC have been working together in London to shoot the Games with 32-Megapixel images, with a 24 (or 22.2) channel sound system. According to NHK, UHDTV offers images that are 16 times current HD quality.
During London Olympics, two UHDTV cameras were used at set positions. Uncompressed signals are sent over dedicated optical fibers to the BBC Television Center, West London, which are then recorded and edited daily into short programs at BBC. These are then compressed and sent to public viewing theaters around the world at a data rate of 280 Mbit/s video coding rate using eight H.264 AVC encoders working in parallel. Once 24-channel sound is added and put into IP packets, the total bit rate becomes about 350 Mbit/s for the demonstration.
UHDTV’s public viewings are, however, rather limited. Demonstrations are set up in cities including Bradford, Liverpool, London, Tokyo, and Fukushima. In the United States, UHDTV demo has been held at Comcast-NBC Universal’s office in Washington, D.C.
Considering that UHDTV won’t become a commercial reality until 2020 (estimated by NHK), the almost non-existent public awareness of UHDTV is understandable.
But then again, in the high-tech world where everyone eats up – ad nauseam – every rumor about an upcoming iPhone 5 or iPad mini, it’s surprising to see no hype built around this broadcast technological feat at the Olympics.
At press time, I found -- in the entire twitter universe -- exactly two tweets about UHDTV. One was posted by the Geneva-based European Broadcast Union, understandably touting the UHDTV broadcast from London as a “Giant leap (for television technology) at the Olympic Games.” Another tweet was from a multimedia visual artist: “I can't wait. My computers are nowhere near ready to handle editing and fx in 8k. It'll take 16x to do anything with 16x the pixels.”
Seriously, though, only two tweets? Come on, people!
I am reminded of an old but rather good Phillips ad:
Idiot Customer: "Morning, I want a new video recorder."
Suave Salesman: "Well Sir, this is our new model, one touch recording, on screen display, ultra simple operation...."
IC: "Naaah, it hasn't got enough knobs on it. How about this one over here?"
SS: "That's a Washing Machine...."
Most customers wouldn't know the difference between UHDTV and HDTV, and in fact I'm sure I wouldn't unless it was on a screen as big as a shop window. But make something into a status "must have" and people will buy it.
I have a 3D TV. NBC's coverage stopped at 7:30PM, before I generally watch TV. Verizon did not transmit the format code, so I had to set up the TV manually each time. Neither of these is conducive to generating viewers.
I have watched sports on ESPN's 3D channel and the experience is worth the hassle of the funny glasses.
When marketing a new technology , you need to convince a certain groups of people who like to try new things, are generally more techno savvy, and are trusted by their friends to recommend such things.
I Think that among this group, many use p2p networks to get content or use streaming video services. since 1080p is relatively bandwidth intensive and harder to get, they have less demand for 1080p and no reason to seek UHDTV, an no basis to recommend it.
My take on the TV: what manufacturers really need to work on is:
1) The ablility to mirror any screen on any device within a reasonable range on the TV, with an attractive and simple user interface.
2) 3D without glasses....
3) SIRI for TV :-)
Unless we enter the sci-fi scenario where the wall of a room turns into a TV at a command, UHDTV sets will only be bought if they are priced HDTV set rates.
I am so happy to find, finally, among our readers, someone who actually had 3-D TV Olympic experience!
Judging from what you posted here, it's one thing for NBC to brag about their 12-hours a day 3-D TV Olympic coverage, there was a lot to be desired in terms of translating that into an actual consumer experience.
First, I had no idea that they stopped 3D coverage at 7:30p.m. (why?); second, I had no idea Verizon did not transmit the format code!
Once again, thanks for sharing your experience.
And I think many of us do agree that the Ultra HDTV won't make sense unless you have a HUGE wall size screen.
Looking back on how long it took for HDTV to get off the ground, I see UHDTV something we may see in one or two decades from now.
Still, I actually think what UHDTV can bring to us in terms of realism is something really remarkable. Sure, we won't be able to afford it any time soon; but it does amaze me.
@Junko: Does Panasonic have UHDTV resolution projection system? It will be interesting to know what kind of DLP/DMD projection chip they use for this. Panasonic's high lumen projection looks quite impressive.
3-D is all about content.
NBC being idiots and exclusively broadcasting US athletes' activities is not a reflection of the technology and is something I am glad I did not have to watch.
Even in 1-D NBC's Olympic coverage smells of arrogance and feeds American xenophobia and ignorance.
I watched it for hours each day in another country...how refreshing it was, and I don't spectate sports.
From all these discussions i feel that 3D tv is not attracting most of the viewers at this time.Even though this is the prime area of R&D ,till a attractive solution is not found. So a real 3D projection in space will attract every one, provided affordable.